RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam on Monday 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. 

The position was announced back 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.”

In her new role, Dr. Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across the Virginia state government. She will 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.

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.

Before being appointed, 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.

“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.”

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