Letter from Interim Dean Watkins-Hayes

May 3, 2023

Happy spring from Ann Arbor!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time serving as interim dean this past year, working closely with and learning so much from our community. U-M Provost Laurie McCauley's search for a new dean is ongoing, with the University hoping to announce a hire this spring; stay tuned to Ford School channels for news!

Last month, we hosted Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on campus. Before she spoke to a Rackham Auditorium filled with U-M students, she sat down for a fascinating fireside chat with me that included 25 Ford School students. In her comments, she reminded us of the ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and week-by-week crawl of legislative work. Whitmer was unsure about returning to public service after her time in the Michigan legislature when she arrived at the Ford School to teach in 2015. She told us that her time here refueled her, inspiring her to press on and continue her work in public life.

As the governor sat with us, the legislative accomplishment that she wanted to talk about first was Michigan lawmakers' passage of legislation expanding Michigan civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections, a law that Whitmer went on to sign in March. Governor Whitmer reminded us that we—students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike—can be refueled here at the Ford School, and press on toward greater justice and peace.

Whitmer also spoke about why Michigan— a purple state, with a huge international border crossing and ringed by vast and beautiful bodies of fresh water—will be an exciting, vital place for policymaking in the decades to come. We're lucky to be in Michigan, and lucky as well to have a growing set of connections and impacts over the horizon and around the globe.

This edition of State & Hill focuses on the growth in the international policy experiences we offer our students. Students have more options than ever before—through internships, externships, research, simulations, study trips, and more—to tailor their experience at the Ford School and prepare for careers in international policy. And we bring in a host of highly accomplished policy practitioners to teach courses and connect students with the world.

The world, of course, also comes to the Ford School—most importantly via our international students. I've been fortunate this semester to have connected with Global Fordies, as their student organization is known. As a global university, we have students, faculty, and staff from all over the world and deeply value the contributions they make. We take our responsibility seriously to, in turn, be a welcoming place through our school structures and culture, policies, and practices. The Global Fordies are helping us do just that, and I'm extremely grateful.

All of our students have worked so hard this year, and it is satisfying to see their dedication pay off as graduation approaches. Annie Maxwell (AB '00, MPP '02) will return to campus as our commencement keynote speaker as we hold our ceremony at the gorgeous Hill Auditorium for the first time. Tune in live on April 30th or browse videos after the ceremony. It promises to be an inspiring, happy day!


Signature of Celeste Watkins-Hayes




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 spring 2023 edition of State & HillClick here to return to the spring 2023 S&H homepage.