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Alumna part of Biden’s all-women communications team

Maria del Pilar “Pili” Tobar is among the senior staff for the incoming administration; she will work as deputy White House communications director.
Pili Tobar

University of Miami alumna Maria del Pilar “Pili” Tobar will work as deputy White House communications director in the Biden administration.

In a historic move, President-elect Joe Biden has appointed an all-women senior communications team to work in his administration. The group includes University of Miami alumna, Maria del Pilar “Pili” Tobar, who was named as deputy White House communications director.

Tobar graduated from the School of Communication in 2009 with a double major in motion pictures and political science. And in 2010, she earned a Master in Public Administration from the College of Arts and Sciences.

She expressed her delight with the new role. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve alongside this group of women. They are a talented, experienced, and knowledgeable group of communicators. And many of us are also moms,” said Tobar, who lives with her wife and three-year-old daughter in Washington, D.C.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Associated Press
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Photo: Associated Press

“We all represent how important it is for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to have a team that is as diverse as our nation. We’ll work to serve the Biden-Harris administration and put the American people first. We’ll restore transparency in the White House,” she said.

The appointments were celebrated by many, including within the University community.

"I applaud President-elect Biden's decision to invite these talented women for his communication team, along with those considered in many other key areas such as economic positions," said Karin Wilkins, dean of the School of Communication. “I am thrilled that we have one of our own in the White House, putting her excellent education to direct use in her new role as deputy communications director.” 

Born in Florida and raised in part in Guatemala, Tobar’s love of politics began at the U. She became an active member of the Young Democrats and helped members of the media during former President Bill Clinton’s visit to the campus. She attended presidential debates and other political events during her time on campus.  

“UM was such a vibrant place for politics,” she said. “My interest in political science increased when I learned how engaging people in the electoral system and making sure that they had a voice could change the lives of millions of people.”

Casey Klofstad, professor of political science, was one of her professors.

“I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Tobar as a UM student and later in 2012 in her role as press secretary for America's Voice, an immigration reform advocacy organization,” he said. “Pili is deeply dedicated to public service, and the UM Department of Political Science is honored to see one of our graduates in the president-elect's administration."

Jonathan West, another one of her professors, said that he remembers her as someone who had a strong interest in American politics, communication, and film.

“She was a pleasure to teach, always willing to share her insights in class discussions and an excellent writer,” said West.

After getting her master’s degree, Tobar moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked for America’s Voice, an organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants. She also worked for the Democratic National Committee as regional press secretary for the western region, and she became communications director for the Latino Victory Project.

Tobar also did stints as communications director for Congressman Ruben Gallego and media director for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, where she ensured that all senate democrats took their messages to Hispanic outlets as well as to mainstream ones.  

Her extensive experience got her the job of communications director for coalitions for the Biden-Harris campaign.

In that assignment, Tobar led the communications team for several constituency outreach teams—including Latino media, African American media, faith media, women media, and rural media. The communications team for coalitions worked to meet people where they are, in the language they know, through the outlets they know, and by engaging the surrogates they trust. In her work, Tobar tailored messages to resonate with each group’s cultural background and issues, she pointed out.   

Tobar will join a team that includes Kate Bedingfield, who was named White House communications director; Jennifer Psaki, who has been appointed the Biden administration's press secretary; Symone Sanders, who will serve as Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief spokesperson; Ashley Etienne, communications director for the vice president; Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; and Elizabeth Alexander, communications director to incoming First Lady Jill Biden.