Letter from Dean Watkins-Hayes

April 24, 2024

Warm spring greetings from Ann Arbor!

This year we commemorate 50 years since Gerald R. Ford took office as U.S. President, after the unprecedented resignation of disgraced Richard Nixon.

In his first address to the American people as president, Ford spoke plainly, with what he called “a little straight talk among friends.” He said, “I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. ... I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government, but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad.”

Ford’s character had been forged through a lifelong journey rooted in serving others—from early influences in Grand Rapids, to his time aboard the USS Monterey during WWII, to his long career in Congress.

Like Ford, so many in our amazing alumni community have chosen lifetimes of principled service. This edition of State & Hill sings the praises of public servants—at a time when the profession is under attack. We present eight MPP alums: professional, creative problem solvers who have dedicated their careers to federal and local government service. They are knowledgeable about the issues, lean into data and evidence to inform solutions, and are passionate about helping people and improving communities.

You can also read the perspectives of five of our faculty members who share why public sector leadership matters and how they challenge our students to make difficult tradeoffs and get the facts right.

If you enjoy reading this collection of stories, please share this issue with your friends, colleagues, and family, and join me in thanking and speaking up for our public servants.


Signature of Celeste Watkins-Hayes



Celeste Watkins-Hayes
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Founding 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 spring 2024 edition of State & Hill. Click here to return to the spring 2024 S&H homepage.