Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text
Dr. Kimberly Underwood

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies leadership releases whitepaper addressing belonging in diversity management strategy

By Sharla Hooper

Dr. Kimberly Underwood draws on resources including 2022 Career Optimism Index® study

Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR) with the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies, has authored a new whitepaper, “Belonging: A New Era in Strategic Diversity Management.”

Drawing upon resources including data from the 2022 University of Phoenix Career Institute® Career Optimism Index® study, Underwood first describes the gap between academic literature and practitioner knowledge of the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion initiatives within companies. While diversity of human capital in companies has proven value, Underwood stresses the role of successful diversity management in creating a sense of belonging for workers in the workplace, especially for employees of color. Underwood then provides recommendations for leaders in the workplace to encourage employees’ sense of belonging by creating inclusive norms, highlighting collaborative teamwork, and encouraging safe space for open conversation.

“The role of the conductor within an orchestra is to ensure all musicians are playing in harmony. The same goes for organizational leaders,” states Underwood. “As organizations continue to rely on diversity as a critical factor in fostering organizational growth and competitiveness in a global economy, diversity management remains a critical area for overall success and longevity. In addition to modeling inclusive behaviors in the workplace, leaders should set clear expectations around desired behaviors and hold all members accountable to these expectations.”

Underwood credits her prior position in municipal government as the catalyst for a career focus in diversity and inclusion. Within municipal government, her duties included functioning as a senior executive responsible for providing workplace diversity and inclusion consulting, planning, and educational programming to a workforce of over 23,000 employees, sister agencies, universities and community colleges, and community organizations. She has more than ten years of higher education teaching experience and has served in the roles of Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Policy, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Policy, and Chairperson of Doctoral Studies.

Underwood earned her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MBA from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She also holds certifications in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management from Georgetown University and Diversity and Inclusion in Human Resources from Cornell University.

She has been a faculty member with the University of Phoenix since 2009.

The full whitepaper is available at the Career Institute® webpage or as a direct link here.

About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program puts students in the center of an effective ecosystem of experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.

About the Career Optimism Index®

The Career Optimism Index® study is one of the most comprehensive studies of Americans’ personal career perceptions to date. The University of Phoenix Career Institute® will conduct this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and enhance American careers and create equity in the workplace. For the second annual study, more than 5,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about how they feel about their careers at this moment in time, including their concerns, their challenges, and the degree to which they are optimistic about core aspects of their careers and their future. The study was conducted among a diverse, nationally representative, sample of U.S. adults among a robust sample to allow for gender, generational, racial, and socioeconomic differences and includes additional analysis of workers in the top twenty media markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. This year, the study also explored insights from 500 U.S. employers who are influential or play a critical role in hiring and workplace decisions within a range of departments, company sizes and industries to provide comparison between the workforce and those who hire, train and retain them.

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