justice, equity, diversity, & inclusion

commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI)

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

  • Empowers diverse students, staff, and faculty to realize their potential and achieve their goals, and
  • 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; that 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.

Find out more about our JEDI efforts below.

Please consider a gift to the Oceanography Diversity Fund to support JEDI efforts in our department.


From department leadership

“Hoʻokahi nō lā o ka malihini — A stranger only for a day”

— ʻŌlelo Noʻeau

A key component of the Department’s JEDI strategy is our work toward the University’s goal of becoming a Native Hawaiian place of learning. Hoʻokahi nō lā o ka malihini means “A stranger only for a day”, which embodies our expectation that everyone in our community contribute to this effort. After one day as a guest, one must help with the work, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau.

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

efforts and accountability

The Department of Oceanography is committed to action, and accountability is key to ensuring that substantive progress is made. Learn more about our efforts by exploring the areas of focus below, and note the accountability measures designed to keep us on track.

JEDI efforts in Oceanography are currently led by an Interim JEDI committee, which was formed in response to a letter sent to the department by the Diversity and Inclusion in Marine Science for Underrepresented Minorities (DIMSUM) group composed of students, postdocs, and staff in the Oceanography and Marine Biology departments. The faculty response to the DIMSUM letter outlined a number of initiatives, including the formation of this committee, with the goal of creating a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, welcoming and supportive environment. Additional initiatives are outlined in subsequent tabs.

The primary purpose of the Interim JEDI committee is to lead the department’s effort to obtain support for a full-time JEDI professional (see “Doing the Work” tab). The committee will also initiate efforts to improve department culture and JEDI literacy. The “interim” descriptor acknowledges that creating inclusive culture and eliminating institutional racism is hard work requiring the attention of a dedicated professional. At such time that a full-time JEDI position is created and filled, leadership of these efforts will be transferred from the committee to the professional, with a permanent JEDI committee continuing in a support and advisory role.

The current committee is composed of four faculty, one staff member, one graduate student (a representative from Nā Kama Kai), and one outside advisor. The committee also receives input from the department chair and DIMSUM.

See the “Contact” tab for the current committee composition and email addresses for committee members and DIMSUM.

Substantive change requires a lot of work, and we recognize that one person (or even one department) cannot do it all. Multiple members of the Department of Oceanography are investing time and effort in support of JEDI, and we are working across departments and schools within the university to learn from each other and pool resources.

To learn more about who is doing the work and what is being done, please reach out to the Interim JEDI committee and/or the Diversity and Inclusion in Marine Science for Underrepresented Minorities (DIMSUM) for more information. See the “Contact” tab for how to get in touch.

Our highest priority is obtaining financial and institutional support for a full-time JEDI professional to lead our department’s evolution toward a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive culture. We are currently identifying funding opportunities (both internal and external) and developing proposals to obtain support for this position. We also recognize that this individual, once hired, will require the continued support of our department members, and we are committed to providing that support.

If you are able, please consider a financial gift to support this important effort. Make your contribution here: https://giving.uhfoundation.org/funds/12975504.

Accountability MeasureProgress
2-3 proposals submitted by January 1, 2022The committee has identified a number of federal and private funding resources that would be suitable targets. These include funding mechanisms from the Sloan Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Our long term goal for the Department of Oceanography is for department membership to represent the diversity of the university’s students and the state of Hawaiʻi. In order to increase diversity in the Department of Oceanography (and the field of oceanography in general), we must identify and engage talented individuals from under-represented groups in Marine Science, specifically Hispanic, Black, Native Hawaiian/American, and Pacific Island peoples.

As a department with an international reputation for excellence, we commit to engaging and recruiting under-represented groups, both within and beyond the borders of our state. Our efforts will include:

  • Crafting job descriptions, application procedures, and selection metrics that encourage diverse applicant pools, recognize alternative pathways to success, and hold search committees accountable for identifying and eliminating systemic barriers to diversity in hiring. To this end, we commit to participating in the UH Search Advocate Program, whereby all search committees must include an impartial outside member trained as a Search Advocate with the role of ensuring that the search process is equitable and just.
  • Assess and amend application procedures and criteria for graduate students to encourage diversity in the pools of applicants and admitted students.
  • Creating a culture that attracts, supports, and retains diverse members of our department. This commitment is embodied in the many initiatives outlined here.
Accountability MeasureProgress
Participate in the UH Search Advocate ProgramFive department faculty have been trained as Search Advocates. UH has now mandated that all faculty searches must include a search advocate.
Optimize graduate student application procedures and criteriaThe GRE is no longer a required component of graduate student applications due to its potential for selecting against underrepresented groups.

To encourage and incentivize transformational JEDI work and community engagement, effort in these areas must be valued and rewarded. For faculty, this means incorporating JEDI work and community engagement into tenure and promotion criteria. For students, this means finding ways to count such efforts toward fulfillment of degree requirements and/or in obtaining support for graduate work. We are exploring ways to assign value to JEDI work and community engagement in the following ways: 

  • Annual service award. We commit to establishing an annual service award recognizing an individual (faculty or student) for excellence in service to the department, university, and/or community. Awardees will be nominated by individuals in the department and selected by the awards committee.
  • Teaching credits for JEDI work. The Department of Oceanography (with permission from the SOEST Dean’s Office) will provide teaching credits for substantial time spent on JEDI work. These teaching credits will be counted toward fulfillment of teaching expectations during tenure and promotion.
  • Credit for community engagement. In most academic departments, research value is measured in publications and dollars, but research products that directly benefit community stakeholders and inform science-based management and decision-making are equally valuable. Similarly, the scope of teaching can be expanded beyond campus to include members of the community engaged through workshops and training. We commit to working with faculty colleagues and administrators to formalize the value of community engagement during tenure and promotion.
Accountability MeasureProgress
Establish Oceanography Service Award by January 1, 2022. Identify first awardee by August 1, 2022.
Obtain permission from the SOEST Dean’s Office to provide faculty members with teaching credit for JEDI work by January 1, 2022.Permission has been obtained from the SOEST Dean’s Office.
Modify departmental guidelines for tenure and promotion to include community engagement in research and teaching responsibilities. Complete by January 1, 2023.Currently working to find out the procedures and timelines for updating DPC policies.

Native Hawaiians have an unparalleled investment in caring for Hawai‘i’s land and oceans. Yet, they are severely underrepresented throughout all fields of ocean, earth and environmental science. The mission of the SOEST Maile Mentoring Bridge program is to attract kama‘āina undergraduates into SOEST degree programs and help them thrive through individualized mentoring and peer support.

Maile mentees are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and minoritized undergraduates in the UH system who are either current or prospective SOEST students. Each mentee is paired with a mentor who is an underrepresented SOEST graduate student, post-doctoral research associate or recent graduate. Mentor-mentee pairs meet regularly to share experiences, provide a sense of community, and strategize solutions to any problems that they may be experiencing. Maile Mentoring tracks students through the transfer process and all the way through to graduation. 

This program was founded by Oceanography graduate alumnus (Dr. Anela Choy, Scripps Oceanography Institute) and has had a deep and lasting influence on our community. For more information on the program or to apply to become a mentor or mentee, please email: maile@soest.hawaii.edu

A major accomplishment of the Global Environmental Sciences (GES) undergraduate program hosted by the Department of Oceanography is the establishment of Halau Ola Honua, Our Living World as part of a statewide collaborative NSF project with Windward Community College, Honolulu Community College and Kauai Community College. The objectives of Halau Ola Honua are to increase recruitment of Native Hawaiian and other underrepresented high school students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges, increase retention, and facilitate the transition of these students to STEM programs like GES.

For more information about the Halau Ola Honua project, contact Margaret McManus.

The department has developed a survey to be used on an annual basis to assess students’ level of satisfaction with the mentoring they are receiving, as well as other aspects of departmental life. Survey feedback will be used to identify existing areas that need attention or intervention, and/or potential problems that may be on the horizon that can be preempted by taking action.

Accountability MeasureProgress
Make aggregate results of the annual graduate student surveys public on the department website by January 1, 2022.

A team of our senior graduate students is drafting a Student-Advisor Contract that would function to ensure both parties—advisor and the graduate student—have shared expectations about their professional relationship. Contracts will also be shared with the students’ thesis committees and incorporated in committee meetings so that expectations for mentoring are clearly understood and accountability exists.

Accountability MeasureProgress
Standard contract drafted and distributed to advisors and graduate students by January 1, 2022.

We commit to working with experts outside our department to develop and/or offer annual anti-racism training for all department members focused on understanding and eradicating systemic racism in academia, including the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. This training will include the history of Hawaiʻi and Native Hawaiian oppression and be a required component of the orientation program for new department members.

Accountability MeasureProgress
Annual anti-racism training offered for all department members.Antiracism training last offered on [TBD].
100% of faculty members have participated in anti-racism training during the last two years.[TBD]% of faculty have received training during the last two years.

Dr. Rosie Alegado, Director for the Sea Grant Center of Excellence in Integrated Knowledge Systems and department faculty member, has agreed to provide annual training in Kūlana Noiʻi, a dynamic and equitable process for establishing and maintaining community-researcher partnerships.

Accountability MeasureProgress
Annual Kūlana Noiʻi training offered for all department members.Kūlana Noiʻi training last offered on [TBD].

Education is the key to JEDI and cultural competency. For those in our department that wish to learn more about issues surrounding race, indigeneity, gender, sexuality, and intersectionality, we have started a curated mini-library composed of books addressing these topics. The library brings together recommendations from students, staff, and faculty and can be found in [TBD]. Please check out a book and learn to better understand, support, and celebrate diversity in our department.

In addition to the physical mini-library, department faculty member Rosie Alegado has compiled a collection of JEDI-focused PDF articles. The collection can be accessed here: [TBD].

If you would like to learn more about JEDI in the Department of Oceanography, please reach out to members of the Interim JEDI committee (in alphabetical order):

You can also reach out directly to the Diversity and Inclusion in Marine Science for Underrepresented Minorities (DIMSUM) group at uhm.marine.bipoc@gmail.com. This group is composed of students, postdocs, and staff in the Oceanography and Marine Biology departments.