Jessica Ulmer, Reception & Placement Program Assistant
Ms. Ulmer puts her organization skills to use as the Program Assistant for New American Integration. Reading case notes with a hot cup of coffee warms her heart, while here “soles” stay busy outside of the Institute as a runner, Mom, and soup chef.
How long have you been at the Institute?
[JU]: I have been the Reception and Placement Program Assistant for the New American Integration department since December 2012. In January, I started working with the Employment department too. I review cases for current and new clients to make sure that we are meeting all of our requirements to receive necessary funding. Or, as Denise likes to say I “keep the department organized.”
Where did you go to school? What has led you to the Institute and how has it prepared you for your role as Program Assistant?
[JU]: I went to Fredonia for my undergrad and received a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education with a minor in English. I taught Second Grade for two years before going to Canisius to get my Master’s in Counseling and Human Services—after that I worked at Crisis Services in Emergency Mental Health Outreach and as Director of the Crisis Hotline. From there I spent time as an Elementary, Middle School, and Mental Health Counselor. I have a lot of experience writing case notes and case filing, which has been a great parallel to the work that I do here for the Institute. Having written a lot of case notes, I know how difficult it can be to put what you do into a concise statement while also being able to tell a story. I also LOVE policies and procedures. I like having rules to follow, when I review cases I am basically making sure we are following the rules.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about working at an organization like the Institute?
[JU]: Being surrounded by good people. Everyone here is always trying to do the right thing and do right by our clients. Being surrounded by good people makes me want to be better. In addition, I have the opportunity to read the stories of our clients, it really puts a lot of things into perspective for me. I might joke that I don’t get to drink hot coffee or go to the bathroom alone when I’m home with my kids, but at the end of the day I am so blessed to know my kids are safe, I am safe, my family is safe. It really keeps me in check.
What is the first word that comes to mind when I say “International Institute of Buffalo”?
[JU]: Humble. Our agency and staff are dedicated. Our clients are inspiring, but nobody ever stops to pat themselves on the back; they are always asking how can we do MORE, how can we help MORE.
What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of (at work or outside of work)? Why?
[JU]: I would say that it’s my side business (hustle), SoupsaDaisy. I am an ideas lady, but most of them never come to fruition. I get really excited about ideas but follow through—not so much [laughs]. This was one time I took an idea, a passion, and went for it. It has allowed me to make good food for good people, to go out into the community and connect. I LOVE connecting with people. So in a sense SoupsaDaisy feeds my soul…bring on the clichés [laughs]
Since the Institute works with diverse people all over the world, can you share with us your own heritage?
[JU]: My grandmother’s maiden name is Alberstadt, so there is some German in there for sure, along with Irish and French. My mom recently did the DNA test and we found out that we had some Scandinavian and some Spanish and Portuguese in us as well. That explains my love for gazpacho!
Given the international nature of the Institute, have you traveled abroad? Any places on your bucket list?
[JU]: I have traveled to Europe—France, England, Italy and Switzerland. Also, Bermuda and Mexico. Besides going back to Italy and Bermuda, I would really love to go to Bali and Greece.
If you could sit down with any historical figure, who would you choose? What is one question you would ask them?
[JU]: It sounds tongue-in-cheek, but I would really like to sit down with Mary of Nazareth (Jesus’s Mom). I would like to have an open discussion with her on motherhood and parenting—I’m really curious if she ever felt like she had no idea what she was doing as a Mom.
Favorite international food?
[JU]: In no particular order: Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern. Does gelato count as an ethnic food [laughs]?
[JU]: I collect vintage Nancy Drew books—I realize it’s not very intellectual for someone with an English minor—but I just love the idea of solving a crime and eating an egg salad sandwich with your “chums”. Words like “nifty”, “pinafore” make me smile. When life seems heavy or overwhelming, somehow these books make me happy.
I also recently read Everything that Remains: A Memoir by Minimalists which talks about simplifying our lives, in all aspects. It centers on the idea that you should “love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”
What can you tell me about your life away from the Institute?
[JU]: I am blessed to be a wife, a Mom to two fierce redheads ages 6 (Colden) and 4 (Everly), and cat (Boris). We live in a big, old, drafty Victorian home that we have been remodeling. I also run; it’s my therapy, things have a way of working themselves out by mile 6, and if not I just run a little longer…or run to the gelato shop [laughs.]
What three traits would you say define you?
[JU]: Happy, Hopeful, and Hungry…