Social Scientist Honored with Michigan State University’s Community Engagement Scholarship Lifetime Achievement Award

March 5, 2019 - Rebecca Jensen

Sociology Professor Carl S. Taylor has been presented with Michigan State University’s Community Engagement Scholarship Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor earned through a career of exemplary service to Michigan communities.  He received this recognition at MSU’s 3rd Annual University Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony on February 20th in the Kellogg Center.  He spoke about his career during a recent WKAR interview on MSU Today with Russ White.

University Distinguished Professor Thomas Dietz, who briefly introduced Dr. Taylor at the ceremony, aptly characterized his unique contributions: “[Carl] is one of our leading scholars on the challenging issue of youth gangs.  His work on young women in gangs is pioneering, opening our minds to a too much neglected problem.  But beyond analysis, Carl brings to even the most difficult situation a commitment to make things better and the courage to engage.”  Through this commitment and courage, Dr. Taylor has made enduring positive impacts in Detroit, across the state of Michigan, and throughout the United States.

A lifetime resident of Michigan, Dr. Taylor earned his BS (1971), MS (1976), and PhD (1980) at Michigan State University.  After a few early stints as a security management professional and as a faculty member and administrator at Jackson Community College and Grand Valley State University, he returned to MSU for good in early 1994.  During all of this time, but especially since serving as a Professor at MSU, Dr. Taylor has worked with communities, foundations, and government agencies in Michigan and beyond to improve our scientific understanding of gangs, youth culture, and violence and share this understanding with multiple stakeholder groups.

Dr. Taylor has long been an advocate for investing in human capital, as such investment helps build strong families, neighborhoods, and communities—especially ones that are resilient in the face of disruptive social change.  He is the rare person held in very high esteem both by local, state, and federal law enforcement officials and by the residents of the most isolated and distressed communities in our state and nation.  This respect, which he has earned through decades of devoted service to people, has afforded him access to groups and community leaders, social and economic resources, and political connections, which he has used pragmatically to help people address some of the perplexing problems they face.  Indeed, Dr. Taylor’s authenticity and earned respect—as well as his national reputation as an ethnographer—has allowed him to navigate the shifting and contentious terrain of post-industrial urban America more generally.

In addition to writing many scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Taylor has authored several books over his career: Youth Culture and Gangs (in German) (1998, Verlag fur Wissenschaft und Bildung; with Gisela Thiele); Sociology and Distribution of Gangs (1989, Pacific Research and Evaluation Institute); Dangerous Society (1990, Michigan State University Press); Girls, Gangs, Women, and Drugs (1993, Michigan State University Press); and Growing Up Urban (2003, Dunnbar Press; with Pamela R. Smith, Randy McNeil, and Virgil A. Taylor).  Yet, Dr. Taylor’s legacy extends far beyond his academic scholarship.  Indeed, his legacy will be best determined by the positive impact that he has had on hundreds, if not thousands, of young people who are now successful leaders, loving mothers and fathers, and enlightened and engaged citizens in their communities.