Professor Maxine Burkett serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Fisheries and Polar Affairs in the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs where she oversees the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy on a broad range of international issues concerning the oceans, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and marine conservation.
Previously, Burkett served as an Expert Senior Advisor to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry where her portfolio included climate-related migration, climate security, bilateral relationships with island nations, and Indigenous Peoples’ engagement. A professor of law, Burkett was on the faculties of the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law and Colorado Law, where she has taught climate law and ocean and coastal law, and is a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.
Burkett has served on numerous state and federal committees, including the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment and the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment, convened by the State of New York and Columbia University. Professor Burkett was a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and was a co-founder and Senior Advisor at the non-profit Institute for Climate and Peace. She is a member scholar of the American Law Institute and the International Law Association’s Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise, for which she served as a Co-Rapporteur from 2019 to 2021.
Prof. Burkett received her B.A. from Williams College, which awarded her the Bicentennial Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 2016, and Exeter College, Oxford University. She received her J.D. from Berkeley Law, University of California, and served as a law clerk for The Honorable Susan Illston of the United States District Court, Northern District of California.