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University of Phoenix monthly Inclusive Café for faculty and staff brings together diverse views and experiences 

By Sharla Hooper

Facilitated by Dr. Macie P. Smith, the virtual July session explored caregiving and unique demands on and needs of working adult caregivers

University of Phoenix held the latest occurrence of its Inclusive Café, a monthly virtual meeting for faculty and staff designed to foster community building and raise awareness and dialogue about social justice and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, in a special session titled “Caregivers' Corner: Nurturing Mental Health & Wellness,” on July 12, 2023. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in four adults in the U.S. has a disability, and a recent study found that one in five U.S. employees serve as an unpaid caregiver. 

“Nearly two thirds of University of Phoenix students report having dependents or being caregivers,” states Kelly Hermann, vice president of Accessibility, Equity and Inclusion at University of Phoenix. “We know that a number of our colleagues here at University of Phoenix also share this experience, and caregivers, although motivated by a deep love for those they care for, have unique demands placed on them. This Café was planned as an opportunity to include their voice, to connect, understand, and explore the supports and resources for caregivers.”

In an event grounded in an understanding that caregiving can be emotionally challenging as well as rewarding, guest facilitator Macie P. Smith, Licensed Gerontology Social Worker, led the virtual discussion exploring needs of the caregiver that are important to address in order to maintain well-being and effectively care for others. “This is an important opportunity to remind our caregivers that taking care of yourself is not selfish but necessary!” Smith emphasized. “We gathered as a community to provide helpful tips, resources, and support.”

The Café frequently offers “takeovers” of sessions in collaborations with the University’s Employee Resource Groups (ERG), such as “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories” with Phoenix Women Rising ERG, and “Coming Out: Being Seen and Helping Others Be Seen” with Allies of Pride ERG. These sessions highlight the vibrancy of ERGs in the University’s remote work culture as well as the engagement, resources, and networking support available through the ERGs. 

The Café is hosted by Tondra Richardson, MBA, director of Student Diversity & Inclusion and Saray Lopez, MBA, director, Student Diversity & Inclusion, both with the Office of Educational Equity (OEE) at University of Phoenix. 

The OEE also manages the external Educational Equity Webinar Series which aims to foster cultural awareness, thought leadership and community alliances to promote and sustain educational equity and diversity initiatives. The OEE supports students and faculty year-round and leads the work on programs including the Inclusive Leadership Summit

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