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
Senior Vice President for Global Engagement
Mr. Eskinder Negash is a recognized Senior Executive leader and brings over 35 years of proven not-for-profit management experience working on behalf of refugees and immigrants and managing non-profit social service agencies. Mr. Negash served as Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the largest government funded refugee resettlement organization in the world, within the Administration of Children and Families, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 - 2015. With a budget of over 1.5 billion, the Office of Refugee Resettlement plays a critical role in providing essential services to a wide range of vulnerable people through the Resettlement Program, Rescue & Restore anti-trafficking campaign, and the Unaccompanied Children's Program. Under his leadership, ORR has served more than 400,000 refugees, 150,000 asylees, 125,000 Cuban and Haitian Entrants, nearly 21,000 Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, 3,200 Victims of Trafficking, over 32,000 U.S. repatriates, and almost 116,000 unaccompanied children. Altogether, that is more than 850,000 people, in six years.
Prior to his appointment by the Obama Administration, he served as the vice president and chief operating officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide. Before joining USCRI, Mr. Negash served as vice president and chief administrative officer of the International Institute of Los Angeles for 15 years. Mr. Negash also served as a board member with several non-profit organizations, including two years as chair of the Joint Voluntary Agencies Committee of California, chair of the California State Refugee Advisory Council, and board member of Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). In 2009, Mr. Negash received an Outstanding American by Choice award from DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which recognizes naturalized U.S. citizens who have made significant contributions to both their community and their adopted country. In 2010, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) honored Mr. Negash as one of ten distinguished men and women whose stories of hope and transformation epitomize the refugee journey.
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.
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.
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.