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

Celeste Watkins-Hayes_sm Associate Vice President For Research and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Northwestern University
Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
B.A., Spelman College
M.A. and Ph.D., Harvard University
Spelman College Board of Trustees: Elected in 2009
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees and Chair, Campaign Committee
Cities of Residence: Evanston, IL and Bloomfield Hills, MI

Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes is associate vice president for research and 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.

She has been widely quoted in the popular press as a recognized expert on social inequality and has published pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, 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 a vice chair of the board of trustees, a member of the national advisory board of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman, and founder of the “10 at 10 Campaign,” which raised more than half a million dollars from alumnae donors for the Women’s Center Endowment campaign.

Thoughts on why she chose to serve on the Spelman College Board of Trustees: Attending Spelman was one of the best experiences of my life. I was encouraged to dream, to lead, and to serve. It was my Spelman experience that led to me choosing to become a professor. I firmly believe in doing everything that I can to contribute to the institution to ensure that other women have the same, or even better, opportunities to shape the world around them after receiving a Spelman education.

"The Pick and the Process: Leading a Presidential Search in the Digital Age" by Celeste Watkins-Hayes

The most important job of a board of trustees is selecting the institution’s president. In this cover story for Trusteeship Magazine, Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Ph.D., C'96, highlights Spelman’s stellar history of good governance by reflecting on the journey of electing Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell to serve as Spelman’s 10th President.

When asked, "What aspect of the presidential search journey (The Pick and the Process) had the most profound impact upon you personally and professionally?", Watkins-Hayes said:

blue-quote-leftI truly enjoyed the camaraderie and sense of purpose shared among all the groups working on the search - the trustees, the search committee,  the synergy group, the search consultants, and the Spelman community at large. It was an honor to lead this moment of reflection in the institution’s history. In addition, to meet such a stellar group of candidates blue-quote-rightwas truly inspiring. I will forever be grateful for the contributions that they are making all over the world.