Watkins-Hayes joins U-M Sociology and the Ford School of Public Policy

June 24, 2020

The University of Michigan is pleased to welcome Celeste Watkins-Hayes as a collegiate professor of public policy (pending Regental approval) in the Department of Sociology and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 

"I am thrilled to join the Sociology Department and the Ford School of Public Policy," said Watkins-Hayes. "My research has been motivated by a desire to address pressing issues that limit human potential, and I am looking forward to continuing this work at the world-class University of Michigan."  

Dr. Watkins-Hayes is an internationally-recognized scholar and expert on HIV/AIDS; urban poverty; social policy; and racial, class, and gender inequality. Her work illuminates social problems of great interest to scholars, communities, and policymakers. She works at the intersection of sociology, African American Studies, and public policy. 

Her work analyzes the impact of the HIV epidemic on women and the growth of the HIV safety net. She is currently the principal investigator of the Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, which explores the economic and social survival strategies of a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse group of women living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area. The research has been supported through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award.

"We are thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Watkins-Hayes to the Sociology Department," said Dr. Martin, chair & professor at the University of Michigan Department of Sociology.  "Her scholarship across multiple fields is rich and engaging and has many synergies with research in our department.  Her new book, Remaking a Life, is a tour de force account of how women transform their lives after an HIV/AIDS diagnosis and provides a parallel account of the historic rise of the national HIV safety net for women.  Dr. Watkins-Hayes is an award-winning teacher and mentor who is also a publicly–engaged sociologist.  She will be a wonderful addition to our community."

"Dr. Watkins-Hayes is a perfect fit for U-M and the Ford School," said Dean Michael S. Barr of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "She applies her first-rate scholarship to national public policy debates.  Her leadership skills and teaching excellence will have an immediate and direct impact on student learning. Her hire further strengthens the Ford School as the leading institution for social policy."

Dr. Watkins-Hayes has published two 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 and HIV/AIDS. The release of Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality (2019, University of California Press) has been covered by The Chicago Tribune, Ms. Magazine, EBONY, Chicago Public Radio, New York Public Radio, Detroit Public Radio, POZ Magazine, the PBS Newshour, Chicago Tonight, and several other outlets across the country. It was named co-winner of the 2020 American Sociological Association's Sociology of Sex and Gender Distinguished Book Award and winner of the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the ASA’s Medical Sociology Section.

 Her first book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform, examines how public resources are distributed to low-income families by exploring how the work experiences and racial, class, and gender identities of public workers shape the new welfare system. The book 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. 

Prior to coming to the University of Michigan, Watkins-Hayes served as an Associate Vice President for Research, professor of sociology and African American studies, and an Institute for Policy Research faculty fellow at Northwestern University. In 2018, Watkins-Hayes received the E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is the highest teaching award given by Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded the Department of Sociology Graduate Mentoring Award in 2019.

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. 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. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Detroit Institute of Arts.