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 40 individuals, with an operating budget of more than $3.5 million.

The Institute offers integration, 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 2017-2018


Larry Christ


Chief Operating Officer, LiteLab Corporation

Katie Schneider

Vice Chair

Owner, Katie Schneider Photography, LLC

Kate Crawford


Ernst & Young

Nina Barone

Director of Admissions, Nichols School

Adam Croglia

Senior Counselor, Mower

Mark Dines

Partner, American Changer and Hoffman Mint

Anthony Duddy

Managing Attorney, Law Office of Anthony C. Duddy, PLLC

Omar ElNasser

Senior Program Manager, Integer

Ruth Fierro-King

Hanna Commercial Real Estate

Victoria Hong

Director of Corporate Communications, Delaware North

Cyndie Huynh

Administrator, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Colleen B. Marotta

Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer, State University of New York at Buffalo

Betty Murphy

Executive Vice President, Niagara Frontier Auto Dealers Association

Samantha Nephew

Community Organizer, Citizen Action of New York

Priya Pinto, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Allwel

Jennifer Rizzo-Choi Esq.

Executive Director, The Pro Bono Project

Matt Romagnuolo

United States Army, Retired

Michael Serotte Esq.

Founding Partner, Serotte Immigration Law

Eskinder Tefera

Vice President Special Assets Group, M&T Bank

Kristine B. Weller

Director, Learning and Development/Human Resource Business Partner, Independent Health

Sarah Viksjo

Vice President/Risk Manager, Key Bank

Margaret Songin

Community Volunteer (Honorary member)

Senior Staff

Senior Staff

Eva Hassett

Executive Director

Denise Phillips Beehag

Director of New American Integration

Deborah Billoni

Director of Finance

Emily Brady-Santos

Director of Interpreting and Translation

Amy Fleischauer

Director of Survivor Support

Adair M. Saviola

Director of Development and Communications

May Shogan

Director of International Exchanges and Education

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 1888 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.



Rent our Facility

864 Delaware Avenue is a wonderful venue for weddings, parties, receptions, presentations, seminars and other events. The mansion has 5 large and adjoining rooms on the first floor, with 2 restrooms off the lobby. Capacity is 115 people for receptions of all kinds.

Tours of the building are available by appointment only. For additional information on rental prices and preferred caterers, contact: Klara Chomicka at kchomicka@iibuff.org.

Support the International Institute

The donation of items and gift cards can assist our clients with setting up their households or easing their burden by providing items needed for to carry out regular day to day activities.

Donate to our Refugee Services Wish List
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