Dorceta Taylor, Preeminent Environmental Justice Scholar, to Join the F&ES Faculty

Dorceta Taylor ’85 M.F.S., ’91 Ph.D., one of the nation’s preeminent scholars in the field of environmental justice, has been named full professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, which will become the Yale School of the Environment on July 1.
 
Taylor is a leading expert in the field of institutional diversity and workforce dynamics in the environmental sector. Her research interests also include urban agriculture, food access, and food insecurity. 
dorceta taylor michigan
Photo by Dave Brenner, University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability
Dorceta Taylor
Her watershed 2014 study on the state of diversity in nearly 200 environmental organizations in the United States brought into focus the staggering lack of people of color in the field and pushed many prominent organizations to commit to increasing diversity in their workforces. That report helped several leading organizations make institutional commitments to increasing diversity in their workforces.
 
She will begin on July 1.
 
“The addition of Dorceta Taylor to our faculty is a momentous occasion for our school,” said F&ES Dean Indy Burke. “One of our most important goals is to strengthen our scholarship and teaching in environmental justice, and you simply can’t find a more qualified expert in this field than Professor Taylor.
 
“Through her groundbreaking work, she has shown how issues of justice and equity are linked to all of the work we do. We are thrilled that her contributions to this field will continue here at Yale, where her deep experience and important voice will also enrich the experience for all of our students.”
One of our most important goals is to strengthen our scholarship and teaching in environmental justice, and you simply can’t find a more qualified expert in this field than Professor Taylor.
— Indy Burke, Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean
Since 1993, Taylor has been at the University of Michigan, where she is currently the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice at the School for Environment and Sustainability. She is also the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the school.
 
Taylor, who returns to Yale nearly 37 years after she first arrived on campus as an F&ES graduate student, says she is excited by the opportunity to work with scholars and students across many disciplines on critical issues at the nexus of people, justice, and the environment.  
 
“When I was a student at Yale, I really appreciated that its students were not afraid to think big, to think outside the box and tackle big challenges,” she says. “And it’s a place that has the resources and the willingness to allow faculty, staff, and students to really explore these big and complex ideas.
 
“I look forward to being able to bring together my understanding of the environment, justice, equity, but also history and sociology and political dynamics, in the way that I teach and think about my research.”
                                                       
Taylor has taught courses on environmental justice, the history of environmental thought and activism, and environmental philanthropy. She also leads two pathway programs — the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program and the Environmental Fellows Program — which help underrepresented students enter into environmental careers.

Taylor has also written numerous books on diversity in the environmental movement, including “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility” and the award-winning “The Environment and the People in American Cities,” as well as numerous scholarly articles.
I look forward to being able to bring together my understanding of the environment, justice, equity, but also history and sociology and political dynamics, in the way that I teach and think about my research.
— Professor Dorceta Taylor ’85 M.F.S., ’91 Ph.D.
She also has studied the disparity in food access in communities across the state of Michigan, including conducting research on the availability of healthy foods in Detroit and on the persistent challenges facing Black farmers in Michigan and the country. She expects to continue addressing these questions of food security — as well as those related to pollution exposure, fair housing, water quality, and energy justice — in New Haven and Connecticut.
 
One of the key attributes that distinguishes her among environmental justice scholars is her depth of training and practice in sociology. Earlier this year, Taylor, who earned a Ph.D in sociology and environmental studies at Yale, received the 2020 Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the highest honor Yale Graduate School bestows on its alumni.
 
Taylor says that a critical factor in her decision to return to F&ES was the increased commitment the School and the larger university have shown related to the teaching and study of environmental justice, to principles of community and inclusion, and to diversify its faculty and student body.
 
“Given the direction that the School is taking, I believe this is a really opportune time for someone with my perspective and skillsets to come and contribute,” she said.
 
In 2015, Taylor received a Distinguished Alumna Award from F&ES. At the time, she spoke about the intrinsic linkages between the environment and issues of justice, and about the urgency to make the environmental field 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,” she said. “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.”
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
 
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2020
 
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.

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