Governor Northam Announces Dr. Janice Underwood as Virginia’s First-Ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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RICHMOND—Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Dr. Janice Underwood, former Director of Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University, will serve as Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Governor Northam announced the creation of this senior-level position in May, kicking off an extensive candidate selection process that involved numerous state agencies, stakeholders, and highly-qualified applicants.

“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 the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. 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.

“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.”

Dr. Janice Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University in 1998 (B.A. Psychology) and 2002 (M.A. Learning and Behavior Disorders), respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University (ODU), where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.

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.

In these roles, Dr. Underwood has worked to create inclusive work and learning environments, and has collaborated with outside groups—such as the Virginia Community College System, the Chesapeake Public Library, and more—on professional development related to racial and cultural diversity.

— Office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam