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University of Phoenix leadership featured on podcast “In the Margins” by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

By Sharla Hooper

University of Phoenix’s Dr. Kimberly Underwood and JFF’s Michael Collins join podcast to discuss social capital and partnership working to address inequities

Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR) with the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies, and Michael Collins, vice president, Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, were featured guests of “In the Margins” podcast by the publication Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.

The podcast episode, “Filling the Gaps in Equity in Higher Education and the Workplace,” was hosted by Jamal Watson, Ph.D., editor-at-large, and focused on the University of Phoenix Career Institute® and JFF partnership efforts, announced earlier this year, to support Black learners and workers in building professional social capital to advance their careers.

“We can’t get to equity by ourselves,” states Collins. “We have to work with partners. [Our collaboration with the University of Phoenix] has been very productive and I think that we will really amplify impact by this partnership and partnerships like this—when organizations are joining forces for economic advancement.”

Professional social capital, which refers to the resources that arise from a person’s network of relationships that can help mobilize and advance education and career goals, is a crucial element in establishing racial economic equity in the workforce. With funding from University of Phoenix, JFF conducted an in-depth market scan, analyzing existing strategies for the development of professional social capital that are being implemented by community-based organizations, postsecondary institutions, non-profits, and employers. 

Underwood reflected on how the findings of the University of Phoenix Career Institute® 2022 Career Optimism Index® study informed the collaboration and market scan. “When we talk about those who were impacted [by the pandemic] and left the workplace, we saw women and people of color, frontline workers, and people in lower socio-economic classes that were more impacted and left in an involuntary kind of way,” states Underwood. “So now knowing that we have this gap, and we have this absence, we are wanting to know what can we do to help. What do we do to provide guidance?”

Underwood and Collins discussed with Watson the impetus for the partnership as well as the discoveries of the initial market scan, titled, “Building Professional Social Capital for Black Learners and Workers,” as well as next steps.

Building on the findings of the Index and the market scan, University of Phoenix and JFF are working to develop an actionable framework that companies, institutions and organizations can adopt and apply as a sustainable method of social capital building for their workforce and students.

The complete podcast episode is available here and the video version is available 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