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University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Sociology, The University of Michigan

My research interests lie at the intersection of inequality, public policy, and institutions. This intellectual commitment is motivated by my desire to offer analyses and prescriptions, based on empirically- and conceptually-rich research, that address the real-world issues that limit human potential. How do government and non-profit institutions address (or fail to address) the needs of those facing economic hardship? How do women financially and socially cope with living with HIV/AIDS, and how does this affect their abilities to take care of themselves and their families? What will rising income inequality mean for the ability of individuals to move up the economic ladder?
Whether the focus is on how intersections of race, gender, class, and health shape one’s experiences in the labor market, the opportunities and constraints facing bureaucracies that target those on the bottom of the economic ladder, or the dilemmas challenging upward mobility in an age of rising income inequality, I investigate how individuals negotiate key questions of survival and mobility in a context of racial and gender hierarchies and economic constraints. My scholarship therefore speaks directly to current policy debates.


Department of Sociology Graduate Mentoring Award

Northwestern University, 2019

E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching

Northwestern University

Early CAREER Award

The National Science Foundation

Health Investigator Award

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Alumnae Initiate

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, Spelman College

The Jacquelyne Johnson Jackson Early Career Award

Association of Black Sociologists

Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship

The OpEd Project and Northwestern University

Honoree, YWomen Leadership Awards

YWCA Evanston/North Shore

Honoree, Chicago’s Top 40 Game Changers Under 40

Ariel Investments and WVON Urban Business Roundtable


New Vision of Hope Foundation Annual HIV/AIDS Benefit Gala

Blue Diamond Woman of Excellence

Spelman College National Alumnae Association, Chicago Chapter

Department of African American Studies Teaching Award

Northwestern University

Department of African American Studies Distinguished Service Award

Northwestern University



Follow Dr. Watkins-Hayes via her social media for any upcoming appearances, current on-goings, research updates, and more information about important causes.

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