ODU administrator tapped by Gov. Northam for new role focusing on diversity in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – The Director of Diversity at Old Dominion University will be taking over a similar position that will have her making impacts on the whole Commonwealth.

Dr. Janice Underwood. Photo provided by ODU.

According to a release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, Dr. Janice Underwood will become Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The senior-level position announced in May is a new one created in Northam’s cabinet.

“I am committed to making Virginia more equitable and inclusive, and that starts with my administration and our state government,” said Governor Northam. “Dr. Underwood’s background as an educator, leader and collaborator, as well as her experience promoting inclusive policies and directing a variety of diversity initiatives, make her the perfect person to fill this role. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Underwood to our administration, and I look forward to having her as a partner in this important work.”

As part of her new job, Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government.

Northam’s office said this will be done by implementing a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.

“I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth in this inaugural position,” said Dr. Underwood. “As I embark on this role I will be relying on my many personal and professional experiences as a teacher, an educational researcher, a parent and wife, and a diversity leader. I am dedicated to working with Virginians to promote lasting, institutional change at all levels of state government, and I look forward to working closely with Governor Northam and the rest of his administration to make the Commonwealth more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all who live here.”

Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University, before earning her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from ODU in 2015.

Prior to her appointment, Dr. Underwood served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity Initiatives and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence.

Dr. Underwood previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the ODU Teacher in Residence master’s program, a collaborative partnership between ODU, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public schools. Dr. Underwood also served for a number of years as a national board certified teacher for students with exceptionalities, and has extensive expertise in the cultural contexts of our public education system.

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