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University of Phoenix Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research Chair, Dr. Kimberly Underwood, is recipient of UPCEA Research and Scholarship Award

By Sharla Hooper

Association award recognizes Underwood’s research in workforce diversity as significant with implications for professional practice in continuing higher education

University of Phoenix is proud to announce that Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair of the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR), is the recipient of the UPCEA® Research and Scholarship Award for 2023. UPCEA is the association for college and university leaders in professional, continuing, and online education, and 2023 Association Awards program includes recognition of both individual and institutional achievement across the UPCEA membership. Award recipients will be honored at the 2023 UPCEA Annual Conference, March 22-24 in Washington, D.C.

“Dr. Underwood’s research and scholarship are vital and instructive to the progress we can make as a society toward an enriched and inclusive workforce,” states John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer. “The UPCEA award honors her contributions and promotes her approach to making inclusion and belonging a natural progression of understanding the contributions of diverse individuals in learning environments, the workforce, and communities.”

The UPCEA Research and Scholarship Award recognizes significant new research with implications for professional practice in the field of continuing higher education, which Underwood is advancing through CWDIR and its practitioner-focused work in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB).

As the CWDIR Chair, Underwood guides many faculty, students, and alumni in research and scholarship focused on various aspects of DEIB in higher education and the workforce. She also serves as the Executive Sponsor of the Research, Scholarship, and Thought Leadership working group within the UOPX President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. She is a highly sought after subject matter expert and consultant for various internal Colleges and departments and several external organizations to advance their DEIB strategies and initiatives.

“I am honored to receive this award and share this with my amazing team in the Center for Workplace Diversity and inclusion Research,” states Underwood. “To be recognized by your peers is incredibly gratifying and I am so thankful to UPCEA and colleagues for supporting my nomination for this prestigious award.”

Underwood and her senior research fellows, Drs. Sandra Sessoms-Penny and Joy Taylor recently completed a nationwide study on Black male educators, examining the lived experiences that impact the socialization and retention of these teachers within the K-12 educational system during the early years of teaching.

Underwood is currently participating in a collaboration between University of Phoenix and Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Center for Racial Economic Equity exploring ways to support building social capital for Black learners and workers. Underwood’s other research agenda items in her center include organizational diversity socialization in Fortune 500 companies, the impact of police violence against African American males on K-12 classrooms, and belonging and social capital in online education and the workforce.

UPCEA reviews institutions providing online education and identifies whether they meet seven different Hallmarks of excellence. In 2021, University of Phoenix was recognized by UPCEA in achieving recognition across all seven.

Learn more about UPCEA here.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit