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Romana Lee-Akiyama, director of the Office of Public Engagement. Photo credit: City of Philadelphia
Romana Lee-Akiyama, the new director of the Office of Public Engagement. Photo credit: City of Philadelphia

The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement has a new director

Romana Lee-Akiyama, the former deputy director of Philly’s OIA, was announced to the new role on Jan. 5.

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Romana Lee-Akiyama is the new director of the Office of Public Engagement (OPE) in Philadelphia. 

She is taking over this role from the previous director Ajeenah Amir, who left in Sept. 2021 to become the Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships at Penn Medicine.

Lee-Akiyama previously worked in the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA). She initially joined OIA in March 2020 as Director of Multicultural Affairs. In Dec. 2020 she became the OIA’s Deputy Director. 

While there, she was instrumental in the creation of several initiatives including a cross-departmental group that addressed violence and hate towards the AAPI community. The other department involved is the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Lee-Akiyama is still involved in the running of the initiative. 

Prior to her work with the city, she has worked with various non-profits and philanthropic organizations over a 20-year span. One of these organizations is Eisenhower Fellowships. Eisenhower Fellowships is a Philadelphia based non-profit that “identifies, empowers and connects innovative leaders through a transformative fellowship experience.” Lee-Akiyama came up with strategies to increase the engagement of Fellows across the globe. 

When asked by Saptarshi Dutt, communications & engagement coordinator at OPE, what drives her and her work, she talked about her father. 

“Growing up with a father who was a political refugee, I became passionate early on about human rights and social justice… That eventually translated into my commitment to creating more inclusive systems and a government that is responsive to the people it purports to serve.

This commitment is evident as far back as her college days. She has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University, as well as two Masters from Bryn Mawr University. One is a Master of Social Services and the other is a Master of Law and Social Policy. 

In terms of what she hopes to do at OPE she said, “our team in OPE has been on the forefront of work to address violence prevention, economic opportunity, and understanding trauma, all with a racial equity lens. We will continue to provide accessible and inclusive programming that raises awareness on the aforementioned issues, and partner closely with community leaders to close the gaps between our city government and impacted communities.”

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