Meet Beth Mercer


Elizabeth “Beth” Mercer, Self Sufficiency Coordinator

A native of Orchard Park and all things health and wellness, Ms. Mercer works in New American Integration coordinating financial literacy programs for the Institute’s clients to become self-sufficient in their new lives in Western New York.

Where are you from and what do you do here?

[BM]: I have always lived in Western New York, growing up in a suburb outside of Buffalo, Orchard Park.  As part of the AmeriCorps’ Economic Development Corps (EDC) program, I am able to work here at the Institute as the Self Sufficiency Coordinator.  I would say that while my job is to mainly help the Institute’s clients become financially responsible and self-sufficient, I do a lot of other things here as well: assisting our Employment team, teaching financial literacy in job club, letting clients know about the resources around Western New York on their path to becoming self-sufficient.  

Where did you go to school?

[BM]: I went to the University of Buffalo to study Psychology and Public Health.  I initially thought I wanted to be a counselor, but this job has really spurred my interest in social work and social justice issues.  I hope to someday go back to school and pursue a Masters in Social Work and Public Health.

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about working at an organization like the Institute?

[BM]: Experiencing diversity and the positive impact it has on our community first-hand.  Growing up in the suburbs was a very different experience than when I went to UB and started working at the Institute.  It’s also just really great being that friendly face in the crowd to someone completely new.

What is the first word that comes to mind when I say “International Institute of Buffalo”?

[BM]: Love.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?  Why?

[BM]: Personally, finishing my degree in three years and taking over the amount of necessary courses needed to complete my program just because I was so interested in the learning process.  Here at the Institute, my biggest accomplishment would be helping my clients find the power to become advocates for themselves.

Since the Institute works with diverse people from all over the world, can you share with us your own heritage?

[BM]: My Mother’s side is Sicilian and my Father’s Irish.  Around Christmas each year, my Mom, my Grandmother, my Aunts and I make Italian cookies around Christmas time.  Also, I Irish danced for 7 years, so I guess you can say that I still have some ties to my heritage.  

Given the international nature of the Institute, have you traveled abroad?  Any places on your bucket list?

[BM]:  I’ve been to Bermuda a couple of times, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Iceland.  Bucket-list wise: I would like to go to India and Thailand.

If you could sit down with any historical figure, who would you choose?  What is one question you would ask them?

[BM]: Martin Luther King, Jr.  I would like to have a conversation about the process of beginning a social movement and advice he has for movements currently happening today.  

Favorite international food?

[BM]: Saag Paneer, which is a vegetarian Indian dish consisting mostly of spinach and cheese. 

Favorite book?

[BM]: Coelho’s The Alchemist.

What can you tell me about your life away from the Institute?

[BM]: You can usually find me in a park reading, doing yoga, somewhere singing, or cooking.  I love finding and cooking new recipes.

What three traits would you say define you?

[BM]: Adventurous, empathetic and imaginative.