Stacey Abrams, other policymakers and leading scholars to join Ford School symposium

March 12, 2024

The Ford School of Public Policy is happy to announce the Dean’s Symposium, which will take place April 11 and 12 at Weill Hall, with the theme, “Policy Innovation for Our Times.” The two days will feature keynote appearances by voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, technology visionary Alondra Nelson, and domestic policy veteran Cecilia Muñoz, along with a series of panel discussions among scholars and policymakers examining social policy, racial equity, climate change, and the state of democracy.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, who is finishing her first academic year as the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, convened the symposium to bring together Ford School experts with leading thinkers from her past career stops at Northwestern, Harvard, and Spelman. She explains, “This Symposium is close to my heart, and is a reflection of the range of important policy issues that we work on at the Ford School. I am grateful for the participation of so many great colleagues who will be joining us from all across the country.”

In addition to the keynote speakers, participants will include former deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun; University of Chicago political scientist Cathy Cohen; economist Darrick Hamilton of The New School; Dean of Northwestern’s School of Communication, artist and activist E. Patrick Johnson; and Northwestern University sociologist Mary Pattillo.

“I am especially happy that our Ford School students will be able to meet with these thought leaders, in conversation with our own distinguished faculty, and engage in a new way with some of these issues,” Watkins-Hayes says.

Ford School faculty leading and joining sessions include associate dean for academic affairs Jenna Bednar; director of the Weiser Diplomacy Center Susan D. Page;  director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program Shobita Parthasarathy; and director of Poverty Solutions Luke Shaefer; as well as Paula Lantz, Ann Chih Lin, Natasha Pilkauskas, Kaitlin Raimi, and Mo Torres.

The events are open to the public, though some may be available by ticket lottery, and all sessions will be streamed live and on-demand.

The schedule and participants (still in formation)


11:00am - 12:15pm: Opening remarks by Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes and Keynote 1, “Social Policy in the 21st Century,” featuring Cecilia Muñoz.

1:30pm - 2:45pm: Panel Session 1, “New Policy in Support of Families and Kids,” featuring Darrick Hamilton, Mary Pattillo, Natasha Pilkauskas, and Luke Shaefer

3:15-4:30pm: Keynote 2, “AI and the Future of Technology,” featuring Alondra Nelson and Shobita Parthasarathy

5:00pm: Opening reception for the Ford School Community

FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2024

9:00am - 10:15am: Panel Session 2, “Communicating Climate Change,” featuring Kara Cook, Mike Shriberg (SEAS), Kaitlin Raimi, and others.

10:45am - 12:00pm: Panel Session 3, “Racial Justice and Public Policy,” featuring Cathy Cohen, E. Patrick Johnson, Paula Lantz, Ann Lin, and Mo Torres

1:00pm - 2:15pm: Panel Session 4, “The State of Democracy around the World,” featuring Steve Biegun, Jenna Bednar, Susan D. Page, and others

3:15pm - 4:30pm: Keynote 3 and closing, “American Democracy at the Crossroads,”  featuring Stacey Abrams and Celeste Watkins-Hayes. NOTE: In-person attendance at this event is limited to Ford School students, faculty, and staff, by lottery.

5:00pm: Closing reception


Click here to register to attend individual sessions. (NOTE: in-person attendance at the Stacy Abrams event is limited to Ford School students, faculty, and staff, by lottery.)

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