Greetings from the Dean - The Briefing, March 2024

March 12, 2024

Dear friends,

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with many of our alumni and students at our annual DC career exploration reception–held in person for the first time since early 2020. I was delighted to see a room packed full of Fordies when I sat down with DC-based Ford School alum and friend Hardy Vieux (MPP/JD ‘97). Hardy led a wonderful conversation about my professional journey and strategic priorities for the school–and how the Ford School is navigating difficult and complex current events and tensions on campus by leaning into our community and into our commitment to intellectual engagement.

There is something very powerful about people coming together to ask questions and learn from each other. In those conversations we might hear an idea that sets us on a new path or deepens our knowledge. These events might raise our awareness and offer nuggets that might not fit squarely within our area of focus, but provide nuance and texture to be better policy thinkers.

Meaningful conversations are the catalysts for so much of what makes the Ford School special and to that end, we have an exciting slate of speakers lined up in the final two months of the semester.

I want to personally invite you via livestream or in person to join our special two-day “dean’s symposium” on April 11-12, which will bring together Ford School experts and students with leading thinkers from my past career stops at Northwestern, Harvard, and Spelman. This symposium is close to my heart, and is a reflection of the range of important policy issues that we work on at the Ford School. The two days will feature keynote appearances by voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, technology visionary Alondra Nelson; domestic policy veteran Cecilia Muñoz; and former deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun; as well as lively panel discussions pairing our own brilliant faculty with guests including University of Chicago political scientist Cathy Cohen; economist Darrick Hamilton of The New School; dean of Northwestern’s School of Communication, artist and activist E. Patrick Johnson; and Northwestern University sociologist Mary Pattillo.

Other events include our former dean, Federal Reserve Bank Vice Chair for Supervision Michael S. Barr (March 21); U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland (March 26); former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien (March 27); and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink for the annual Arthur Vandenberg Lecture (April 23).

Please join us or tune in to our live-stream for these special events. Looking ahead, please mark your calendars now: we’re planning a big Ford School reunion around Homecoming weekend, September 13-14, 2024.


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