Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Ph.D, C'96

Spelman College Trustee Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Ph.D., is the inaugural recipient of the Jacquelyn Johnson Jackson Early Career Award from the Association of Black Sociologists. The award is given to an individual who has been in receipt of a doctoral degree for no more than ten years who reflects one or more of the following standards:

  • A record of scholarly publication that reflects distinction for an early career scholar
  • A record of administrative or public sector service that reflects emerging leadership in the areas of social justice, diversity, multiculturalism, and the dissemination of sociological ideas or insight into one's domain of professional service, or
  • A record of service to the Association for Black Sociologists that indicates strong capacity for becoming a future leader of the organization

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes is an associate professor of sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University. She is a nationally-recognized scholar and expert on urban poverty, social policy, HIV/AIDS, non-profit and government organizations focusing on low-income families; and race, class, and gender. Her first book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform (University of Chicago Press, 2009), was a finalist for the 2009 C. Wright Mills Book Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the 2011 Max Weber Book Award from the American Sociological Association.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes is also Principal Investigator of the Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, which explores the economic and social survival strategies of women living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area (  She has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited volumes.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes has been widely quoted in the popular press as a recognized expert on social inequality and has published pieces in The New York Times, Al Jazeera English, and Chicago Magazine. Watkins-Hayes’ intellectual commitments are motivated by a desire to offer analyses and prescriptions, based on empirically- and conceptually-rich research, that address the real-world issues that limit human potential. Her scholarship therefore speaks directly to current policy debates.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes has received numerous awards and honors for her professional achievements including a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award.

She has been featured in articles for ESSENCE magazine, “The New Power Generation,” and USA Today Weekend magazine, “Black History Month Celebration: The Next Generation of African-American Achievers.” She graduated summa cum laude from Spelman, and is the current vice chair of the board of trustees, a member of the national advisory board for the Women’s Research Center at Spelman, and founder the “10 at 10 Campaign” that raised more than a half a million dollars from alumnae donors for the Women’s Center Endowment campaign.