Greetings from the Dean - The Briefing, November 2022

November 17, 2022

Dear friends, 

It’s been a wonderful, lively semester at the Ford School. So many of you have offered encouragement and support as I’ve had the honor of serving as interim dean. I’m so grateful!

My faculty and staff colleagues have worked hard on the four goals the leadership team and I laid out as the year began: keeping key long term strategic projects moving forward; maintaining our core excellence in teaching, research, and engagement; building restorative opportunities for our community after the challenging pandemic years; and centering our work around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In this edition of the Briefing, we give just a few highlights from the fall semester!

One key long-term priority is, of course, the search for the next Joan and Sanford Weill Dean. Last week, U-M Provost Laurie McCauley announced the advisory committee who will help conduct that search. Associate Dean John Ciorciari will lead the group, and he’s joined by a terrific group of Ford School and U-M faculty, staff, students, and alumni—diverse across a number of dimensions and with a shared commitment to the success of the school.

I am so proud of our community’s active engagement in the 2022 midterms elections. I co-chaired the U-M’s Democracy & Debate initiative, which included faculty, staff, and students from the Ford School. On election day, there were long lines to register and vote at newly-installed satellite clerk's offices, where the last student registered and voted at 1:55 am! Nearly all of those students (1,500+) were registering to vote. I have such warm pride and gratitude for the students who were so determined to make their voices heard. They give me such hope for our future!

FBI Director Christopher Wray will visit Weill Hall on Friday, December 2 as our 2022 Josh Rosenthal Memorial Speaker. Please tune in! The event will be open to the public via livestream, but the in-room audience will be our own students, faculty, and staff, gathered for a substantive conversation with Director Wray.

We launched a new monthly series of events this fall with an eye toward bringing our community together and building strong ties. It’s called Food for Thought, and in addition to lots of pizza, we serve up open and constructive dialogue on policy issues in the news. The day after the midterm, for example, Food for Thought featured faculty members Jenna Bednar, John Chamberlin, John Ciorciari, and Earl Lewis, who shared their analysis with a packed Annenberg Auditorium.   

Diversity, equity, and inclusion remain a key priority for the Ford School. If you’re feeling the need for some inspiration, check out the video from October’s “Our DEI Why” event. Faculty member Shobita Parthasarathy, staff member DeAndre Calvert, and MPA student Caroline Sweeney delivered powerful, heartfelt “TEDTalk” style reflections on what inspires their work for justice and equity.

Of course, a meaningful highlight of the fall was the naming of our central gathering place in Weill Hall in grateful tribute to our former dean Rebecca (Becky) Blank. Becky joined us virtually for a terrific event, sharing reflections on her time as dean and offering lessons for aspiring leaders. The Ford School buzzed for days after the event, inspired and fascinated by Becky’s stories and wisdom. Watch the event here.

To our alumni: thank you for all the ways you’re advancing the public good! We’re proud that Jessica Gillooly (PhD ‘20) was awarded one of APPAM’s top prizes, the Raymond Vernon Memorial Award, for her research on the 911 response system. Closer to home, our Alumni Board is a force for good. Board Elections are now open: please vote!


Celeste Watkins-Hayes,

Interim Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School 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