URI Marine Affairs is committed to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusivity for all, in the classroom, in scholarship, and in action.
The past several years have been challenging for many reasons. Among all the other things that are going on, we realize that police violence against black bodies has not abated. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Jacob Blake, Walter Wallace Jr. We say their names to acknowledge their humanity and to keep their stories alive. We understand that these violent acts are the result of structural and institutional racism that pervades our society beyond just the criminal justice system.
We recognize that many of you experience feelings of distress, grief, confusion, and fear, and we are here as a department to support you, should you need to talk or ask questions, no matter what happens on the local or national stage. You are valued here, whether you are taking your first undergraduate class in marine policy, furthering your academic studies through a graduate degree, advocating for coastal communities, or contributing to new policy.
We are aware that issues of systemic racism, oppression, erasure, and injustice are as rampant within the domain of marine science and policy as they are anywhere else in this country. As the first department of Marine Affairs in the country, it is our responsibility to explicitly address these issues as they manifest in ocean and coastal histories and contemporary lives at sea. This involves both identifying and confronting instances of racism and injustice, which are often built into the very systems we use to make decisions, allocate resources, and promote our work. We further know that there are historical and structural reasons why our field is predominantly white, and it behooves us to actively advocate for a more inclusive, diverse, and socially aware community of practice. At the same time, we recognize the important contributions that people of color have made to marine conservation and environmental movements in the U.S. and around the world.
Where we are
We are working hard to directly address justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion issues so that in the years to come our department will continue to grow and welcome more students and faculty of color and produce more engaged scholars and citizens. Here we list some of the activities in which we have been engaged in recent years:
- Added new courses that explicitly integrate issues of diversity and inclusion and include reading lists and content about and by diverse authors and populations; examples of new courses include Social Studies of Science (MAF 300) and Environmental Justice (MAF 531)
- Updated existing courses to explicitly integrate issues of diversity and inclusion and include reading lists and content about and by diverse authors and populations; examples of updates include emphasizing the contributions of African states in International Ocean Law (MAF 577) and incorporating environmental justice issues related to wastewater treatment in Marine Pollution Policy (MAF 415)
- Mobilized efforts to increase representation of faculty of color in the department to begin to address a lack of diversity in coastal and marine science and policy
- Contributed to the establishment of a professional learning community called VOICES to promote dialogue and conversations about equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in academic and research communities within the College of Environment and Life Sciences, and more broadly, STEM fields
- Eliminated the GRE requirement for all of our graduate degree programs to eliminate barriers preventing full participation by all graduate students
- Supported undergraduate research through the Science and Engineering Fellows program, which provides students from underrepresented populations with interdisciplinary experience addressing real-world challenges
- Supported several successful applications for the Graduate School Diversity Fellowship and/or Diversity Teaching Assistantship to fund incoming students from diverse backgrounds
- Engaged the Office of Community, Equity, and Diversity to facilitate important work regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and continued anti-bias/anti-racism training for all faculty and staff
Where we want to be
We recognize that this is only the beginning. We invite you to join us as we continue to work toward a more inclusive climate for all URI students, coastal & marine policy practitioners, and marine affairs scholars. We intend to build on these actions in the coming years, including investment of time, energy, and resources into the following initiatives:
- Improving our recruitment efforts for students and faculty to attract and support applicants from diverse backgrounds, including from underserved communities within Rhode Island
- Supporting faculty and student research projects aimed at investigating equity, inclusion, and justice issues in maritime activities and spaces
- Assessing our undergraduate program to ensure that we are welcoming all students to Marine Affairs with an inclusive curriculum and adequate faculty support
- Engaging in outreach to promote our program and diversify the population of students, especially bringing in students from historically under-represented identities