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Celeste is available for Author Talks & Book Readings, Keynote Speeches, and Media Interviews. 

Read more below about her areas of expertise and keynote topics.

Photo Credit to Rob Hart


I strive to be not simply a passive observer of the social issues that I care so deeply about but an active participant in helping to improve them. I do this through scholarly research, dialogue, and service in the following areas:​

HIV/AIDS among women
HIV/AIDS among blacks
Inequality – economic,
racial, and gender
Race, class, and gender
Welfare policy
Poverty & Public policy
for low-income families


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Transformation Through Trauma: How We Remake Our Lives

How do we remake, not simply rebuild, our lives after trauma? Based on lessons learned from her research on women living with HIV, Celeste describes the social nature of transformative life change. In this inspiring talk about healing from personal and collective trauma, she makes the case for the importance of safety nets and social support to catch us when we struggle and to put us on a better path forward.


Finding Unity through Diversity in Polarizing Times


Our current political climate is incredibly polarized, and many of us have lost faith in the ability of social movements to make a difference. Based on over a decade of research, Celeste traces how the HIV movement became one of the most effective political movements of our time by embracing, rather than ignoring or silencing, diverse voices. With major policy wins and an enduring infrastructure to provide health care, social services, and dignity to millions, the HIV movement offers a hopeful reminder of the power of ordinary citizens to change the world.


What Are Safety Nets and Why Do We Need Them?


Throughout American history, safety nets have been consistently under political attack. The public rhetoric that denigrates them has seemingly reached fever pitch, and it has conditioned us to believe that every supportive service offered to a disadvantaged population is a hammock rather than a ladder, that every form of assistance encourages dependency and rewards those who evade the rules. But in this powerful talk, Celeste challenges these assumptions, drawing upon her extensive research on the historical success of the HIV safety net. The talk encourages all of us to think about the people, places, and public policies that stepped in during critical moments in our lives whether we realized it or not. 


Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality


Starting in 2005, professor Celeste Watkins-Hayes spent a decade documenting the lives of over 100 women living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago and interviewing 75 national HIV activists, advocates, service providers and policy officials about the changes in the epidemic. In this informative and inspiring talk, Watkins-Hayes tells the story of one woman living with HIV, to unspool a broader and profound historical narrative about how individuals confront injuries of inequality through transformative life change and courageous political activism.


The Ripple that Became a Tidal Wave: HIV/AIDS Activism and the Lessons for Transformative Leadership


Through this talk about the remarkable conversion of HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness over the last forty years, Watkins-Hayes outlines the importance of the transformative leadership that led the way to address this seemingly unsurmountable problem. She points to the importance of looking for leadership in unexpected places, the value of constructive conflict among diverse groups, and the willingness to talk about difficult issues exhibited by the HIV/AIDS community as useful lessons that can apply to many of the challenges facing institutions. The role of women in the HIV/AIDS movement can be at the center of the talk. This presentation is particularly well-suited for organizations interested in topics related to diversity, inclusion, and equity in leadership development and critical problem-solving.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes with Allison Stewa

“Dr. Watkins-Hayes masterfully makes academic ideas highly accessible. She speaks with authority and data while referencing pop culture and shared experiences that engage and contextualize her research. Our attendees eagerly participated to share their own experiences and ask questions. Working and planning with Dr. Watkins-Hayes is easy. Her vast experience makes it so that she can speak to any audience with ease. We'd love to have her back soon.” 


Modern Health

Interested in Celeste speaking at your university,

company, or organization?

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