The Obama Foundation Leaders selected University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education Professor of Mathematics Education Linda Furuto to be part of its 2023 program, according to a release. She is also a Polynesian Voyaging Society crew member. 

Furuto is one of 105 global leaders selected this year to be an Obama Foundation Leader. The program started in 2019 and aims to inspire, empower and connect regional cohorts of changemakers.

She will participate in the Asia-Pacific program, which represents 22 countries and territories and focuses on issues from climate change to Indigenous rights. 

During the six-month program, Furuto will attend weekly virtual skill-building workshops, networking opportunities and moderated conversations with other Obama Foundation leaders.

Furuto is the director of the Ethnomathematics Graduate Certificate and Master of Education in Curriculum Studies Mathematics Education program at COE. In 2018, COE began offering the first graduate certificate in ethnomathematics in the world. She also led the Ethnomathematics and STEM Institute for 10 years.

Ethnomathematics trains elementary and high school educators to teach how math can be used in the real world, like when someone is surfing, studying marine life, growing taro or sailing aboard the Polynesian Voyaging Society‚Äôs double-hulled canoes. 

Furuto is also an apprentice navigator and education specialist with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and is a member of the Moananuiakea Voyage, which is set to launch in June.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke covers the Hawaiian Islands for Spectrum News Hawaii. Email her at