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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Governor Announces ODU’s Janice Underwood as Virginia’s First Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

By Keith Pierce

Janice Underwood, director of diversity initiatives at Old Dominion University and the chair of the President's Task Force on Inclusive Excellence, was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam as Virginia's first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Northam announced the creation of the senior-level position in May and immediately launched an extensive candidate selection process involving numerous state agencies, stakeholders and highly qualified applicants.

"For the past eight years, Janice Underwood has played a significant role in shaping key initiatives to proactively create and sustain an inclusive and affirming work and learning environment at Old Dominion University," President John R. Broderick said. "The governor's decision to appoint her in this trailblazing role for the Commonwealth is indicative of the kind of commitment and influence she has to help organizations to be more culturally relevant."

"I am committed to making Virginia more equitable and inclusive, and that starts with my administration and our state government," Northam said. "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."

Prior to her role in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, Underwood served as executive director and co-principal investigator for ODU's Teacher in Residence master's program, research assistant and adjunct professor at ODU, lead special education teacher and biology curriculum team leader for Hampton City Public Schools, and was a member of the advisory board for Teacher Education and Licensure for the Virginia Department of Education.

"I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth in this inaugural position," Underwood said. "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 Gov. Northam and the rest of his administration to make the Commonwealth more diverse, equitable and inclusive for all who live here."

As the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement 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.

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