Ostfeld appointed research director of the Center for Racial Justice

December 5, 2022

Political scientist Dr. Mara Celicia Ostfeld has been named the inaugural research director of the Center for Racial Justice (CRJ) at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. In this role, Ostfeld will lead the development of the center’s research infrastructure that informs research agendas, policy debate, and strategies in the pursuit of racial justice. Since joining the CRJ, Ostfeld has assembled a team of student researchers to analyze public opinion in some of Michigan’s largest cities, and produce policy briefs that amplify the voices of communities of color in policy discussions.

“My vision for the Center for Racial Justice is to expand the body of scholarship exploring the historical, current, and potential relationship between public policy and racial equity,” says Ostfeld. “We seek to approach this work with an eye towards evidence-based solutions. Equally important, we seek to cultivate and support early-career scholars that share a desire to advance this area of research.”

Ostfeld is an expert in survey research and public opinion analysis, with a particular focus on the relationship between race, gender, media and political attitudes. She serves as faculty lead of the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), an ongoing representative survey of Detroit households that explores and highlights the experiences, perceptions, priorities, and aspirations of local residents. Ostfeld is also designing and administering the first panel survey of a large, representative sample of Puerto Ricans living on the island. Working with colleagues at the University of Puerto Rico, the team will regularly collect, analyze and disseminate information on Puerto Rican attitudes toward a range of policies, and Puerto Rican experiences.

“We are incredibly honored and excited to have Mara join the Center for Racial Justice as our research director. Mara’s analytical prowess, deep commitment to social justice, and many years of experience doing research at the intersection of race and poverty align with and bolster the mission and values of the CRJ,” said Celeste Watkins-Hayes, the founding director of the CRJ and interim dean of the Ford School.  

“We cannot think of a better person to help shape and mold the CRJ’s research agenda. Mara’s expertise and leadership will guide our efforts in identifying evidence-based policy solutions with the potential to advance racial equity,” said Dominique Adams-Santos, associate director of the CRJ. 

Ostfeld also serves as the associate faculty director and director of communications at Poverty Solutions, assistant research scientist at the Ford School, and a research associate at the Institute for Social Research’s Center for Political Studies. She is also an assistant professor of political science.

During national elections, Ostfeld also works as an analyst at NBC and Telemundo. Her work has been published in journals that include Social Forces, Political Behavior, Political Psychology and Political Communication, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and others.

Ostfeld holds a PhD and master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania; a master’s of public policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Rutgers University.

About the Center for Racial Justice

The Center for Racial Justice is an innovative and cross-disciplinary hub in which social justice changemakers, scholars, and students work collaboratively to develop new tools and strategies in the pursuit of racial justice, resulting in better policy solutions and the cultivation of the next generation of high-impact leaders and thinkers. Housed at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, the center brings changemakers—organizational leaders, activists, artists, policy advocates, and policymakers—in direct and sustained conversation with some of the top scholars and students working at the intersection of race and public policy.