Michael Dorsey

Dorsey, Michael_copy.jpg
Michael Dorsey
Year of Birth: 
Institutions or Organizations: 
Dartmouth College
Institutions or Organizations: 
Sierra Club and the Environmental Leadership Program
Board Member
I’m certainly interested in teaching people about the environment.
Year Quoted: 

Michael Dorsey was born on May 28, 1971 to Michael Lee and Katherine Dorsey, former employees of the Xerox Corporation and American Airlines, respectively. Dorsey grew up in Michigan and Ohio, where he witnessed hyper-segregation. This early awareness of racism and segregation, combined with Dorsey’s involvement in the Boy Scouts of America and the Sierra Club, allowed him to develop a firm understanding of ethics, justice and the environment.

Dorsey received his Bachelor of Science in environmental policy from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment in 1993. He continued his education at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he earned his Master of Forest Science in 1996. Dorsey completed a second master’s degree in anthropology at John Hopkins University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in natural resource policy from the University of Michigan.

Dorsey has always had an interest in teaching and educational systems. After finishing his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Michigan, he remained on campus and taught an environmental justice course in 1994. He now holds a lecturer position at Dartmouth College in the Environmental Studies Department and hopes to be promoted to an assistant professorship when he completes his dissertation.

In addition to his time in academia, Dorsey has been active in the Sierra Club. Dorsey joined the Sierra Club when he was 13 years old, and his participation increased during his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan. As a member of the United States’ State Department delegation to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Dorsey met Michele Perrault, an International Vice President of the Sierra Club. It was Michelle who suggested to Dorsey that he run for a position on the Board of Directors for Sierra Club. In 1994, Dorsey decided to act upon her advice and he interviewed for the position. While interviewers did not nominate him for the board position, all was not lost. Dorsey was approached by Chad Hanson, the founder of the John Muir Project to end commercial logging on public lands. Hanson suggested that Dorsey run for the board as a petition candidate. With Hanson’s help, Dorsey was able to collect enough signatures to be placed on the ballot and he was soon elected to the board. Dorsey has since worked in a variety of capacities with the Sierra Club. He has also served on the board of the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP).

Dorsey acknowledges three individuals who played important roles in mentoring him and shaping his interests: his grandmother, Bunyan Bryant and David Brower. Dorsey’s grandmother was, and still is, a trade-unionist. She previously worked for a Ford factory and is very pro-union. She understands the role of unions in balancing the inhumane treatment of workers in global capitalism. She impressed upon Dorsey that the union is an important voice of labor and thus, an important voice for the oppressed. Bunyan Bryant is a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and a pioneer in the field of environmental justice. Bryant helped to guide Dorsey through the maze of options and requirements in academia. Dorsey also admires David Brower whom he describes as a “lifetime environmentalist.” As the founder of Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, and former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Brower was always pursuing new avenues. Dorsey said, “What most impresses me about him is his voracious appetite for change… [He worked for change] literally until he fell in the grave.” These three striking individuals provided Dorsey with much appreciated guidance and inspiration.

Dorsey’s strong involvement with the environmental justice movement also led to an intense low point in his life. Dorsey recalled obtaining a copy of a memo from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussing the potential of the environmental justice movement to integrate social justice, environmental justice, religion, peace, and human rights and merge these disparate constituencies. The memo urged government officials to take steps to block the environmental justice movement before it reached the “flash point” and outlined a strategy for preventing this from happening. Dorsey cried when he read the memo because it “gives you insight into how apartheid still works in this country…it was very disturbing.” Despite this low point, Dorsey remained strong and active in the environmental field as the field provides a provocative means to deal with many of the world’s problems.

In his capacity as a faculty member at Dartmouth College, Dorsey is in a position to provide students with advice regarding career choices and opportunities. Over the years, Dorsey has had a great variety of opportunities that have allowed him to meet, interact, and befriend a variety of people. He sees “the meaningful and insightful relations I’ve established with a broad cross-section of colleagues around the globe” as the highlight of his career.

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