February 20, 2024

Ocean Nexus Fellows Program Brings Policy Perspective to Next Generation of Scholars and Researchers

2024 Ocean Nexus fellows standing together
2024 Ocean Nexus fellows with Dr. Yoshi Ota (far right), director of Ocean Nexus Center and EMPA alum, Class of 2019

The Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington is a global leader in bringing justice and sustainability to the oceans for future generations. Led by Dr. Yoshi Ota, director of the Center and Evans EMPA alum, Ocean Nexus uses a unique interdisciplinary approach that combines social science and governance research to study the changes, responses, and solutions to societal issues pertaining to the world’s oceans.

At the Evans School, we are fortunate to be in the fourth year of hosting a policy research lab that aspires to bring a policy perspective to the Ocean Nexus community’s ocean governance research. During the 2023-24 academic year the Evans School team, in partnership with Ota, includes Dr. Yulan Kim and Dr. Austin Sell as postdoctoral scholars, research assistant Ph.D. student Mark Nepf, and Evans School faculty member Dr. Grant Blume as the team lead and Deputy Director for Policy Analysis.

A central objective of the Ocean Nexus Center is to support the development of the field’s next generation of scholars and researchers. Each year, a group of scholars and researchers from around the globe join the Ocean Nexus community as fellows, and a highlight of each year’s fellows program is when everyone gathers at the UW from around the world for a week in January. This gathering is an opportunity to engage with each other, build community, and focus the fellows’ attention on how their research can gain more traction in a variety of policy contexts.

This year’s fellows program incorporated a variety of perspectives and expertise from the Evans School community that spanned the boundaries of policy, management, and governance research. Ota framed much of the week around the need to bring a more critical equity-focused perspective to research on the governance of the world’s oceans.

Blume also worked with the fellows throughout the week to define and map out policy problems, identify the contours between policy problems and management problems, and explore how applying a framework for policy tools can expand one’s research agenda on a particular policy intervention. The fellows were also fortunate to work with and learn from guests who brought policy-focused knowledge and expertise to the gathering.

Dr. Grant Blume Presenting at 2024 Ocean Nexus Fellows Gathering
Dr. Grant Blume at 2024 Fellows Gathering

Evans faculty member Dr. Steve Page, for instance, worked with the fellows on a day-long curriculum that challenged them to imagine how, within an ocean governance policy context, adaptive leadership strategies could bring their research more squarely into the policymaking process. Ocean Nexus postdocs Sell and Kim presented highlights from their dissertation research to illustrate how policy and management research is designed and implemented. Dr. Kiana Scott (Evans MPA alum) shared her deep experience in the field of political communications with the fellows to cultivate an understanding of how they could harness the potential of strategic communications to increase the impact of their research in policymaking circles. During a culminating talk delivered by Dr. Henry Yu, Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia, he challenged fellows to consider the racialized nature of higher education and the disciplines in which they work with an eye to disrupting racialized narratives in their research.

The annual Ocean Nexus fellows program is an exciting opportunity to highlight the depth and breadth of the policy, management, and governance expertise within the Evans School community. After an engaging, rigorous week of deep thinking the Ocean Nexus fellows leave Seattle equipped with scholarly strategies to effectively leverage their research to bring about a more equitable future for the world’s oceans.