Laura Caley, Employment Services Program Manager
A nature enthusiast, Ms. Caley leads New American Integration’s workforce development initiatives to encourage economic growth across Western New York.
Where are you from and how long you have been at the Institute?
[LC]: I grew up between Fairport and the more rural Finger Lakes region in Springwater, NY. I’ve been with the Institute for two and a half years collectively in various roles, including Case Manager, Refugee Health Promoter, and Resettlement Coordinator.
What has led you to the Institute?
[LC]: I received my bachelor’s in Sociology from SUNY Geneseo with the intentions of becoming a social worker. It was sort of coincidental that I ended up working with refugees; I was just really trying to get my foot in the door working for a non-profit. I was very fortunate to be offered a job shortly after I interviewed here, starting as a Case Manager. I remember feeling so unprepared for that level of responsibility, but looking back, it was the perfect experience for me so early in my professional career. Due to policy changes and a reduction in hours, I left the Institute and moved in the direction of employment and staffing in the private sector for three years between San Francisco and Buffalo. I always knew I wanted to return to the non-profit sector in a more operational capacity. When I came back to Buffalo after living in California, I found the opportunity to return to the Institute—so here I am.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about working at an organization like the Institute?
[LC]: The opportunity to welcome individuals that have been through tremendous hardship to a place they can call home. Watching our clients’ progress and rebuild. Giving back to our shared city … it’s an easy job to love.
What is the first word that comes to mind when I say “International Institute of Buffalo”?
What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
[LC]: It’s not quite an accomplishment yet [laughs], but I am collaborating with some childhood friends on a project that has been adopted by Engineers without Borders to build a well for a remote village, Kimaut, in Kenya. We recently traveled to the community this January on a first assessment trip. At this stage in the project, we are giving presentations, solidifying funding and working on acquiring a grant through a Rotary Club in Houston to implement the project. We are hoping to return in February 2019 to build.
Since the Institute works with diverse people from all over the world, can you share with us your own heritage?
[LC]: From both sides of my family, I have some Tuscarora and Cherokee Indian heritage with some Manx and Italian thrown in as well. Some neat trivia about my family: on my paternal side, I am somehow related to Arthur Caley, the Manx Giant who was the tallest man in the world (7’11”) during his lifetime. Also, my great-great grandfather co-owned a carriage company (Caley and Nash Inc.) that made renowned carriages, based in Rochester, NY.
Given the international nature of the Institute, have you traveled abroad? Any places on your bucket list?
[LC]: I’ve been to Thailand, Belize, Kenya, pretty deep into the Canadian wilderness, and Mexico. I’ve also explored a decent amount of the U.S … we have a really beautiful country. The bucket list is expansive but Nepal, Uganda, Peru, and Morocco top it.
If you could sit down with any historical figure, who would you choose? What is one question you would ask them?
[LC]: John Wesley Powell, a scientist and explorer of the American West. I would have a lot of questions for him, but I would start by asking for a play-by-play of his expedition down an undammed Colorado River. Anyone who knows me, knows my love of the Grand Canyon.
Favorite ethnic food?
[LC]: Really a hard question—between The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko and Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall.
What can you tell me about your life away from the Institute?
[LC]: Time outdoors is a necessity of my spirit— hiking, running, camping, kayaking, and skiing. I also consider myself an amateur birder, in that I like birds and pointing them out. I aspire to take that hobby more seriously someday…
What three traits would you say define you?
[LC]: Adventurous, advocate and ebullient.