USCRI Albany Staff
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lavinia Limón has more than thirty years of experience working on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Prior to joining USCRI in August of 2001, Ms. Limón was Director of the Center for the New American Community, a project of the National Immigration Forum. During the Clinton Administration, Ms. Limón served as the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Health and Human Services, designing and implementing programs to assist newly arriving refugees in achieving economic and social self-sufficiency. She served simultaneously as the Director of the Office of Family Assistance for four years, helping to devise policies and strategies for implementing national welfare reform. Ms. Limón was previously the Executive Director of the International Institute of Los Angeles
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Lee Williams joined USCRI as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in August 2009. Prior to joining, he was the Executive Director of the International Institute of Akron (Ohio), a USCRI partner agency, for two years. Mr. Williams’ early career was in client services and international banking. He was Vice President of the Morgan Stanley Trust Company, Vice President of Deutsche Bank Global Institutional Services, and Managing Principal of Capco – a capital markets company. Mr. Williams holds a Graduate Certificate of Non-Profit Management from Case Western Reserve University, a Master's degree in International Management from The Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a Bs.L from Georgetown University in Arabic.
Director of Government and Community Relations
Stacie Blake has responsibility for building and maintaining strong and positive relationships with government, elected and community supporters. From 2002-2005 she led the USCRI Vermont field office welcoming hundreds of newly arrived refugees and their families. She was recognized by the Vermont Legislature with a Joint Resolution of Appreciation for her work with refugees and immigrants across the state. She led the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture for three years and developed and launched the National Partnership for Community Training-a research based collaborative to share best practices for communities with limited resources for torture survivors. Prior to rejoining USCRI she was the Executive Director of Community Tampa Bay promoting a vision of ending discrimination. Ms. Blake holds two degrees from the University of Vermont and was elected twice as a member of the Mount Mansfield Union School District. She is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute and Leadership Florida.
Director of Albany Field Office
Ms. Peckenpaugh is the Director of USCRI's field office in Albany, NY which resettles refugees arriving mainly from Burma, Iraq, Bhutan, and various African nations. Prior to joining USCRI Albany, she was the Director of Program Management at Cross-Cultural Solutions, an international volunteering organization. Ms. Peckenpaugh has over twenty years of experience in organizational development, specializing in multi-cultural populations in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. This background serves her well in leading a diverse team of eleven staff members and managing seven different federal and state-funded programs. She holds an M.S. in Training and Development from Lesley University and a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Ali Al Dahhan
Case Manager, Reception and Placement
Mr. Al Dahhan is originally from Iraq and came to the United States in February 2013 as a refugee; he joined USCRI in June of the same year. He is fluent in Arabic and worked as a volunteer interpreter for USCRI before becoming a Case Manager. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering of Computer and Control and worked in a variety of industries prior to coming to the U.S. He is committed to helping refugees because he can empathize with their experience, having been a refugee himself.
Yaser Al Mahdawi
Program Manager, BRIA Program
Yaser Al Mahdawi joined USCRI Albany in May 2008. In his current role, he provides job development and other support services to refugees and immigrants under the New York State BRIA (Bureau of Refugees and Immigrants Assistance) contract. Previously, Mr. Al Mahdawi served as a Reception and Placement Case Manager. Prior to joining USCRI Albany, he volunteered as a liaison for the newly-arrived Iraqi refugee community in Albany. Being a native of Iraq, his language skills and cultural background have enabled him to continue to serve Arabic-speaking refugees in Albany. Mr. Al Mahdawi has previous leadership experience in culturally diverse organizations, having served as the Officer-in-Charge for humanitarian projects in a French nongovernmental organization and with the United Nations Development Program. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science, is fluent in Arabic, and has basic literacy in French.
Mr. Bader joined USCRI Albany in January 2011. He works to streamline financial processes to enhance direct refugee assistance and serves as liaison with USCRI headquarters Finance staff. Prior to joining USCRI Albany, Mr. Bader worked in Iraq for a non-governmental organization as a Community Development Officer. His background also includes experience in international trade and administration for commercial projects. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Engineering Science and is fluent in Arabic.
Since January 2009, Jen Barkan has managed a dynamic volunteer program, engaging over 100 community members to support newly arriving refugees in the Albany area. Ms. Barkan also coordinates fundraising and community partnerships that strengthen and enhance USCRI Albany’s programs. Her experience includes over eight years working with diverse nonprofit and grassroots organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Connecticut, and now in New York. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Wesleyan University and participated in the International Honors Program in Global Ecology, traveling to five countries on different continents to study communities’ responses to globalization.
Immigration Services Coordinator
Ms. Comstock joined USCRI in May 2011. As Immigration Services Coordinator, she provides legal assistance for clients with immigration needs, including family reunification, adjustments to permanent resident status, and naturalization. Prior to her arrival at USCRI, Ms. Comstock worked as a researcher and advocate for immigrants' rights and immigration policy reform. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Art History from the State University of New York, Buffalo and a J.D. from Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law.
After nearly a year as a valued intern learning the role of and guidelines for refugee resettlement, Ms. Cutonilli joined the USCRI Albany staff in March 2009 as a Case Manager. She works primarily with newly-arrived refugees from Bhutan and has been instrumental in streamlining processes of the Reception and Placement team. Ms. Cutonilli is a 2008 graduate from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY where she received a Bachelor’s degree in International Political Science. During her studies, she focused on Human Rights and the roles held by women throughout the world. She speaks some Arabic.
Case Manager, Matching Grant
Katharina Kieser joined the USCRI Albany team in January 2012 as Matching Grant Case Manager and Job Developer. Prior to her current position, Mrs. Kieser volunteered for USCRI Albany for one year, navigating refugee families through the U.S. school system and assisting with direct support services for refugees. Mrs. Kieser is originally from Austria, and has previously worked at Südwind Agentur in Vienna, developing outreach campaigns on migration and global sustainability issues and assisted in coordinating a student exchange program at the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). Mrs. Kieser received a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural and Social Anthropology from the University of Vienna, Austria.
Zaw Myat Min
Case Manager, Reception and Placement
Mr. Min is originally from Burma and resettled in Rensselaer, NY in June 2000. Before coming to the United States, he served as a medic under the leadership of the All Burma Student Democratic Front from 1991 to 1997 at the Thai-Burmese border. Mr. Min also assisted at a medical clinic at a refugee camp and served as second-in-charge for a hospital funded by the International Rescue Committee. While there, he served internally displaced ethnic groups, especially Karenni and various other ethnic minority groups. Soon after his own arrival in New York, he began assisting others from the Burmese refugee community. He accompanied them to local government agencies, medical clinics, and hospitals while working full-time at Sealy, a mattress manufacturing company. In 2008, after volunteering as an interpreter for the Community Orientation program, Mr. Min joined USCRI Albany in the role of Case Manager to serve all refugees coming from various ethnic groups from Burma, including Karen, Karenni, Chin, and Shan.
Ms. Sargent has general responsibilities for the smooth running of USCRI Albany. She is also a BIA (Bureau of Immigration Affairs) accredited representative, with responsibilities for the family-based immigration program. She is an immigrant from the United Kingdom with a background in pharmaceutical research and health care. In 2001, she immigrated to the United States and was a founding member of USCRI Albany in 2005.