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Dr. George Taylor Lone Recipient of National DII Award

Published Thursday, February 01, 2024

Dr. George Taylor. Photo by Jim Tate.
Dr. George Taylor. Photo by Jim Tate.

MARSHALL — It wasn’t until Dr. George Taylor was on stage, receiving the Dr. Dave Pariser Award at the Phoenix Convention Center in January, that he said to himself, “Yeah, this is a big deal.”

Until then, he didn’t fully grasp the importance of the honor, presented annually in recognition of faculty members at NCAA Division II schools for their dedication to supporting and mentoring student-athletes.

To put that into context, there are 280 Division II institutions in the country. Taylor is the lone winner.

Yes. It’s a big deal.

Taylor is in his fourth academic year at Southwest Minnesota State, having arrived in August 2020. He loves the student-centered environment at SMSU, and at 53, describes himself as “a young-old.”

Taylor’s business card is crowded. Officially, he’s an assistant professor of management. That doesn’t remotely describe what he does at SMSU. He’s the director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship; the executive director of the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center (SMAC); and the Sam Walton Fellow for the SMSU Enactus group, formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise. In the community, he’s a board member for United Way (Southwest) and a co-chair of the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission.

What separated him from others nominees across the country is an initiative he started called “Crucial Conversations.” Student-athletes — “any students really” — come to his office and simply talk. He listens. And takes it from there.

“I get an opportunity to connect with students at a deeper level. That’s meaningful, he feels, and goes beyond the surface level. “I also have an opportunity to share my experiences with them. The (student-athletes’) abilities to participate with clubs and organizations are limited, due to their time commitment and the demands of their respective sports. I saw a need,” he said.

What’s Crucial Conversations about? Students come to his office, have an honest conversation with Taylor, and he helps them reach their goals. Often, that includes a plan of action — how they can get there.

The conversations can be one-on-one, or in a small group. Taylor listens and comes up with action plans to facilitate the process if he can, or just simply listens. It takes real trust for the students to open up, and Taylor honors that honest communication.

The award, he said, “recognizes faculty that formally, and informally, mentor students in and out of the classroom.”

Taylor is humbled by the national award, but it won’t change him.

“I never look for awards, I’ve received them, and am always honored, yet at the end of the day I want to help students achieve,” he said. “I’m just being my true, authentic self; I want to know the students’ stories, aspirations, fears, and worries. I look for meaningful ways to facilitate their journey.”

Published in the Marshall Independent on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Article and photo by Jim Tate. Courtesy of the Independent.

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