By Sharla Hooper
Virtual event focused on developing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) skills in leadership featuring accomplished keynote speakers and panelists
University of Phoenix welcomed 2,190 participants from 19 countries to its second annual Inclusive Leadership Summit and Career Fair, held May 2-4. Titled “Developing a Culture of Belonging: Prioritizing Social and Emotional Well-Being,” this year’s event was designed to help participants address and examine aspects of trauma, accessibility, and the ongoing social and systemic issues that can hinder performance and retention in the workplace. Summit learners had the opportunity to earn two digital badges, “Inclusive Leader: Social & Emotional Wellness,” and “Inclusive Leader: Owning a Personal Narrative,” to share on LinkedIn and other social profiles or job boards.
“The Inclusive Leadership Summit is a natural extension of our longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at University of Phoenix,” stated Provost and Chief Academic Officer, John Woods, Ph.D. “As we continue to lead in this space, we see how much our employees, students, and participants beyond our University who join events like the summit welcome the brave, open and practical discussions that take place. We look forward to continuing to foster this kind of innovative approach to belonging at the University, and we are grateful to our sponsors and speakers for their commitment to social and emotional wellbeing and their support of this important event.”
Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion for University of Phoenix, Saray Lopez, MBA, says the speakers and panelists featured during this year’s event facilitated an important conversation around the connection between social and systemic oppression and mental health. “Prioritizing mental health and belonging in the workplace means being willing to look at the systemic factors in place that impact a sense of wellbeing,” Lopez states. “The sessions and speakers did a fantastic job of facilitating open and meaningful conversations, along with providing our attendees opportunities to explore practical avenues for change. We’re so pleased to have had the chance to host the second Inclusive Leadership Summit and we’re looking forward to continuing the dialogue around mental health, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”
The event kicked off with remarks and a discussion by opening keynote speakers Dr. Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell and Jeremy Tunnell, who explored the complicated history of race and whiteness and examined how colonization impacts a sense of self and place in the world. The free, virtual event brought together leaders, scholars, and professionals across multiple industries to explore how to prioritize mental health and belonging at the core of strategic operations.
"The Inclusive Leadership Summit was truly informative and inspiring," shared Kane Leone, a student currently enrolled in the Doctor of Management program at the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies. “All of the speakers, presenters and organizers went above and beyond to give summit participants a remarkable experience and a safe place for us to learn, grow, share and support one another. I cannot wait to see what future summits hold; this event was so impactful and well done."
The second day of sessions was dedicated to “Prioritizing Social Emotional Wellness to Address Trauma & Burnout,” and featured insights on the impacts of trauma on mental health from Dr. Rodney Luster and Dr. Taylee Vang. Industry experts Eric Charlton, Andraéa LaVant, and Tomás León opened the third morning of the event with a panel moderated by Dean of Operations for the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies John Ramirez, MBA. The discussion focused on steps that organizations can take to ensure accessibility is a key aspect of inclusion when developing strategic initiatives to help meet their staff's mental health needs.
"As a result of my Inclusive Leadership Summit experience, I have decided to focus on implementing key strategies to help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace," shared University of Phoenix alumna Carla Johnson. "I valued having the chance to learn more about strategies like prioritizing employee training and development programs that are inclusive and accessible to all, creating opportunities for employees to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and empowering our employee resource groups to provide a safe and supportive environment for employees from underrepresented groups. I believe that by using the tools I learned about at the Summit, our employees will continue to connect with one another, share their experiences, and provide support to one another. By implementing these strategies, I want to help create a workplace that is inclusive, equitable, and welcoming to all employees."
In addition to the focus on wellbeing, this year’s event established the inaugural Workforce Diversity Leaders Seminar. The seminar serves as a meeting place for the advancement and empowerment of employee resource group (ERG) or business resource group (BRG) leaders, ERG or BRG sponsors and emerging leaders who serve in workforce areas related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Participants engaged in facilitated conversations about workforce trends and focused on the skills necessary to become effective inclusive leaders in the workplace.
Recordings from the Inclusive Leadership Summit sessions will be posted on the summit webpage.
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 phoenix.edu.