University of Phoenix Hosted ‘Equity Challenge’ for Staff

University of Phoenix Hosted ‘Equity Challenge’ for Staff

By Corinne Murdock |

Last month, the University of Phoenix hosted a 21-day “equity challenge” for its staff. The challenge was voluntary for faculty and staff, and hosted by the Office of Educational Equity. 

Focus areas for the challenge included allyship, disability, education, health care, interpersonal and institutional racism, and understanding privilege. This was the second year that the university hosted the challenge.

The director of student diversity and inclusion, Tondra Richardson, stated that the equity challenge ensured participants developed social justice outlooks for taking up leadership roles.

“This year’s challenge focused on giving participants the practical resources needed to develop inclusive leadership skills,” stated Richardson. “This year we also gave participants the opportunity to earn the Inclusive Leader: Commitment to Equity Badge, which allowed participants to demonstrate a tangible commitment to putting empathy, compassion, and curiosity into action.”

A project marketing manager for the university, Ivy Wong, testified that the challenge reconditioned her thinking on her own cultural awareness deficiencies. 

“It is a rare opportunity to take a step back to reflect on my own inherent bias, as well as my social and cultural conditioning,” said Wong. “After these few weeks, I have more self-awareness and know what I need to unlearn and relearn.”

The challenge stemmed from an eponymous organization launched by Eddie Moore, a longtime diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate and founder of another social justice education organization, The Privilege Institute. Moore tailored his organization’s content for the university. 

The organization suggests the first day’s challenge to be a study of a “Becoming Anti-Racist” graphic. The organization misattributed the graphic to activist Ibram X. Kendi — a doctor by the name of Andrew Ibrahim created the graphic. 

The graphic charts an individual’s progression through three “zones” that one must advance through to become anti-racist: the “fear zone,” in which individuals deny racism is a problem and speak with others that look and think like them; the “learning zone,” in which individuals recognize racism is a present and current problem, understand their privilege in ignoring racism, educate themselves about race and structural racism, and admit vulnerability to biases and knowledge gaps; and the “growth zone,” in which individuals identify that they unknowingly benefit from racism, promote and advocate for anti-racist policies and leaders, dwell in discomfort, speak out against racism, educate peers on racism in their profession, yield positions of power to those otherwise marginalized, and surround themselves with others that look and think differently than them. 

The University of Phoenix will follow up this 21-day challenge and promote a “National Day of Racial Healing” with an “Inclusive Cafe” next Wednesday. The university will also host a webinar series on Jan. 19 teaching staff and faculty how to continue their commitment to equity in 2023.

Past equity-focused webinar series have discussed how ableism leads to inequality, how others should serve indigenous communities, and what racism is. 

In defining racism, the university defined racism as the exploitation, control, and violence directed at non-white people. The focus on defining racism declared that the concept of race was invented with the colonization and founding of the U.S., and that racism is a problem perpetuated by favoritism of whiteness. 

The University of Phoenix also has a Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research, which offers fellowships for faculty, students, and alumni. Fellows research an advanced version of the DEI term: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). 

The university will also have a second annual Inclusive Leadership Summit from May 2-4. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.