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University of Phoenix Leadership Join UPCEA Webinar on Diversity Fatigue and DE&I in Post SCOTUS Ruling Webinar

By Michele Mitchum

McCeil Johnson, J.D., and Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., share insights on the evolving landscape of DE&I in post-secondary education

University of Phoenix Vice President, Accreditation & Regulatory Compliance, McCeil Johnson, J.D., and Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., Research Chair for the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research at the University, recently participated in a thought-provoking UPCEA webinar titled "Diversity Fatigue: Navigating DE&I After the Affirmative Action SCOTUS Ruling.” The virtual event, hosted by the UPCEA Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee, brought together an esteemed panel of higher education professionals gathered to discuss the rapidly evolving landscape of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the wake of the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action ruling.

In the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling, Postsecondary Chief Officer (PCO) practitioners have been confronted with the challenge of aligning their DE&I strategies with the new legal framework, including state laws and statutes. The webinar explored the concept of "Diversity Fatigue," which encompasses the emotional strain experienced by postsecondary leaders when their institution's DE&I commitment differs from their personal dedication to the cause.

As a panelist, Underwood shared her perspective on the evolving landscape of DE&I, stating, "In our current environment, the intersection of legal changes and personal convictions has created opportunities for institutions to reexamine their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This webinar allowed us to explore the intricacies of these opportunities and discuss practical and impactful strategies for moving forward, all while acknowledging and understanding that the work of DE&I does not occur in a bubble. We’re negotiating the political climate as we do the work, and it is important to acknowledge the impacts that climate can have on our initiatives."

"Diversity fatigue is a challenge across all industries, and it is something we need to examine if we are going to continue to do work that moves the needle in the DEIB space,” stated Johnson, who moderated the event. "University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, and our commitment to serving that population is part of the equation. Having said that, we cannot be complacent in our vision for educational equity, and we need to be prepared to adapt and thrive in this dynamic environment. Our discussion provided valuable insights into how leaders can navigate these complexities while remaining committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion." 

In her current role as University of Phoenix’s vice president, Accreditation & Regulatory Compliance, Johnson provides leadership and management for the University’s institutional and college-specific accreditation and regulatory initiatives, including institutional, programmatic, state boards, and other regulatory functions. Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, Johnson completed her education at the University of Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, and completed her Juris Doctorate at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Johnson is active in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work, and is recognized as a leader and subject matter expert speaker. She was appointed in fall 2021 to the University of Iowa College of Law Alumni Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council, and was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Council. Johnson has been serving as a speaker on the Women in Automotive circuit since March 2021, giving presentations and guidance on how women can empower themselves and their voices in a male-dominated industry. Earlier this year, she was selected to serve on the UPCEA Board of Directors’ Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Committee for a one-year term.

Committed to professional integrity and growth, Johnson is a member of numerous professional associations in addition to UPCEA, including Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA); Council on Higher Education (CHEA); Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE); University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA); Higher Learning Commission, Peer Review Corps (HLC Peer Reviewer); and the Online Learning Consortium (OLC).

Dr. Underwood has over two decades of experience in the areas of diversity and inclusion leadership, strategic planning and project management, professional development and training, teaching, consulting, research, university accreditation leadership, and higher education administration.

Her research agenda, numerous publications, conference presentations, and speaking events include topics surrounding organizational diversity socialization processes, generational research, inclusive leadership, social justice and inclusion, research methods, and diversity management strategies.

Dr. Underwood has received numerous awards for academic and teaching excellence throughout her academic career, including the UPCEA Research and Scholarship Award which recognizes significant new research with implications for professional practice in the field of continuing higher education. Dr. Underwood earned her Ph.D. in Educational Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Executive Certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management from Georgetown University, and Diversity and Inclusion for Human Resources Certification from Cornell University.

Learn more here about DEIB at University of Phoenix.

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