Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer
Dr. Janice Underwood, Ph.D
Dr. Janice Underwood, who strongly believes in servant leadership and culturally relevant reform, was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first cabinet-level Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). This position is also the first of its kind in the nation. As the Commonwealth’s CDO, she is committed to addressing racial, ethnic, disability, gender-based, and other cultural inequities in formal and informal policies in Virginia state government. Specifically, Dr. Underwood has worked collaboratively to build the ONE Virginia mission, the first-ever statewide strategic plan for inclusive excellence across over 100 state agencies and with other public and private sectors. In this historical role, which provides a roadmap for building diversity-lead innovation in local, state, and federal government, Dr. Underwood was named one of “20 Agents of Change” in 2020 by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture for the measurable accomplishments, impact, and racial reconciliation she has already had on the Commonwealth. As part of her role, she guides the state’s COVID-19 Equity Leadership Task Force, which directs the work of the Unified Command Health Equity Working Group, various equity audits for state agencies, and the implementation of equity principles in public messaging, crisis management, and community engagement. Her goal is to make Virginia an exemplar for the nation, regarding diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence.
Dr. Underwood has invested more than 25 years in public service. Prior to her appointment as the Commonwealth’s CDO, she served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence. She previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the Old Dominion University (ODU) Teacher in Residence master’s program, where she reformed STEM preparation programs toward national equity standards. Over her career, Dr. Underwood championed to make systemic inequity visible in the education sector as a university administrator, teacher educator, researcher, “national board certified teacher,” and diversity trainer. During her more than 16 years as a PK-12 science/special education teacher and expert in education equity, she served for two terms on the Virginia Advisory Board for Teacher Education and Licensure (ABTEL), authored several publications, and presented at numerous national, state, and local conferences. As a thought-leader in the cultural contexts of public education, change management, and diversity leadership, Dr. Underwood works to make public and private sectors more culturally relevant. In doing so, she equips leaders from a myriad of fields to understand best practices and the ‘return on investment’ for diversity initiatives and address difficult truths, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, the lack of diversity in the workforce, and systemic and institutional racism across all sectors.
She earned her Bachelor’s (1998) and Master’s (2002) degrees from Hampton University in Psychology and Behavior/Learning Disorders, respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University, where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy. Dr. Underwood has a heart for people. Therefore, she is building affirming work, learning, economic, and social environments for the “common-good” of the Commonwealth of Virginia for access and success for the state, other states, and the nation.
Deputy Chief Diversity Officer
Alaysia Black Hackett
Alaysia Black Hackett has been appointed Deputy Chief Diversity Officer for the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). Ms. Hackett brings with her 20 years of executive-level diversity leadership in government and in public and private university settings. In this role as Deputy Chief Diversity Officer, Ms. Hackett will work with the Chief Diversity Officer across secretariats, state agencies, and all communities to advance equity reforms across state government and the Commonwealth.
Prior to this appointment, Ms. Hackett served as Special Assistant to the ODEI and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant for the Virginia Department of Human Resources Management. Before joining the Office of the Governor, Ms. Hackett was the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Mars Hill University in North Carolina. Ms. Hackett earned a B.S. in Sociology with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Relations and a M.P.A. with a concentration in Organizational Development from Western Carolina University. She studied law at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law and earned an Executive Juris Doctor (EJD) degree from Concord Law School at Purdue University Global in 2019. Ms. Hackett is also a faith leader in Glenn Allen, Virginia.
Kimberly Cain has been appointed Special Advisor to the Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). In this role, she will provide administrative support to the ODEI and state agencies with the implementation of the ONE Virginia statewide strategic plan for inclusive excellence. Under the direction of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Ms. Cain will work with cabinet leadership, state agencies, and external stakeholders to further advance legislative and programmatic initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across the Commonwealth and the state workforce.
Prior to this appointment, Ms. Cain served as the Assistant Director of Institutional Equity and Diversity at Old Dominion University (ODU). During her time at ODU, Ms. Cain provided consultation and training for diversity, harassment and discrimination prevention, affirmative action, equal opportunity, and disability matters to promote a more inclusive campus. She investigated Title IX and discrimination complaints and championed for best practices across the university to provide a welcoming work and learning environment for all students, faculty, and staff. Ms. Cain earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Old Dominion University and a Juris Doctor degree from William and Mary Law School.
Deputy Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of New Americans
Mona Siddiqui has been appointed Deputy Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Policy Advisor with an emphasis in immigration. In this new role, she will serve as the Commonwealth’s primary specialist on immigrant and refugee affairs in an innovative collaboration with the Virginia Department of Social Services, Office of New Americans. Therefore, under the direction of the Chief Diversity Officer, she will work across secretariats, state agencies, and relevant communities to coordinate interagency efforts and to identify and remove systemic barriers preventing immigrants and refugees from fully participating in Virginia’s workforce, educational systems, economy, and other relevant sectors. Prior to joining the ODEI, Ms. Siddiqui served in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney General (OAG) for several years as an Assistant Attorney General. As a long-time advocate and activist in the areas of race, migration, national origin, religion, gender, and disability, during her tenure with the Office of the Attorney General, Ms. Siddiqui championed human rights, fair housing, and disability initiatives, and established best practices in civil rights advocacy for Virginia localities. Mona also served for five years on the Governor’s Virginia Asian Advisory Board.
Mona holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Virginia, an earned Juris Doctorate (JD) from the University of Maryland’s School of Law, and is currently a PhD Candidate in the Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, where her research focuses on an intersection of immigration integration and civil rights.
Executive Assistant to the Chief Diversity Officer
Mikaela Swann serves as the Executive Administrator for the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this new role, under the direction of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Ms. Swann will provide direct administrative support to the development and implementation of proactive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives which will support the CDO in the creation and on-going evaluation of a statewide strategic plan and other programmatic and legislative initiatives designed to support an inclusive state. She also provides administrative leadership as a liaison to the interagency COVID-19 Equity Leadership Task Force in pursuit of health equity initiatives across the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ms. Swann brings to the team an awareness of global health disparities because she has spent significant time volunteering in Africa and Mexico to advance health outcomes in low income areas. Ms. Swann is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology.