Photo of Maxine Burkett
Maxine Burkett, JD
Visiting Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine

While on leave from the University of Hawai’i, Maxine Burkett will serve on the federal climate team, headed by United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. While in this role, she joins Department of Global Health and Social Medicine as a Visiting Professor to provide guidance to scholarship that we are leading on health effects of climate change. She will work with Dr. Eugene Richardson on this endeavor and additionally supervise students in the Master of Medical Sciences – Global Health Delivery program.

Maxine Burkett is currently on leave as professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. At Richardson, she teaches Climate Change Law and Policy, Torts, Ocean and Coastal Law, and International Law. 

An expert in the law and policy of climate change, she has written extensively in diverse areas of climate change law with a particular focus on climate justice—exploring policy responses to climate change’s impacts on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Professor Burkett has presented her research throughout the United States and in West Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the Caribbean. She has been cited in numerous news and policy outlets, including BBC Radio, the New York Times, the Washington Post, International Business Times, and Nature Climate Change.

In 2010, Burkett served as the Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics at the Wayne Morse Center, University of Oregon, for the Center’s “Climate Ethics and Climate Equity” theme of inquiry. Other Wayne Morse Chairs include Charles Ogletree, Jr., Vandana Shiva, Barbara Ehrenreich, and former Senator Russ Feingold. Burkett is the youngest recipient of the Chair.  

From 2009-2012, Professor Burkett also served as the inaugural Director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP). As the Director of ICAP, she led numerous projects to address climate change policy and planning for island communities globally. She directed the completion of several adaptation related policy documents, outreach and education programs, and decision-maker support efforts for Hawai‘i and other Pacific Island nations. She is currently the co-founder and director of the Institute for Climate and Peace.

Professor Burkett received her B.A. Williams College, which awarded her the Bicentennial Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 2016. She also attended Exeter College, Oxford University and received her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. She served as a law clerk for The Honorable Susan Illston of the United States District Court, Northern District of California. She was a White House Intern, an Omidyar Fellow, a 2016 recipient of Pacific Business News’ 40 Under 40 award, and a 2017 awardee of Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20. Professor Burkett serves on the boards of the Global Greengrants Fund, ELAW, and the Blue Planet Foundation and is a member of the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment (formerly the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment). Professor Burkett is also a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform and the American Law Institute.

Prior to her appointment at the University of Hawai‘i, Burkett was an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Law School.