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The Cultural Center

panoramic view of campus buildings with The Cultural Center wording across bottom

About The Cultural Center


Source: DU VideoManager

our story - The history

In 2002, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) name was changed to the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), to reflect a different philosophy and perspective regarding campus diversity. Specifically, the change represented a movement away from a deficit model, which conceptualizes diversity as a problem involving disadvantaged, under-prepared, and culturally deprived people, to an asset-based validating model, which conceptualizes diversity as an asset involving talented and gifted individuals who contribute to the very teaching, learning, service, and research mission of the University. In addition, The Cultural Center began to work with students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni using a more inclusive definition of diversity, which includes race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, age, and other salient social dimensions.

CME could be described as a hybrid model between a traditional "Office of Minority Affairs" found on most college campuses that supports primarily students of color, and an Intergroup Relations Center that addresses issues of campus climate and intergroup relations, and engages the entire campus. Conceptually, the staff of the Center labor in two primary areas:

Compositional diversity referring to the number of a specific population represented on a college campus and the programs, policies, and procedures employed to increase and support members of those groups.
Beyond having a diverse population on campus, intergroup relations refers to how their presence is perceived and received, whether they are welcomed or not, and to what extent individuals representing different groups interact with each other.

Among The Cultural Center programs, for example, the Excelling Leaders Institute and the LGBTIQ&A Gala are compositional diversity initiatives, while the Diversity Summit and the Voices of Discovery dialogues are intergroup relations programs.

In 2006, CME initiated the campaign approach to introduce the concept and practice of Inclusive Excellence at DU. The concept was unveiled at the 2006 Diversity Summit by Dr. Alma Clayton-Pedersen, then Vice-President for Institutional Renewal with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

The AAC&U concept of Inclusive Excellence moves the University of Denver away from a simplistic definition of diversity to a more inclusive, comprehensive, and omnipresent notion of diversity that transfers the responsibility for diversity on the campus to everyone, (i.e. administrators, faculty, staff, and students) as opposed to one unit or department shouldering the work of diversity. Inclusive Excellence in practice, also shifts the concept of diversity from a numerical representation (numbers only) of diverse faculty, staff, and students to transforming the institution into a vibrant community that embeds diversity throughout the institution in multiple areas including (but not limited to) demographics (numbers), curriculum, policies, pedagogy, financial resources, leadership, hiring, student learning, marketing, technology, teaching, student advising and much more.

In 2018, CME became the Office of Cultural and Spiritual Life (OCSL). In 2019, OCSL became The Cultural Center.


The Cultural Center, in collaboration with University partners, fosters an inclusive environment that welcomes, supports, and celebrates the University of Denver's exceptional students, faculty, and staff.


The Center strives to act from and model the following core values in all aspects of its work: Collaboration, Equity, Intersectionality, Action and Evidence-Based. For additional description and examples of these values in action, as well as an initial glossary of concepts related to our work, visit our Values page.


In alignment with the University of Denver's Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan (PDF) and its commitment to the engagement of Inclusive Excellence, the Center works to:

  • Increase the presence of historically underrepresented populations within all ranks of the University, as well as their retention, success, and sense of belonging.
  • Create and sustain a supportive, challenging, welcoming, and inclusive climate where all members are respected and their contributions valued.
  • Establish organizational structures whereby Inclusive Excellence is embedded within the fabric of the learning environment, fostering transformative change.
  • Engage all members of the University of Denver community, in collaboration with community partners, in the work of inclusivity and diversity toward service of the public good.