Dorceta Taylor on Environmental Justice
We were fortunate to recently welcome the incredible Dorceta Taylor ’85 M.F.S., ’91 Ph.D. to campus to lead a research seminar on Food Access and Environmental Grant-making and Environmental Justice. In a jam-packed Burke Auditorium, Dr. Taylor spoke about her experience at F&ES, her research, and shared some sage advice to current students.
Dr. Taylor is the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, where she teaches courses on environmental justice. She is a distinguished writer, authoring several seminal texts on environmental justice, and the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the 2020 Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the highest honor Yale Graduate School bestows on its alumni.
Her current research also focuses on food insecurity, people of color and the outdoors, and wage inequality in environmental non-profits. Of her research in institutional diversity, Taylor said, “We have to start thinking about what are the structures that perpetuate systems of inequality that we see over time.”
Digging deeper and asking questions seems to be central to Taylor’s research. When Detroit, Michigan, is labeled a “food desert,” she doesn’t take that as verse — she questions the narrative and the logic behind it. She questions the process for grant funding for research — who receives funding and for what. “It’s a way to gauge diversity,” she said.
“If we sit in a school like this and don’t understand the dynamics taking place around us, we are missing a big part of our education,” Taylor said of digging deeper.
She also encouraged students to embrace “never fitting in one box” and not to be concerned when you don’t have one area of expertise. “Take strength from the fact that you are interested in a lot of things. The challenge is how do you bring it all together.”