By Anna Maria Santiago, PhD, Professor of Social Work and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, ACOSA Member
Amanda Woodward, PhD, Associate Director for Academic Affairs and Research and MSW Program Director; Professor
Bezil Taylor, a second-year MSW student in the School of Social Work’s Organization and Community Leadership area of specialized practice, was recently selected as the 2019 Outstanding Student by the Association on Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA). He entered the program in 2018 with over 12 years of experience working in homeless youth services, foster care, and advocacy for youth in the juvenile justice system.
From the moment he arrived on campus, Mr. Taylor has taken a leadership role on campus and within the larger community. During the Fall 2018 semester, he spearheaded a Homeless Awareness Month Service Event in collaboration with the School of Social Work Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GradSAC) and the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. He garnered donations of money and goods and organized an event where students put together hundreds of care bags of clothing, hygiene products, and nonperishable food items. MSU and community resource providers attended the event to share information. This event was entirely at Mr. Taylor’s own initiative and was not a trivial undertaking for a full-time, first-semester graduate student, but is a testament to his passion about the need to raise awareness around homeless youth and MSU students who are struggling with food and housing insecurity.
He has continued to build networks on campus around the issue of homelessness. He will be using his Graduate Assistantship this coming academic year to work with the School of Social Work’s Fostering Academic Mentoring Excellence (FAME) program and the Food and Housing Insecurity Learning Community to conduct more formalized research on this issue and use data to inform future work on campus.
Homeless Awareness Month Service Event from 2018
Within the School of Social Work, Mr. Taylor has been an active member of GradSAC and has taken on the responsibility of representing the group at our school meetings where he provides an important student voice in discussions around curriculum change and other issues. He was selected to participate in the MSW Advocacy Scholars program for the 2019-20 academic year, a competitive program that provides students with cutting-edge, advanced training in policy advocacy work. He also participates in the MSW Research Scholars program, which pairs students with faculty to work on research projects. In addition, this summer Mr. Taylor participated in the Finland Study Abroad program run by Dr. Amanda Woodward, MSW Program Director. This two week study abroad opportunity focuses on comparative social welfare policy and bringing what students learn abroad to advocate for change at home.
In conjunction with the Advocacy Scholars program, Mr. Taylor is participating in a field placement with State Senator Stephanie Chang, where he will learn and directly apply policy advocacy skills to engage and support members of her legislative district. Said Mr. Taylor, "I am also excited for my second-year placement with State Senator Stephanie Chang’s office, where I will have the opportunity to advocate for the needs of Detroiters through community engagement in her Senate District office as well as legislative work in Lansing. Working with Senator Chang’s office will provide a great opportunity to engage the community that raised me, while also advocating for their needs from a legislative standpoint."
"Beyond his work history and academic performance, Mr. Taylor has distinguished himself from other motivated and productive graduate students through his consistent focus on advancing attention to the basic needs of young people, and framing them as a social justice issue. He continues to build upon his prior experience with youth homelessness and food insecurity, and translate his understanding into social action in the university environment," said School of Social Work Director, John Mooradian.
To learn more about the Association on Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA), please visit acosa.clubexpress.com.