Letter from Dean Watkins-Hayes

December 10, 2023

Warm greetings from Ann Arbor, where the first snow of the year has blanketed the campus. We’re enjoying the football team’s win over Ohio State—the 1,001st victory in Michigan’s history. (Our own Gerald Ford was part of sixteen of those wins between 1932 and 1934!)

Beyond the rush and bustle of a lively fall semester, our hearts and minds are very much focused on the deeply complex tragedies playing out in our world. The Ford School, after all, exists to prepare students to lead in difficult times such as this. We’re working hard to ensure that students truly learn while they’re here, that they become more confident speaking and listening across differences, and that they grow into policy leaders who can find common ground and see the humanity in others. We’re preparing them to make the world a more peaceful and just place.

This edition of State & Hill focuses on stories of local impact. This is where policymaking can feel incredibly personal—where researchers, advocates, decision makers, and the people impacted by social policies live and work in close proximity to each other. It’s often in these policy laboratories where we listen intently, test questions and ideas, and find new and exciting ways to support our neighbors.

Read on for an exciting profile on Sherry Suttles (MPP ’71)—who graduated in the very first class of our pioneering MPP program and then made history as the first Black woman city manager in the United States. At age 76, she is still doing the work, now heading up a community development nonprofit to preserve Black history. You can also read about Kristin Seefeldt (MPP ’96, PhD ’10), who, after years of research about the social safety net, is now partnering with the City of Ann Arbor to test the first guaranteed income program in Michigan. And we share insights on Luke Shaefer’s new research, which engages historical analysis to root new understandings of American rural poverty.

With warm greetings from your academic hometown,

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 fall 2023 edition of State & Hill. Click here to return to the fall 2023 S&H homepage.