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Core faculty

Celeste M. Watkins-Hayes

Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy; Director, Center for Racial Justice; Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy; University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; Professor of Sociology; Research and Community Impact Fellow, Anti-Racism Collaborative

Celeste Watkins-Hayes is the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and founding director of the school's Center for Racial Justice. Watkins-Hayes is also the Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, professor of sociology, and an Anti-Racism Collaborative research and community impact fellow. She is an internationally-recognized scholar and expert widely credited for her research at the intersection of inequality, public policy, and human service institutions, with a special focus on HIV/AIDS; poverty; and race, class, and gender studies. Dr. Watkins-Hayes has published three books, numerous articles in journals and edited volumes, and pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Chicago Magazine. She has been widely quoted in the popular press as a national expert on social inequality, HIV/AIDS, and societal safety nets. Her book Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality (2019, University of California Press) won seven awards, including the American Sociological Association (ASA) Distinguished Book Award (the discipline's highest book honor). Watkins-Hayes' first book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform, was a Finalist for the 2009 C. Wright Mills Book Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the 2011 Max Weber Book Award from the American Sociological Association. Dr. Watkins-Hayes holds a PhD and MA in sociology from Harvard University and a BA from Spelman College, where she graduated summa cum laude. Throughout her career, Watkins-Hayes has served in numerous academic leadership positions, including associate vice president for research, chair of the Department of African American Studies, and founding director of the ASCEND Faculty Development Program at her previous institution, Northwestern University. She served on the board of trustees of Spelman College for over a decade in various leadership roles, leading the search process for the college’s 10th president.

Educational background

  • PhD in sociology, Harvard University (2003)
  • MA in sociology, Harvard University (2000)
  • BA, summa cum laude, Spelman College (1996)

Professional affiliations

  • Member, Board of Trustees, Russell Sage Foundation
  • Editorial Board Member, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
  • Member, Board of Directors, Wallace House Center for Journalists 

Recent publications

Book cover for "Remaking a Life" atop a white wood plank table.


Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality

In the face of life-threatening news, how does our view of life change—and what do we do it transform it? Remaking a Life uses the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a lens to understand how women generate radical improvements in their social well being in the face of social stigma and economic disadvantage.
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