Letter from Interim Dean Watkins-Hayes

December 19, 2022

Greetings from Ann Arbor!

It’s been my great honor–and a lot of fun–to serve as interim dean of the Ford School, an outstanding community dedicated to the public good.

This edition of State & Hill focuses on education policy—the research, people, and politics that shape student outcomes in the classroom and beyond. Our faculty strength in education policy is best in class: they’re an interdisciplinary group, committed to rigorous analysis, real-world impact, and mentoring the next generation of education policymakers and researchers.

They’re experts in early childhood care and education, the social safety net, affordability, labor economics, standards and accountability, philanthropy, and much more. The throughline of their work? It’s equity. They understand and care deeply about the structural inequalities that are both cause and effect in every serious discussion of education policy.

From a very young age, I was acutely aware of the economic importance of education and training opportunities—and the systemic and institutional barriers that too often stand in the way. Before I was born, my own family moved from the segregated south to Detroit when my father was accepted into a bank management training program. Years later, while attending Spelman College, I was inspired by my mentor Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole to see higher education as a means to influence the world, and to strengthen pathways and resources so that all may have equal opportunity.

I’m proud of my faculty colleagues and all they do to advance knowledge and practice in education policy. And we’re all proud of our many alumni who are putting what they learned at the Ford School to good use in education—improving school systems, breaking down barriers to access, and even teaching! Read on for one especially exciting alumni story, an interview with the U.S. Department of Education’s first-ever chief economist, Jordan Matsudaira (PhD ’05), who is leading the way in designing data-driven programs to make higher education more equitable. Jordan has enlisted social scientists and economists to help, including professor Kevin Stange and alum Lesley J. Turner (BA/MPP ’05).

It’s been a wonderful, lively semester at the Ford School. Please enjoy the photos and stories. Thank you for all you do to support our work–and for all the ways you’re finding to make our communities stronger! 


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 
University of Michigan 


More in State & Hill

Below, find the full, formatted fall 2022 edition of State & HillClick here to return to the fall 2022 S&H homepage.