Mission Statement

The mission of the International Institute of Buffalo is to make Western New York a better place for, and because of, immigrants and refugees.


About the International Institute

One hundred years ago, the International Institute of Buffalo was a program serving foreign-born women. Today, the Institute is an established WNY organization, serving thousands each year and employing over 70 individuals, with an operating budget of almost $8 million.

The Institute offers refugee resettlement and employment programs; provides services to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking; offers translation and interpretation services to break down barriers; presents global education programs for students, adults and businesses; and hosts international visitors.

On an average day, dozens are welcomed into our building. Some are newly arrived to America and beginning to learn English. Some come to acquire job skills, become interpreters or receive interpreting and translation assistance. Others come to learn how to support WNY’s growing diversity, or to seek refuge from domestic violence and human trafficking.

Buffalo is a rich tapestry because of the diversity of its people. Almost all of our ancestors came here to build new lives. Hope, expectation and anticipation of a new and better life were with each new group that came to the United States. Fear and isolation were with them as well. All these feelings persist for new arrivals today; the challenge of a new language and culture remains as well. Every day at the International Institute, we do all we can to welcome our new American neighbors and help make Western New York the place they can achieve their dreams.

Strategic Plan

In 2016, the Institute adopted a new strategic plan. This document sets priorities, focuses resources and strengthens operations to ensure that we will realize our vision and deliver impact. This plan guides and shapes our decisions and actions as we enter our second century of service to our clients and Western New York.

The Institute’s strategic goals are:

  • Align With Others for Impact; Formalize and Increase Collaboration
  • Strengthen Core Programming/Develop New Programming
  • Continue to increase the Leadership profile of the Institute Locally, Regionally, Nationally
  • Improve the Institute’s Organizational Culture
  • Increase the Institute’s Sustainability

Board of Directors 2023-2024


Matthew Romagnuolo


United States Army, Retired

Kevin Gentry

Vice Chair

Assistant Vice President Consumer Direct Sales Manager, M&T Bank

Umesh Babaria


Consumer Bank CFO, Key Bank

Dawn Odrzywolski


Vice President of Medicare Programs, Independent Health

Katie Schneider

Immediate Past Chair

Owner, Katie Schneider Photography, LLC

Luisa D. Bostick

Partner, Hodgson Russ LLP

Larry Christ

Retired Manufacturing Executive

Molly Chvala

Senior Vice President of User Experience, Crowley Webb

Adam Croglia

Managing Director, Trysail Strategies

Amina Diallo

Audit Manager, Lumsden & McCormick, LLP

Omar ElNasser

Senior Program Manager, Integer

Jim Kennedy

Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations, Roswell Park

Mohammed Osman

President & CEO of Fortunes America Properties LLC

Dan Theal

Senior Vice President | M&T Bank

Capital Planning & Management | Sr. Finance Manager

Sarah Viksjo

Captive Practice Consultant, Gallagher Insurance | Risk Management | Consulting

Senior Staff

Senior Staff

Jennifer Rizzo-Choi

Executive Director

Denise Phillips Beehag

Director of New American Integration

Todd Brooks

Director of Philanthropy and Community Engagement

Gabe DiMaio

Director of Communications

Carrie Florea

Director of Human Resources

Dominic Floro

Director of Interpreting & Translation

Shannon Riley

Director of Survivor Support

May Shogan

Director of International Exchanges and Education

Kathryn Wilde

Director of Finance

A Statement from the International Institute of Buffalo’s Equity & Inclusion Committee

At the International Institute of Buffalo we welcome, connect and empower the foreign born, provide trauma-informed care to refugee and immigrant survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence, and encourage the region’s support for different cultures. This means we continually celebrate the diverse community created by our staff, board, clients, vendors, and supporters. We work towards a future where all Western New Yorkers are free to lead full and productive lives.

We are an agency committed to human rights who works to improve the individual circumstances of our clients. We recognize that structural inequities disproportionately affect our clients.

As an equal opportunity employer, we stay true to our mission by ensuring that the Institute is a diverse and inclusive workplace where we welcome the unique contributions that our staff and board bring in terms of their education, opinions, culture, ethnicity, creed, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, familial status, marital status, military status, nation of origin, age, languages spoken, color, religion, genetic characteristics, disability, domestic violence victim status, conviction status, and beliefs. This includes fostering an inclusive and respectful work culture and proactively addressing bias and hostility within our organization through intentional dialogues, trainings, and community connection.

Building Equity and Inclusion is an ongoing process. As an organization, we continue to strive to:

• review hiring practices to aspire to achieve the diversity of our clients among our staff.
• engage an internal committee to bring staff voices and expertise to conversations around Equity and Inclusion.
• review vendors and purchasing to ensure that we attempt to support businesses operated by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
• seek out and create partnerships with organizations led by BIPOC when feasible.
• use our voice to advocate for the rights of our clients.

International Institute of Buffalo – A Brief History

At the beginning of the 20th century, after World War I, 15 million people immigrated to the United States.  Recognizing the need for specialized services for immigrants, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) established programs in affiliates across the country called International Institutes. The first Institutes were designed to provide social and humanitarian services to immigrants, teach English, and create opportunities for cultural expression.

The International Institute of Buffalo was established by the local YWCA in 1918 to work with female immigrants, helping them to integrate and working to prevent their exploitation in domestic settings.

In 1934, the International Institute of Buffalo incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization serving women, men and children. As the needs of newcomers changed, the International Institute developed into a Buffalo mainstay, helping ethnic communities rapidly integrate while honoring and preserving their heritage. We were the safe place for communities to come together. The statues of Dante Alighieri and Frederic Chopin in our music room – gifts from the new Italian and Polish communities formed here – attest to our role.

In 2006, the Institute incorporated the former Buffalo/Niagara WorldConnect, an organization that hosted international visitors and provided global education programs to a variety of audiences.  WorldConnect was a member of the World Affairs Councils of America and the National Council for International Visitors). The International Institute of Buffalo maintains these memberships and directs programming aligned with their goals.

864 Delaware Avenue: A Glimpse of Buffalo History

The International Institute is located in an elegant three-story Georgian revival mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, designed in 1898 by Esenwein & Johnson.  Its first occupant was Harlow C. Curtiss, a practicing lawyer in Buffalo for nearly 40 years, who began his law career in the firm of Cleveland and Bissell whose senior partner was former President Grover Cleveland.

From 1905-1909 the house was owned by W. E. Silverthorne, who was building a new mansion across the street.  The owner from 1910-1916 was Walter H. Schoellkopf, grandson of Jacob Schoellkopf, one of the founders of the Niagara Falls Power Company. Residing there from 1917-1919 was Daniel B. Good, who established the Seibert-Good Company in Chicago, which later consolidated with the Seymour H. Knox stores of Buffalo, and finally became part of the F.W. Woolworth Company. The last private resident, Frank Henry, was chairman of the board of the Washburn-Crosby Company, manufacturers of Gold Medal flour.

The house sat vacant until the Temple of Unity and Truth occupied the site in 1941-1942. The Buffalo Association for the Blind (now Olmsted Center for Sight) called it headquarters from 1947-1973. In 1973, the mansion became home to the International Institute of Buffalo.  Over the years, the Institute has also been home to a marvelous array of weddings, parties and many other activities.

Facility Rentals

We are currently not accepting rental reservations at the International Institute of Buffalo due to COVID protocols and safety precautions. For more information, please contact development@iibuff.org.

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