Dr. Janice Underwood joins the Biden-Harris administration as Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ODEIA) at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In this capacity, she leads the national DEIA strategy and OPM’s technical assistance role in the government wide DEIA initiative established by Executive Order #14035, which includes convening an executive council for all federal chief diversity officers, and leading an interagency team to provide strategic technical support to all relevant agencies in advancing their agency DEIA plans. Dr. Underwood will also collaborate government wide to implement and evaluate all DEIA outcomes, including launching an annual DEIA report, a DEIA dashboard, national convenings, and strategic policy planning.
As a national expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across multiple sectors, Dr. Underwood has championed to make structural inequity visible in government and education sectors as a state official, a university administrator, teacher educator, researcher, national board-certified special education science teacher, and diversity leader. Dr. Underwood has been published in numerous journals and has received several awards for her exemplary contributions to advancing equity and justice at the intersection of government and politics. She previously served as the inaugural Virginia Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDO) to Governor Ralph Northam. This secretary-level role was the first of its kind in the Commonwealth and to exist nationally.
As Virginia CDO, Dr. Underwood collaboratively labored toward building affirming work, learning, economic, and social environments for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a roadmap for continued access and success for the state and the nation. In 2021 Dr. Underwood and her team at the Virginia Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion launched the ONE Virginia Plan, the first ever statewide DEI strategy across 100+ agencies. In this role, Dr. Underwood operationalized DEI across state government, collaborated with external stakeholders to build DEI offices in other states, and led the Virginia COVID-19 Equity Leadership Taskforce, which has become a model for several other states and local governments. Most notably, Dr. Underwood worked with leaders at all levels to champion the legislative equity agenda of the Northam administration, which resulted in historic and nationally recognized accomplishments.
Dr. Underwood earned her degrees from Hampton University and Old Dominion University, where her research focused on ways to use the culturally relevant pedagogy framework to reform STEM-H fields, education, and other public fields. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with her husband, father, and two children.