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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies Releases White Paper on Impact of the Pandemic on American Workers’ Career Trajectories Amidst Societal Barriers

Dr. Juana Lang and Dr. Lucinda Hines leverage consecutive Career Optimism Index® study findings to explore how the pandemic solidified existing societal barriers for workers

PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)–University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies has released a new white paper, “Underrepresented Americans: How The Pandemic Rooted Societal Barriers and Derailed Career Trajectories,” authored by, Juana Lang, Ed.D., M.Ed., faculty in the College and recent fellow of the University’s Center for Leadership Studies and Organizational Research (CLSOR), and Lucinda Hines, DHA, MBA, fellow, Center for Educational and Instructional Technology Research (CEITR). The white paper leverages consecutive Career Optimism Index® findings to understand the pandemic impact on existing societal barriers and career trajectories.

While U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this year that the unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, the 2023 Career Optimism Index® study found that over a third of workers, 38 percent, say they do not feel like they have the ability to advance in their career at their current job.

The white paper explores changes in career trajectories of underrepresented populations from 2021 through 2023 and barriers experienced by these groups during this period. The white paper finds that people of color and workers from different ethnic backgrounds, including women and Americans making under $50,000 a year experienced drastic career derailment compared to their counterparts. It also finds that deep-rooted societal roadblocks such as financial insecurity, perceived deficiencies in job preparedness to face the future job market, and a decline in emotional well-being were exacerbated for this population stratum.

“Even before the pandemic, many hourly-paid workers in the U.S. were worried about their finances. Career trajectories were derailed, and underrepresented Americans felt it with greater force,” states Lang. “Employers and policy makers can help address these disparities and foster a more resilient workforce better equipped to navigate today’s workplace demands.”

Lang is a part-time college instructor and a full-time K-12 educator with an extensive career in Texas and Florida schools for over 25 years. As a research fellow in CLSOR, she also works in different research teams in association with CEITR and is part of the mentorship program developed by the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies. She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in education with the University of Phoenix.

Hines is a health care executive with 30 years of health care administration experience with the Department of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, having served in an array of leadership roles including Chief, Superintendent of Medical Operations/Inspector, Manager of Medical Readiness, Facility Lead for Credentialing and Privileging, and the Air Force lead for Professional Medical Staff Management. Hines has a Master of Business Administration degree from Charleston Southern University and earned her doctorate in Healthcare Administration at the University of Phoenix. Hines is affiliated with CLSOR.

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

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit

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® conducts this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and advance American careers and create equity in the workplace. For the third annual study, fielded between December 9, 2022 – January 13, 2023, more than 5,000 U.S. adults were surveyed on 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. 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 the workforce in the top twenty DMA markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. The study also explores 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.


Sharla Hooper

University of Phoenix


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