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Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Associate Vice President, Office for Research; Professor of African American Studies and Sociology

Ph.D. Sociology, Harvard University, June 2003
M.A. Sociology, Harvard University, June 2000
B.A. Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies (sociology, economics, & education), Spelman College, May 1996
Curriculum Vitae
  • Website
  • 847-491-4805 (African American Studies), 847-467-7768 (Sociology)
  • African American Studies: Crowe Hall 5-113, 1860 Campus Drive Evanston, IL 60208; Sociology: 1810 Chicago Avenue Evanston, IL 60208

Research Interests:

Urban poverty
Social policy
formal organizations (non-profit & government)
Race, class, and gender


AFAM 101 Freshman Seminar: Race, Poverty, and Public Policy in America
AFAM 101 Freshman Seminar: Race, Sexuality, and Representation: HIV/AIDS in Black America
AFAM 215 Introduction to Black Political and Social Life
AFAM 380 The Sociology of HIV/AIDS

Current Research:

Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality
How do women remake, not simply rebuild, their lives after traumas associated with social and economic disadvantage? Drawing upon data from Watkins-Hayes’ Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, a large-scale investigation of the social and economic lives of women living with HIV/AIDS, this project explores the process through which individuals fundamentally shift how they conceptualize, strategize around, and tactically address struggles related to complex inequalities that affect their everyday lives. Watkins-Hayes traces the unique safety net that has been critical for the abilities of women living with HIV/AIDS to launch successful transformative projects and argues that the HIV service and health care infrastructure offers important lessons for how we might think about assisting more socially and economically marginalized populations, not just those who are living with HIV. This project was funded by a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Investigator Award.

Completed Projects:

The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform
This is an ethnographic analysis of the implementation of welfare reform on the front lines of service delivery. It investigates how the professional, racial, class, and community identities of welfare caseworkers and supervisors shape the implementation of policy and other organizational dynamics. Study findings indicate that while welfare reform changed the job descriptions of front-line staff members (from eligibility-compliance claims processors to welfare-to-work caseworkers), these agencies were largely unable to undertake the steps necessary to change employees' professional identities.

As a result, welfare reform did not unfold as many policy makers had imagined it, and a piecemeal system of service-delivery is now underway. While we have witnessed caseload reductions and increased work among low-income mothers, inequalities abound in how clients receive the services most likely to influence their abilities to sustain economic self-sufficiency. This incomplete revolution has also solidified many of the long-standing tensions around race, class, and community belonging in these offices in ways that have direct and indirect effects on service-delivery and other organizational dynamics.

The book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform, was released in 2009 by the University of Chicago Press. In order to complete this project, Dr. Watkins-Hayes received support from The National Science Foundation (Grant No. 0512018), The Brookings Institution, and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Recent Awards:

Finalist, 2020 PROSE Award, Association of American Publishers, for Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality

Department of Sociology Graduate Mentoring Award, Northwestern University, 2019

E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching, Northwestern University, 2017-2018

Northwestern University Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll, 2015-2016, 2004-2005

Department of African American Studies Distinguished Teaching Award, Northwestern University, 2016, 2007, 2004

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, Spelman College, Alumnae Initiate, 2014

The Jacquelyn Johnson Jackson Early Career Award, Association of Black Sociologists, 2013

Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship, The OpEd Project and Northwestern University, 2012

Finalist, C. Wright Mills Book Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2009.

National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award. $411,473. Funding period: 9/1/09-8/31/14.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. $323,526. Funding period: 7/1/09-6/30/14.

National Science Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 2005-06 & 2007-08 (2-year award served consecutively)

Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, HIV-Prevention Research in Minority Communities Collaborative Program Pilot Study Grant, 2004-2008

Department of African American Studies Distinguished Service Award, Northwestern University, 2010

Honoree, YWomen Leadership Awards, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, 2010

Honoree, Chicago's Top 40 Game Changers Under 40, Ariel Investments and WVON Urban Business Roundtable, 2010

Honoree, New Vision of Hope Foundation Annual HIV/AIDS Benefit Gala, 2010

Blue Diamond Woman of Excellence, Spelman College National Alumnae Association, Chicago Chapter, 2009

Department of African American Studies Teaching Award, Northwestern University, 2004, 2007

Recent Publications:


Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2019. Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality. University of California Press.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2009. The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Articles and Book Chapters

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste, Rikki Byrd, and Candice Merritt. “Eclipsed: Darkness, Light, and Motherhood in the Sexualized Drug Economy of Moonlight.” Invited by The Western Journal of Black Studies. (Forthcoming)

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste and Elyse Kovalsky. 2016. “The Discourse of Deservingness: Morality and the Dilemmas of Poverty Relief in Debate and Practice.” Pp 193-220 in The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Society. David Brady and Linda Burton (Editors). New York: Oxford University Press.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2014. “Intersectionality and the Sociology of HIV/AIDS: Past, Present, and Future Research Directions.” Invited article  for the Annual Review of Sociology.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2013. “The Micro-Dynamics of Support Seeking: The Social and Economic Utility of Institutional Ties for HIV-Positive Women.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 647: 83-101.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste, LaShawnDa Pittman, and Jean Beaman. 2012. “‘Dying From’ to ‘Living With’: Framing Institutions and the Coping Processes of African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS.” Social Science and Medicine 74 (2012): 2028-2036.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste, Courtney Patterson, and Amanda Armour. 2011. "Precious: Black Women, Neighborhood HIV/AIDS Risk, and Institutional Buffers." The DuBois Review 8(1): 229-240.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2011. "Race, Respect, and Red Tape: Inside the Black Box of Racially Representative Bureaucracies." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21: i233-i251.

-Reprinted: Work and the Welfare State: The Politics and Management of Policy Change. Evelyn Brodkin and Greg Marston (Editors). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. Expected 2012.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2009 "Race-ing the Bootstrap Climb: Black and Latino Bureaucrats in Post-Reform Welfare Offices." Social Problems. 56(2): 285-310

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2009 "Human Services as 'Race Work'? Historical Lessons and Contemporary Challenges of Black Providers." In Human Services as Complex Organizations, 2nd edition. Yeheskel Hasenfeld (Editor). Sage Publications.

Watkins-Hayes, Celeste. 2008 "The Social and Economic Context of Black Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the US: Implications for Research." In Sex, Power, and Taboo: Gender and HIV in the Caribbean and Beyond. Rhoda Reddock, Sandra Reid, Dianne Douglas, and Dorothy Roberts (Editors). Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers.

Domínguez, Silvia and Celeste Watkins. 2003. "Creating Networks for Survival and Mobility: Social Capital Among African-American and Latin-American Low-Income Mothers." Social Problems. 50(1): 111-135.

-Awards: Finalist, Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research, Center for Families at Purdue University and the Boston College Center for Work and Family, 2005. Honorable Mention, Section on Race, Gender, and Class Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Article Award, American Sociological Association, 2005.

Watkins, Celeste. 2001. "A Tale of Two Classes: Socio-Economic Inequality Among African-Americans Under 35." The State of Black America 2001. New York: National Urban League.

Watkins, Celeste. 2000. "When a Stumble is Not a Fall: Recovering from Employment Setbacks in the Welfare to Work Transition." Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy. 6(1): 63-84.

Selected Service:

Founding Director, ASCEND: A Faculty Excellence Initiative, 2018 - present

Member, Board of Directors, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2017 – present

Trustee, Spelman College Board of Trustees, 2009 – 2019

Elected Member, Tenure Committee, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern University, 2017-2019

Chair, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University, 2011-2013

Vice-Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University, 2010-2011

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University, 2009- 2010, 2016-2017

Executive Committee, Northwestern University, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 2013, 2015-2018

Editorial Board, American Sociological Review, January 2015 – 2018

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