’85 M.F.S., ’91 Ph.D., first heard of Yale as a young girl growing up in rural Jamaica in the 1960s. At the time, Yale didn’t admit women, but Taylor was determined to one day attend such a prestigious university. After completing her undergraduate degree, she applied to nearly a dozen graduate schools but the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) was always her first choice. She enrolled in the master's degree program in 1983, and in 1991 Taylor became the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. at F&ES, a combined doctorate from the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Department of Sociology.
She is presently the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan, where she also serves as the Program Director of the Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative (MELDI
) and as the university’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
As one of the nation’s leading environmental justice scholars and activists, Taylor will receive a Distinguished Alumna award
during this year’s F&ES Reunion Weekend
on October 10. She will also give a seminar entitled "When Cities Stop Growing: Using a Multicultural Perspective to Understand Food Access and Sustainabiltiy in a Post-Industrial City" that morning.
Taylor has always believed that the environmental movement could be more powerful if it were more diverse.
“We need to look at how equity, justice, injustice plays in the nexus of what we look at when we look at the natural environment, the built environment, future environments,” Taylor said in a recent interview. “You cannot leave out distributional issues. Even if the policies do not intend inequity, we have to look at how outcomes are shaped differently. And it has to be an integral part of the education that students are getting.”
he environmental justice movement has grown steadily since the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit nearly a quarter-century ago. But significant work remains. In 2014, Taylor analyzed the state of diversity of nearly 200 environmental organizations nationwide for a report
commissioned by Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream environmental NGOs, foundations and government agencies. Taylor found that although people of color represent more than a third of the U.S. population and 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, people of color never occupied more than 16 percent of the staff in the environmental organizations she surveyed.