Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Associate Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, is an author and educator widely credited for her research on public policies and governmental agencies targeting low-income families as well as current work on the social and economic consequences of HIV/AIDS for Chicago-area women of diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Watkins-Hayes is also a Faculty Fellow at Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research and Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health. She is former Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern, one of the top Black Studies departments in the country and home to one of the few PhD programs in African American Studies offered in the United States.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes’s research focuses on urban poverty; social policy; HIV/AIDS; non-profit and government organizations; and race, class, and gender. Her first book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform (University of Chicago Press, 2009), examines how public resources are distributed to low-income families by exploring how the work experiences and racial, class, and gender identities of public workers shape the new welfare system. The book 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. In 2013, Watkins-Hayes became the inaugural recipient of the Jacquelyn Johnson Jackson Early Career Award from the Association of Black Sociologists.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes is currently Principal Investigator of the Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, which explores the economic and social survival strategies of a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse group of women living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area. In 2009, she received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Early Career Award to conduct this research.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes and has been profiled in ESSENCE magazine, USA Today Weekend magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project and has published pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera English, and Chicago Magazine. She has been widely quoted in the popular press as a national expert on social inequality.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Harvard University and a B.A. from Spelman College, where she graduated summa cum laude. Dr. Watkins-Hayes recently served on the Board of Directors of Test Positive Aware Network, an HIV/AIDS social service and advocacy organization and publisher of Positively Aware, one of the nation’s top magazines for people living with HIV/AIDS. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College and the Advisory Board of the Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center.

Dr. 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.