Greetings from the Dean - The Briefing, January 2024

January 25, 2024

Dear friends, 

Happy New Year! Campus continues to buzz after the thrilling national football championship win over the University of Washington.

At the Ford School, we kicked off the semester with several events honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. I sat down with Mayor Steven Reed of Montgomery, Alabama to discuss the city’s future, city governance, and contemporary struggles for justice and equality of opportunity. We also co-hosted New York Times journalist and author Rachel Swarns, whose journalism started a national conversation about universities with ties to slavery. Our own Luke Shaefer was among the discussants for the University’s keynote event with scholar and civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander.

Luke was also in Flint recently for the launch of his transformational initiative co-led with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Rx Kids. This public-private partnership–the first of its kind in the United States--will provide support to every pregnant mom and newborn in the City of Flint, with no income restrictions or strings attached. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer attended the launch event in Flint, telling the crowd, “I am proud that the State of Michigan is a partner. Kids in Flint need a fair shot at a future. This will affect them throughout their lives. This is the kind of investment where you can see the return across a lifetime.” Read more about the Rx Kids launch here, and an interview with Luke about the program here.

Looking ahead, we have an exciting slate of events for our community that include researchers and practitioners speaking on gun violence, climate change and international policy, forecasting federal fiscal challenges, interagency leadership with former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien, leading in crisis with former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and much more.

I also hope to see many of you in Washington, DC on February 8 for a special Ford School event with alumni, friends, and current students. Ford School Committee member Hardy Vieux (MPP/JD ‘97) and I will discuss the future of public policy education, our goals and vision for the Ford School, and more. After the conversation we’ll have an opportunity to catch up with fellow Fordies and network with around 50 of our current students, who will be in DC for career exploration and connections.

You’ll know that 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Gerald Ford becoming president of the United States. We’re planning some special activities to commemorate the anniversary, and most importantly, to explore themes and lessons offered by Ford’s example of principled, calm leadership and public service in what was a turbulent, divided time in America.

I hope you’ll engage with us for an exciting semester ahead


Signature of Celeste Watkins-Hayes




Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Joan and Sanford Weill 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