Valli Kalei Kanuha was born and raised in a rural town in Hawaiʻi in the 1950s. She is the daughter of a Native Hawaiian father and Nisei mother. For the past 45 years, Dr. Kanuha has been an activist, therapist, consultant and researcher with a focus on gender violence against women and children, and the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender and sexual identity. She has worked as a community-based researcher and consultant with organizations in Hawaiʻi and the continental U.S., and lectures widely on violence against women and social justice issues. Her research and community interests include development of a Native Hawaiian culturally-based, domestic violence program; interventions for children who have experienced domestic violence in the home; intimate violence in women's same-sex relationships; and transformative and alternative, community-based justice innovations to address interpersonal violence.
Before returning to UW, Kalei taught social work, sociology and women’s studies courses at the University of Hawaiʻi. She was also a field instructor for 15 years as a community health social worker in Minnesota. Professor Kanuha received the NASW Presidential Award for Excellence in Research and the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award. She is a founding member of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, and is currently a Board member of the Joyful Heart Foundation and the National Indigenous Women’s Research Working Group. Kalei received her BA in social work from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, MSW from the University of Minnesota and PhD from the University of Washington. Three years ago, Kalei and her partner were gifted with their beloved daughter, Anela Roshan, and they all live with Nazy and Mele, their aging Golden Retrievers.