You are here: Home / CORED / Terminology / Introduction


THE PENN STATE COMMISSION on Racial/Ethnic Diversity was appointed in 1989 as a University-wide advisory body to the President in matters relating to cultural diversity. One of its first charges was to research and identify appropriate terminology for use in official University communications. Subsequently, the Commission formed the Terminology Committee, which conducted the necessary research and submitted its findings for further review by the Commission.

This pamphlet includes commentaries that appear under the following headings: African/Black Americans; American Indians/ Alaskan Natives; Asian & Pacific Americans; and Latino/Hispanic Americans. This terminology refers to individuals who are born or naturalized United States citizens, or permanent U. S. residents. Understandably, these racial/ethnic terminologies are constantly in flux, influenced by such factors as historical period, geographic region, political orientation, racial/ethnic consciousness, and individual preference. Researchers suggest that using self-defined references for specific groups is important because those terms usually correspond to important aspects of groups' self-concepts and hold different meanings for different groups and within groups. In making its final recommendations, the Commission considered these variables, as well as contemporary group preferences.

The racial/ethnic groups in this brochure are presented alphabetically. The recommendations should serve as guidelines in the use of various racial/ethnic designations within the Penn State community and will be subject to periodic reviews and updates. They do not affect racial/ethnic classifications mandated by state and federal agencies, nor do the recommendations require changes in the organizational title of any University student, staff member, or faculty association.

Valeria G. Harvell, Chair Terminology Committee Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity

Statements of nondiscrimination and alternative media.(U.Ed. OVP 06-24(e)
Comments or questions regarding Web content should be directed to the Commission Liaison
Comments or questions regarding Web issues should be directed to the Web Coordinator