We are a global leader in oceanographic research and education in the Pacific region, providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all.



We integrate education with cutting-edge oceanographic research, building on our unique location in the Pacific Ocean, and serving our diverse communities and cultures, with respect and aloha.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Tabata

1. Overarching Goal:
Rebuild and Renew the Faculty

Photo courtesy of Meagan Putts

Goal 1.1: Rebuild and expand faculty to help deliver on departmental vision, mission and goals.

Strategy: Recruit, retain and support new faculty who are leaders in their fields and committed to excellence in research, teaching, mentoring and community engagement, with an eye on diversity.

Strategy: Prepare a hiring and retention plan for 2022-31 that aligns with strategic plan goals, key research themes (Goals 2.3 and 2.4), and current and projected needs. Identify targets, actions and funding options, aiming for an optimal size of 35-40 faculty.

Goal 1.2 Diversify the faculty composition to better reflect the diversity of Hawaiʻi and the U.S. and to bring varied perspectives and experience to the department.

Strategy: Include in the hiring plan measures to accelerate the rate of change in faculty composition through targeted search, outreach, recruitment, hiring and retention strategies; institutional post-doc fellowships; Search Advocates;1 and best practices from other institutions. Target increased representation of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. (See Goal 6.3.)

Strategy: Adopt criteria and incentives in faculty search, hiring, tenure and promotion related to training and experience in community engagement2 and JEDI, including collaboration with diverse communities.

1  Search Advocates are trained to enhance diversity, validity and equity in university search and selection processes.
2 “Community” in this plan includes community, government and business organizations, e.g., non-profits; schools and colleges; government agencies, elected officials and funders. “Community engagement” in this plan includes community outreach, service and collaboration. 

2. Research

Photo courtesy of UH Foundation

Goal 2.1 Be a global leader in advancing a comprehensive Mauka to Makai (mountain to sea) understanding of the global ocean – including atmosphere-ocean-land interactions – through coastal to blue water to deep sea research within the context of global change.

Strategy: Reorganize departmental processes to strengthen communication across divisions, programs and centers in order to leverage complementary expertise and facilities and promote collaboration, innovation and synergy. Reconsider the divisional structure.

Strategy: Position UH as a key player in ocean observation systems: strengthen and communicate the role and value of time series data in understanding the global ocean, and secure the resources to sustain long-term research and monitoring centers.

Goal 2.2 Promote interdisciplinary research collaborations across OCN/SOEST/UH and international institutions that address “big questions” and integrate basic and applied research.

Strategy: Facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary projects, teams and think-tanks involving complementary expertise that could evolve into research units and institutes. Engage SOEST as a catalyst for broader multidisciplinary UH collaborations.

Strategy: Seek international collaborations with faculty, researchers and students from complementary institutions to raise the global profile of the department, strengthen international connections, and attract new funding.

Goal 2.3 Take a lead role in expanding our understanding of the global carbon cycle and climate system in the open and coastal ocean, as part of efforts to respond to climate change.

Strategy: Consolidate and expand climate and ocean research and monitoring across divisions; reposition as needed to respond to priority needs for science input to local to global adaptation and resilience initiatives.

Strategy: Take the lead in developing an interdisciplinary climate program, unit or center within SOEST focused on research, education and community engagement on the carbon cycle and climate change, with a Pan-Pacific, pan-oceanic focus. Identify options for funding, a strategic cluster hire, a permanent chair and/or fellowships. (See Goal 1.1.)

Goal 2.4 Concentrate and deepen our research focus and pursue excellence in 2-3 (additional) interdisciplinary themes of critical relevance for the 21st century; revisit every five years.

Strategy: Choose 2-3 dynamic research themes (in addition to climate) for the next 5-10 years as the basis for integrative, cross-division and/or SOEST collaborations involving faculty clusters. 

Strategy: Use the research themes as a key input to the faculty hiring plan (Goal 1.1), including a possible cluster hire; new cross-disciplinary tracks in the graduate program; and novel local to global community collaborations.

Goal 2.5 Strengthen our focus on applied, socially-relevant research that addresses local to global challenges and opportunities.

Strategy: Conduct research that is both responsive to Hawaiian and Pacific Island community priorities and linked to broader research questions, including collaborative projects, build on OCN/SOEST/UH experience in this area. (See Goals 4.1–4.3.)

Strategy: Offer training, peer learning and guidance on how to be culturally competent researchers and equitable partners in community collaborations, including Kūlana Noiʻi guidelines (Research Standards) for two-way knowledge-sharing, the OCN Code of Conduct and pono science.

3. Education and
Student Experience

Photo courtesy of Mariko Quinn

Goal 3.1 Offer engaging, interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate programs that reflect cutting-edge science and respond to growing student interest in climate, adaptation, resilience and sustainability topics.

Strategy: Align education programs and curriculum with student interests and needs, the unique setting, and faculty expertise and research to provide an engaging and rewarding student experience.

Strategy: Increase cross-divisional, interdisciplinary team and project-based teaching and mentoring to provide students with the skills and experience needed for 21st century academic and professional careers in research, policy and planning.

Goal 3.2 Broaden and expand the successful Global Environmental Science (GES) undergraduate program to train a new generation of researchers, science professionals and global citizens.

Strategy: Increase the GES program size and capacity by reworking core courses to better match faculty expertise, attract more instructors, incentivize their participation and increase team teaching.

Strategy: Serve students preparing for non-academic careers by broadening program offerings – working with other SOEST departments and UH schools, such as natural and social science, medicine and law – and expanding support for other GES majors.

Goal 3.3 Offer consistent, high-quality teaching, training, mentoring and support for student education and career success in Hawaiʻi and beyond.  

Strategy: Recruit, hire and incentivize faculty with proven teaching and mentoring skills, experience and commitment. Continue to refine learning objectives, student/advisor expectations and accountability systems. Support peer learning among faculty and instructors.

Strategy: Expand opportunities to apply research and course work to real-world challenges through, for example, field trips, lab and field work, summer courses, work experience/practicums, technical training (e.g., data visualization, coding) and community projects.

Goal 3.4 Revise graduate program to provide an integrated, interdisciplinary foundation in oceanography for 21st century academic and professional careers.

Strategy: In the short-term, convene faculty and/or student discussions to identify needs, priorities and options for short-term, “low-hanging fruit” curriculum redesign. (See Goal 3.3.)

Strategy: Review, restructure and update the graduate program to integrate and streamline coursework, align with OCN research themes, use cross-divisional approaches, and increase options and flexibility.

Strategy: Develop a non-thesis Master of Science (MA) with multiple pathways, based on a 4 + 1 model, i.e., GES to MA in 5 years. Consider also a non-major certificate program, e.g., climate science.

Goal 3.5 Increase the recruitment, retention and success of outstanding, diverse graduate students.

Strategy: Develop a department-wide, globally competitive student recruitment plan to attract high-quality students. Include measures to address systemic barriers and promote equity and inclusion for Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented groups. Track and refine results. (See Goal 6.3.)

Strategy: Continue to work through Nā Kama Kai and the Graduate Student Success Committee to seek support for graduate students for education and career development, and resources for work-life balance.

4. Community Outreach
and Engagement3

Photo courtesy of Kelsey McBeain

Centering our work in Native Hawaiian values is foundational to our support for student success and positions us to best serve the needs of Hawaiʻi through community outreach and engagement. We understand that community-focused efforts require building relationships based on consultation, consent and trust.

Goal 4.1 Increase communication, dialogue and relationships with external organizations.

Strategy: Contact government agencies (e.g., weather, coastal, environmental); business and community organizations; and decision-makers (legislature, congress) in Hawaiʻi to discuss the relevance and impact of our work, and identify their priorities for science inputs into policy, planning and projects.

Strategy: Go out into the community to become more culturally-literate and learn about the people and places we serve as a foundation for place-based teaching and learning, e.g., walking tours and boat trips on Native Hawaiian topics; work days at community projects such as fish ponds, loʻi and Paepae o Heʻeia. (See Goal 6.2.)

Strategy: Connect with international organizations, such as the World Bank, UN-Oceans and USAID, to identify opportunities for collaboration and support through their ocean and marine programs, e.g., Blue Economy, PROBLUE and UN Decade of Ocean Science and Sustainable Development. (See Goal 2.5.)

Goal 4.2 Strengthen community outreach and engagement as an integral part of research, education and community service.

Strategy: Seek funds to create a communication specialist position to support faculty, students and staff in community activities. Devise an outreach plan – linked to the OCN strategic goals – with objectives, target groups, partners, activities, timelines and evaluation methods.

Strategy: Support, incentivize and reward faculty for outreach and engagement, including JEDI and NHPoL work, as part of community service, e.g., provide time, teaching credits, training and tools, and address in recruitment, tenure and promotion criteria and service awards. (See Goal 6.1.)

Goal 4.3 Support community education, knowledge-sharing and participation in ocean research, conservation and sustainability issues, including climate change.

Strategy: Offer opportunities for community groups, decision-makers and the public to learn about, discuss and participate in ocean research and issues, e.g., do media outreach on research; convene workshops and short courses, open houses and field/lab/ship visits.

Strategy: Work through the College of Education to respond to the needs of teachers and students in K-12 schools, colleges and technical schools for materials and activities that promote science literacy and facilitate pathways to ocean and environmental science education and employment.

 3“Outreach” includes awareness-raising and education, media relations, and disseminating research results. “Engagement” includes various forms of dialogue, cooperation, and collaboration with community groups, government, decision-makers, and the public.

5. Institutional

Photo courtesy of Phil Thompson

Goal 5.1 Strengthen the sense of common purpose, collegiality and community within the department and SOEST to support and motivate members, building on the OCN Code of Conduct.

Strategy: Provide regular opportunities for formal and informal academic, educational and social gatherings for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, researchers and staff to build connections, e.g., research seminars, thematic retreats, town halls, community service, social events and outings.

Strategy: Use the OCN Strategic Plan and Implementation Framework as a basis for departmental planning and decision-making, monitoring progress on collective goals, and harmonizing research, education and community engagement activities.

Goal 5.2 Seek sufficient, sustained funding to support the OCN Vision, Mission and Goals.

Strategy: Continue to identify funding priorities, targets and channels to reach diverse state, federal and extramural funders, including government, business and philanthropy in Hawaiʻi and beyond.

Strategy: Pursue grants for large-scale, “big-idea”, interdisciplinary collaborations that build on our strengths, address societal and funder priorities, and could leverage extramural funds and philanthropy. (See Goals 2.3 & 2.4.)

Goal 5.3 Expand, support and retain a strong administration and staff group to contribute to departmental success in research, education, and community engagement.

Strategy: Offer staff competitive remuneration, professional development opportunities, participation in departmental activities and incentives for work/life balance. Define priorities for new staff positions, e.g., Goals 4.2 and 6.1.

Strategy: Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative processes: e.g., add staff to free up faculty time for core responsibilities; have two departmental Chair positions – one working on high-level departmental strategies and funding, and one focusing on students.

Goal 5.4 Advocate for resources to restore and upgrade the infrastructure, facilities and sea-going capabilities needed to support departmental excellence in ocean science.

Strategy: Encourage SOEST and UH to develop a plan for state and private funding to fast-track maintenance, upgrades and replacement of buildings, labs and classrooms. Continue small, low-cost changes such as sharing labs and facilities, creating more meeting areas and aesthetic improvements.

Strategy: Encourage SOEST and UH to identify priorities and secure resources for new/upgraded sea-going facilities for research, education and community engagement across the Pacific, including vessels and shore facilities.

6. Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) and Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (NHPoL)

Photo courtesy of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant

The Department of Oceanography is committed to department-wide, shared responsibility for creating a just, equitable, and inclusive culture that:

  • empowers diverse oceanography community members to realize their potential and achieve their goals.
  • engages and serves local communities in our state—the most diverse state in the nation.

Our commitment to JEDI is not only an ethical obligation. We recognize that diversity of thought and experience promotes scientific progress; local and Indigenous ways of knowing are valued and belong in our classrooms and laboratories; and inclusive hiring practices ensure that the most talented individuals join us in pursuit of our mission. In short, we recognize that diversity makes our department stronger and produces better science.

We also acknowledge the history of Hawaiʻi and Native Hawaiian oppression, including awareness of the racism underlying the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and we are committed to actualizing an anti-racist, anti-discriminatory workplace.

Goal 6.1 Integrate UH and OCN commitments to JEDI and NHPoL into research, education and community engagement activities.

Strategy: Work with the Interim JEDI Committee to implement OCN’s JEDI commitments, actions and accountability framework, including JEDI and anti-racism training; revised faculty and student search and recruitment processes; and valuing community engagement work. (See Goals 1.2 and 4.1–4.3.)

Strategy: Continue cross-departmental education and dialogue on JEDI and NHPoL concepts and issues, and how to address them in our work, e.g., town halls, training (see Urge pod Unlearning Racism in Geoscience training), peer learning and learning from best practices elsewhere.

Strategy: Continue to seek funding for an OCN support position(s) to work with the new (2022) SOEST Director of Diversity Initiatives and OCN IJEDI Committee in advancing OCN JEDI initiatives.

Goal 6.2 Take a multi-phased approach to making the department a Native Hawaiian place of learning, starting with Hoʻokahi nō lā o ka malihini, recognizing that we are new to this work.

Strategy: Work with the UHM Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office, SOEST JEDI specialist, and OCN IJEDI committee to learn more about NHPoL and devise departmental approaches. Options include:

Research: Bring ‘āina-based4 approaches into research and scholarship, weaving Native Hawaiian pono science and traditional knowledge with western knowledge, e.g., explore links between holistic Native Hawaiian concepts of Mauka to Makai and oceanography’s focus on biogeochemical cycles and ocean-continent interactions.


  • Integrate local, place-based learning into teaching and mentoring. Use ideas and examples from Hawaiian and Pacific Island geography, and Native Hawaiian history, values, culture, knowledge and practices related to the ocean.
  • Work with Hawaiʻinuiakea (School of Hawaiian Knowledge) to convene educational activities on Native Hawaiian topics, e.g., workshops, walking tours and field visits. (See Goal 4.1.)
  • Organize a multi-day “Introduction to Oceanography” orientation for new faculty, postdoctoral researchers, researchers, staff and students, including a science and cultural exploration of Hawaiʻi, to build community and set the stage for place-based learning. 

Goal 6.3 Increase representation of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other underrepresented groups within faculty, postdoctoral researchers, researchers, staff and students.

Strategy: Increase recruitment from underrepresented groups through targeted outreach to highly qualified and motivated high school, college and university students from Hawaiʻi, the mainland and other countries. (See Goals 1.2, 3.5.)

Strategy: Work with K-12 schools, SOEST and UH to strengthen pathways for underrepresented Hawaiians from recruitment through university to post-graduation. Offer academic, career planning and personal support, building on the successful SOEST Halau Ola Honua and Maile Mentoring Bridge programs.

Strategy: Seek funding for graduate student fellowships to attract talented early career Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander researchers to work on Hawaii-relevant science and train for academic and professional careers.

4 ‘āina encompasses the land, ocean, air, and all living things.

Implementation plan coming soon!