The Use of Simpson’s Diversity Index to Develop a Diverse Community for the Enrichment of Experiential Learning

by Quinn Nguyen

Millikin University


Diversity is a buzz-word in our society, and within an academic institution, it plays the role as a tacit of what an institution is able to offer its students to better themselves and contribute to more knowledgeable citizens. While many programs and institutions promise diversity, some of these entities lack the requisite of diversity through their broad, loose definition. In this study, the Simpson’s Diversity Index (SDI) is introduced as a possible quantitative method for eradicating the loose definition of diversity. With that, 103 institutions were randomly sampled from a list of 1500 institutions to create a normal distribution curve. With this, one standard deviation to the right and left of the 50th percentile was used to define diversity. This paper concludes that an SDI between 0-0.416215 indicates low diversity, 0.416216 to 0.569147 indicates low-average diversity, 0.569148 to 0.722079 indicates high-average diversity, and 0.722080 to 1 indicates high diversity.


Within the core of many educational institutions, diversity is a commercial tactit. While every institution cannot offer the same kind of diversity, various definitions allow self-endorsement and make the term itself vague. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges defines diversity through the various classes: race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, disability, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and age (“Statement on Diversity”)

Diversity within an educational institution is crucial to developing well-rounded individuals through discussions and interactions with individuals of a differing class. Applications of diversity towards Honors communities are even more crucial, as the universal mission of an honors program is to invigorate its students to think at a higher caliber than those outside of the program. With discussions of diversity, different perceptions, ideas, and ways of thinking are promoted.

 Josh Packard, a Ph.D.-holding sociology professor at the University of Northern Colorado, finds that white students bring no substance to the classroom, as they only discuss about the white ethnic groups. However, black students tend to discuss their experiences and tie them into the academic content. In doing so, over a majority of “white [students] specifically referenced comments made by minority students in the classroom” (150) when writing in their reflection journals. This shows the profound impact that one comment by a black student can have in a classroom. With the difference in perception discussed in a classroom, white students are more likely to understand the varying viewpoints within our society, which may aid them when making future decisions.

To elaborate on the idea of gaining new insight of a different perspective, heterogeneity within the student population has been proven to benefit students at college institutions because it increases the integrative complexity of the individual. Having a high integrative complexity mindset is beneficial because it allows for individuals to differentiate and integrate multiple dimensions and perspectives into an answer. It was found that “… racially diverse contacts were significantly and positively correlated to IC [integrative complexity] … Prolonged contact with racially diverse others may have stronger effects on students’ complex thinking than the limited contact…” (Antonio et al. 509). Therefore, having a conversation with a minority for a brief moment would not be as beneficial. Rather, by admitting minority students to live on a college campus, students of the majority population would be more likely to interact with the minority students. With the extended interaction, there would be a higher chance of the student of the majority population possessing a more complex cognition as a result.

In addition, Universities and Colleges need to require students to take interdisciplinary courses each semester that they are enrolled at the institution. By doing so, the institution is actively engaging students, who might not share classes, and encourage continued conversations, that may range from religion to race, throughout students’ college careers.

Is the Institution Diverse?

A driving problem is that some institutions promote themselves as having a diverse student population, when in reality it is not. When an institution or a program promotes its diverse student body, but its student demographics look exceptionally clustered within one ethnic group, diversity does not truly exist.

Table 1. Comparison of Millikin University and Pacific Union College Demographics

For many institutions, diversity is defined through a set of different classifications, such as gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic backgrounds, or religion, in a collective manner. Using this collective manner, it could be asserted that each of the 73% of Caucasian individuals attending Millikin offers diversity in the sense that they come from different backgrounds. However, it would be illogical to define this as a diverse student body simply because of the idea that no two individuals are alike. By this loose principle, it could be deduced that every institution in the world offers diversity because of the fact that no two individuals have the same experience, even identical twins. For this reason, in order for institutions or honors programs to be able to advertise that their student body is diverse, a set standard needs to be universally accepted, such that ethnicity, race, religion, or socioeconomic status is used as the sole indicator of diversity.

Simpson’s Diversity Index

 “A community dominated by one or two species is considered to be less diverse than one in which several different species have a similar abundance” (“Simpson’s Diversity Index”). To measure species diversity within a community, the Simpson’s Diversity Index is typically used. Notwithstanding, this same concept would be a useful tool to determine diversity within an academic institution or honors program. The diversity index (D) is ranged from 0 to 1, with 1 being infinite diversity.


n = Number of Organisms within a specific class

N = Number of Organisms within all of the classes

Equation 1. Simpson’s Diversity Index

Table 2. Diversity Indices of Millikin University and Pacific Union College


As the diversity indices on Table 1 grossly indicate, Pacific Union College is more diverse than Millikin University. Using a quantitative measurement such as this, a set standard can be met for advertisement of the level of diversity.



Creating a Normal Distribution Curve using Simpson’s Diversity Index

1500 universities and colleges were selected and assigned an Institution ID number (IIDN) that is unique to this project ( Institutions were broken up into increments of 300 using their IIDN. 20 institutions were randomly selected for from each sector ( In addition, Millikin University, Pacific Union College, and Kettering College were added to the list with the other 100 institutions. Their SDI were calculated.

Using the collection of SDI’s, the mean and standard deviation values were configured. The equation of the normal distribution curve was found (Figure 1). One standard deviation to the right and the left of the 50th percentile was determined and used as benchmarks for level of diversity (



Table 3. Equation of Normal Distribution Curve

Of 103 data points (Appendix A), the average was configured to be 0.569148, while the standard deviation was 0.153150 (Table 3). Taking these values, one standard deviation to the right and left of the 50th percentile was determined (Table 4).

Table 4. Calculated Lower and Upper Limit of Simpson’s Diversity Index



Table 5. Levels of Diversity Based on Simpson’s Diversity Index

The meaning of the Simpson’s Diversity Index was separated into four categories: low diversity, low-average diversity, high-average diversity, and high diversity. These labels can be used by programs or institutions to distinguish their levels of diversity from others. One major reason for why this system should implemented, apart from using it to create a diverse program, is because it allows for the characterization of how much diversity a program actually has without overpromising or underpromising. Accreditation agencies enforcing this system will allow for prospective students to be highly informed about the environment that they are entering for their college career.



To conclude, diversity is a crucial element to educational learning, especially in an Honors program. To heighten the caliber of learning and awareness of the varying perspectives within our society, diversity within an Honors program offers a front-row seat to experiential learning. With that being said, the Simpson’s Diversity Index could be a useful method to ensure the cultivation of diversity within the Honors program.



Antonio, Anthony L., Mitchell J. Chang, Kenji Hakuta, David A. Kenny, Shana Levin, and

Jeffrey F. Milem. “Effects of Racial Diversity on Complex Thinking in College Students.” Psychological Science. American Psychological Society 15.8 (2004): 507-510. Web.

“Millikin University.” Forbes. n.d. Web. 03 July 2017.

“Pacific Union College.” StartClass. n.d. 03 July 2017.

Packard, Josh. “The Impact of Racial Diversity in the Classroom: Activating the Sociological

Imagination.” Teaching Sociology. American Sociological Association 41.2 (2013): 144-158. Web.

“Simpson’s Diversity Index.” Barcelona Field Studies Centre. n.d. Web. 24 July 2017.

“Statement on Diversity.” Chico, California State University. 23 Feb. 1994. Web. 03 July 2017.

Wilson, Robert S. “A Derivation of the Normal Distribution.” Somona State University. n.d.  Web. 03 August 2017.


Appendix: Randomly-Sampled Institutions and their SDI.



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