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About The International Institute

Our People

It takes a team to make our mission a success. The people and partners behind the International Institute of Buffalo are the ones that see it through.

Board of Directors

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

“I am a proud native of England who boldly decided to immigrate to this great nation in 1988. I am thrilled to say that I have become an official citizen of this beautiful country in 2022. As someone who deeply values the richness and diversity of our community, I am incredibly passionate about supporting refugees and immigrants in any way I can. Together, we can build a brighter future for all.”

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Sarah Viksjo
Vice Chair
Captive Practice Consultant, Gallagher

“I decided to join the board at IIB to contribute to our community and the richness of all the unique cultures that call Buffalo home.”

Umesh Babaria
Consumer Bank CFO, Key Bank

“Having immigrated to Buffalo, NY, from my birthplace of Mumbai, India, I learned from the challenges of assimilating in a new country and the joys of being a proud American citizen. I wanted to join an organization that makes a difference in our communities, and IIB was one of my top choices as it helps integrate refugees and immigrants into our local communities.”

Katie Schneider
Past Chair
Owner, Katie Schneider Photography, LLC

“Due to Trump’s Muslim ban, I reached out to IIB as it was the only way I could help our newest Americans. My involvement has helped me become a better American, and I have come to realize that there are significant challenges ahead for all of us. We Americans have a lot to re-learn, and the struggle for freedom and respect is ongoing. However, my faith in the goodness of people leads me to believe that we can improve as humans by reaching out and caring for others.”

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Dawn Odrzywolski
Vice President of Medicare Programs, Independent Health

“I now call Buffalo my home, but I was actually born and raised overseas. Coming from a family of travelers, we are all very passionate about diverse cultures and experiences. My mother used to work for the Institute in the late 90s after moving back to the United States from living abroad. The Institute was a welcoming organization to us, and I am now a member of the board, hoping to give back to it.”

Luisa D. Bostick headshot

Luisa D. Bostick
Partner, Hodgson Russ LLP

“I joined the Board after working abroad and seeing the impact of labor and sex trafficking. Based on that work, it was important to me to assist in creating an inclusive, safe community for foreign-born individuals.”

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Molly Chvala
Senior Vice Principle of User Experience, Crowley Webb

“I grew up on the West Side of Buffalo, in a neighborhood rich with immigrants and diversity. My decision to join the IIB Board stems from my desire to make Buffalo a more equitable and inclusive place and to contribute to the betterment and empowerment of immigrants in our community.”

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Amina Diallo
Audit Manager, Lumsden & McCormick, LLP

“As a first-generation immigrant, I can contribute my time and nonprofit accounting experience to an organization that makes WNY a better place for immigrants.”

Yvonne DuBois, Y

Yvonne Dubois
Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer,  Child & Family Services

“I joined the IIB Board of Directors because the work of Equity and Inclusion practice is global work. The further I delve into DEI work, the more I understand that justice centered race equity must be global. Our collective destiny is inextricably intertwined with the experiences of our sisters and brothers across all nations. My community includes every human being, and IIB puts this global community concept into practice.”

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Jim Kennedy
Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations, Roswell Park

“While working for federal and state governments, I developed a passion for refugee resettlement and immigration policy. I’ve also had the honor to hire and work alongside Western New Yorkers who came to our community through refugee resettlement and immigration programs. Each of them made our organization a better and more productive place. I believe in New Americans’ positive economic impact in Western New York.”

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Mohammed Osman
President & CEO of Fortunes America Properties LLC

“I was born in Bangladesh and became a board member of the International Institute of Buffalo because I want to bring all of the communities of Buffalo together under one umbrella, fostering peace and love while advocating for the betterment of all.”

Priya Pinto

Priya Pinto, PhD., CRC
President, Allwel, (WNY/NYC) 

“I re-joined the IIB board because I strongly believe in the mission. The International Institute has a number of passionate dedicated staff members who strongly believe in the value that immigrants and refugees bring to WNY. I strongly believe in doing my piece to add to the cause.”

Onkham Rattanaphasouk, CPA

Onkham Rattanaphasouk, CPA
CFO, RP Oak Hill Building Company, Inc. 

“I was a teenager when our family escaped from Laos to come to America. My parents have made a very brave decision and took a huge risk to give my four siblings and me a chance for a better future.  International Institute of Erie, PA, was very helpful to my parents by teaching them how to speak English, providing them with translation services, etc. I’m very thankful for them. It’s my turn to give back.”

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Dan Theal
Vice President, M&T Bank Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Sr. Program Manager

“I am deeply passionate about promoting allyship with the historically marginalized in our community. Through my wife’s immigration experience, I have developed an empathetic appreciation for many immigrants and refugees’ unique challenges.”

Ex Officio Members
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Omar ElNasser
Senior Program Manager, Integer

“I grew up in Western NY. My father immigrated to the US in the 1960s from Jordan, and my wife immigrated from Uzbekistan in 2003. I advocate for immigrants and refugees and strongly believe in their value to American ideals and the health of the Western NY community.”

Senior Staff

Jennifer Rizzo-Choi

Jennifer Rizzo-Choi
Executive Director

“In my former career as a television journalist overseas and in America, I was moved by the stories of families escaping horrible situations for a better life and freedom. This and my family’s immigrant journey inspired me to become an immigration attorney. I am honored to lead one of the best organizations in the country that does this kind of work.”

Denise Beehag

Denise Phillips Beehag
Director of New American Integration

“What motivates me is seeing our clients’ perseverance, strength, selflessness, determination, and humbleness. Seeing how they have overcome adversity with the help of a dedicated and passionate resettlement team helps me put things in perspective and be grateful for all that I have.”

Todd Brooks

Todd Brooks
Director of Philanthropy and Community Engagement

“I am fortunate to work at the International Institute of Buffalo. It is an honor to play even the most minor role in helping Buffalo welcome those seeking a better life. As a welcoming city, Buffalo is lucky to have refugees and immigrants from around the globe as our neighbors. It’s essential to not only resettle them but also to educate the community on their diverse cultures and the value they bring to our region.”

Gabe DiMaio

Gabe DiMaio
Director of Communications

“Like many, I grew up hearing the stories of my grandparents’ journey from Italy to America. I learned of their struggles to get here and those as they tried to integrate, but I also witnessed their love for the country that gave them a chance at the American Dream. Aside from my military service, working to further IIB’s mission to help New Americans is a way for me to give back to a country I love.”

Carrie Florea

Carrie Florea
Director of Human Resources

“After escaping a war-torn Austria-Hungary following World War I, my grandparents immigrated to America to build a new life and start a family. Little did they know, their only child (my father) would grow up to serve as a US Army medic during World War II, meet the love of his life, and, together, welcome seven children. I am honored by my family’s legacy of courage and resilience. IIB clients have experienced similar endeavors in pursuing a better life. To me, IIB is not just a place to work; it’s a place where exceptionally talented employees care about the people we serve, like family.”

Dominic Floro

Dominic Floro
Director of Language & Employment Services

“Knowing the history of how my family arrived in the United States looking for opportunity gives me the drive to help people seeking a better life for their families. Understanding their work ahead, guiding them through obstacles, and creating opportunities for them are all the motivation a person needs to work at IIB.”

Jason Sabel

Jason Sabel 
Director of Finance

“As a young child who came to the United States, I have been blessed beyond measure with the opportunities this country has afforded me. I am excited to work for IIB—albeit behind the scenes—to help our clients be afforded the same opportunities that were provided to me and see them flourish within the Western New York community.”

May Shogan

May Shogan
Senior Director of Programs, International Exchanges and Education

“As an immigrant from Jordan, I joined the International Institute of Buffalo to help refugees and immigrants address their challenges while adjusting to their new lives. Advocating, supporting, and empowering people and promoting sensitivity and understanding of different cultures to bring collective strength and talents to a better WNY is such important and rewarding work. I am so honored to be part of this dedicated team.”