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Photo of Allen-Meares, Paula

Paula Allen-Meares

Executive Director, Office of Health Literacy

Chancellor Emerita John Corbally Presidential Professor Emerita; Professor of Medicine Dean and Professor Emerita/Norma Radin Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan

Office of Health Literacy


Dr. Paula Allen-Meares is an international expert on human services in educational settings, mental health in under-resourced communities, and educational access and success. From 2009 to 2015, she served as Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC); in 2010, she was also appointed Vice President of the University of Illinois. Currently, she is John Corbally Presidential Professor Emerita and Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has held faculty appointments on both the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses in the Schools of Public Health, Colleges of Education, and Schools of Social Work, serving as Dean at Urbana-Champaign. She is also Dean and Professor Emerita and the Norma Radin Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan (U-M).

Dr. Allen-Meares is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the Royal Society of Medicine, and she is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. For almost a decade, she served as a trustee for the William T. Grant Foundation. She has also been invited to participate in White House conferences regarding student success and affordability in higher education, opioid use, and mental health. She holds a level-one Professional Director Certification from the American College of Corporate Directors.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Dr. Allen-Meares earned her bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo and master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds certificates in management from the U-M and Harvard University, an Executive Education certificate from the Women’s Director of Development Program at Kellogg School of Management, and the Creating and Leading a Culture of Innovation Certificate from Northwestern University.

Dr. Allen-Meares is author or co-author of more than 170 publications and serves on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals and publications. Her research interests include the functions of human service providers in educational settings and diverse community challenges and strengths. Major themes in her research include improving the physical and mental health of underprivileged children and adolescents of color and the strengths of parents and communities. Her research is cited around the world; her theoretical model on school social work for at-risk youth has been used in South Africa, South Korea, Australia, China, and Europe.

As Chancellor of UIC, the largest public research university in Chicago, with over 28,000 students, Dr. Allen-Meares led “Brilliant Futures: The Campaign for the University of Illinois at Chicago” on the heels of the Great Recession to raise $676 million, the most ever raised by UIC. This was her third major fundraising campaign as a higher education administrator, all of which exceeded their goals. While Chancellor, she worked to transform the campus into a model for how urban research universities should champion and effectuate sustainable public policy and translate research, discoveries, and innovations that enhance quality of life at the local, national, and global levels. In doing so, she has redefined for future generations the role of land-grant colleges and universities. The enhanced intellectual heft and financial resources garnered by UIC under her governance have furthered the university’s reputation for programs, policies, research, and discourse that address complex and interconnected social and global concerns. Included among these are first-generation education and retention success, diversity, access to health care, food distribution, energy sustainability, and the development of technology and innovation. The UIC six-year graduation rate also improved under her tenure.

In 1993, Dr. Allen-Meares was appointed Dean of the U-M School of Social Work, and under her leadership the School’s endowment grew from $1 million to $43 million, while externally funded research awards reached more than $100 million. She also led the initiative to relocate the social work program into a state-of-the-art facility on the U-M campus, including fundraising and construction. At U-M, Dr. Allen-Meares chaired the University Health Sciences Council and was a founding Dean of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the National Center for Institutional Diversity, and the U-M Detroit Center. She was principal investigator (PI) of the Global Program on Youth, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; co-PI of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health; co-PI on an R01 of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Pathways for Youth, Risk, and Resilience; PI of the Skillman Good Neighborhoods grant; and PI of the NIH Bridges to Baccalaureate grant and the Health Sciences Learning Exchange grant. Currently, she is co-PI of a center grant on Health Equity Research.

During her tenures at U-M and UIC, Dr. Allen-Meares established research and educational partnerships with the UAW, Ford, GM, Baxter International, Argonne National Laboratories, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and many international organizations. At UIC, she oversaw a workforce of 15,000 faculty and staff, comprising more than 25 labor unions, and she negotiated a new faculty contract that is regarded as one of the best in the nation for upholding academic excellence while balancing financial necessities.

As an elected member of NAM, Dr. Allen-Meares was appointed Chair of Section X in 2009 and then co-chaired Section X for another two years. She served on the NAM Sarnat Prize Committee and the NAM Awards Committee and currently serves on the Health Division Committee. She also serves on the Chicago Civic Consulting Alliance Board and recently served on the American Council on Education’s Commission on Inclusion and the Executive Committee for the Coalition for Urban Serving Universities.