The prime location of Georgetown may have lured Taylor to Washington, D.C., but his academic passions originated thousands of miles away in Kenya.
“That’s where the seed was planted,” Taylor explained, referring to his undergraduate study abroad experience.
He leaned back in his office chair in deep thought, surrounded by endless stacks of papers which he jokingly referred to as “detritus.”
With a smile, he continued and said, “I had a great Kenyan professor and I also stayed with a family there. There were these fascinating, politically and developmentally oriented discussions within the classroom and at home.” Although his experience abroad shifted his academic interests towards African politics and political economy, Taylor initially worked on Wall Street following his undergraduate education at Dartmouth. “But I still had that African bug,” he mused.
His business background, political interests, and focus on African issues guided him as he completed his doctorate at Emory University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science and was drawn to the private sector.
“Issues of state-business relations, private sector development, and economic and political development have been my mainstay for my whole career, from graduate school to now,” he explained.
After experiences ranging from lecturing at Smith College to consulting for the World Bank, Taylor came to Georgetown fifteen years ago and now heads the Georgetown African Studies Program and teaches as an associate professor. To him, having the job is a “privilege.”
“The directorship of African Studies program gives me and my colleagues an opportunity to elevate the study of Africa,” he expressed.
“Africa is both an intellectual passion but also something we want to share.” Taylor described the program’s importance, stating, “We are not trying to promote an African agenda per se, but oftentimes … we find ourselves in a position of confronting misconceived notions.”
In conjunction with the African Studies program, which has grown to include a graduate level certificate as of this fall, Taylor does his best to keep his students engaged. His sarcastic sense of humor brings life to his lectures, while his extensive travel experiences add a unique perspective to the class.
“In the last twelve months, I’ve been in eight or so African countries,” he says. There, he conducts research, works at consultancies, and observes elections. He summed his work up by saying, “I spend a lot of time on the continent.”
His thirst for knowledge has earned him incredible accomplishments, including authoring four books while still making time to coach his son’s basketball team. He reflected, “I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed momentous change in Africa,” change which he believes positively influenced his outlook on the continent.
“What motivates me is to try to learn as much as I can, but also to be able to share that different perspective with people and to get students excited about what I’m excited about.” Describing his work on Africa, he continued with a chuckle, “It’s a big continent. I have miles to go before I go to sleep.”
Correction: October 6, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated that Professor Scott Taylor came to Georgetown eight years ago. He came to Georgetown fifteen years ago, as an Associate Professor.
The author also corrected the transcription of the final quote from “It’s a while before I go to sleep,” to “I have miles to go before I go to sleep.”