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The Columbia School of Social Work has announced that Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, who recently began serving as New York City's Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, will serve as speaker for this year's graduation ceremony, to be held on Wednesday May 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the Beacon Theatre, on Broadway and 72nd Street.
As Mayor DeBlasio's choice to head up the City's social services, Dr. Barrios-Paoli is expected to play a key role in addressing the issues of inequality and social welfare that drive his agenda—and her own. As she told the New York Times in January:
For the first time in my life, I’m going to be working for somebody who really, truly embraces the things that I do.
“Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli has had a distinguished career in public service," said Dean Jeanette C. Takamura. "Mayor DeBlasio has sought out her leadership to move New Yorkers 'from homelessness to stable housing, expanding community health clinics and cutting red tape in social services."”
Before her appointment in the DeBlasio administration, Dr. Barrios-Paoli served as the Commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) under Mayor Bloomberg. She came back into city government after high-level appointments in two major city-based nonprofits: president and CEO of Safe Space NYC, Inc., a non-profit organization serving over 25,000 at-risk children and families at nearly forty different program sites throughout Queens and Manhattan; and Senior Vice President and Chief Executive for Agency Services at the United Way of New York City (UWNYC), which distributes over $88 million annually to New York City nonprofits. During her tenure at the latter, she was instrumental in the creation and implementation of the standards and goals of the September 11th Fund, which received contributions/donations of well over $500 million.
Dr. Barrios-Paoli’s prior service in New York City government includes appointments as Commissioner at four agencies during the Giuliani and Koch administrations: the Human Resources Administration (HRA), the nation's largest public welfare agency; the Department of Housing Preservation & Development; the Department of Personnel (now DCAS); and the Department of Employment, overseeing employment services to more than 85,000 City residents annually. Additionally, she was the Executive Director of Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a teaching and tertiary medical center serving the South Bronx.
Noting that Dr. Barrios-Paoli has the distinction of having led five different City agencies, serving in the administration of three mayors—Mayors Koch, Giuliani, and now DeBlasio—Dean Takamura said:
I am most familiar with her work as Commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging under Mayor Bloomberg, but Deputy Mayor Barrios-Paoli has had an impressive career in both City government and the nonprofit sector. I can think of no other individual with the depth and range of experience in health and human services in any city in the United States.
Born to Cuban parents in Mexico, Dr. Barrios-Paoli graduated from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. A former nun, she received a Master’s and PhD in cultural and urban anthropology from the New School for Social Research. She is a former trustee of the New School. She has taught at the City University and the Bank Street College of Education in New York City and at Rutgers University and Montclair State College in New Jersey.