We’re pleased to introduce the Fellows and facilitators of the 2023 Buffalo & Niagara Falls Workforce Leadership Academy! The Academy — launched in partnership by the New York Association for Training and Employment Professionals and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program — brings leaders from across the Buffalo & Niagara Falls workforce ecosystem together for a year-long series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. The Academy provides a forum for local leaders to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions for economic opportunity for all. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply race, equity, and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs.
The Buffalo & Niagara Falls Workforce Leadership Academy is one of eight local academies launched in 2023. Alumni of the Academy become part of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Fellows Network, joining Fellows from fourteen previous Academies in eleven cities in the US and Canada.
Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications, New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP)
Megan Farry is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications at the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP). In this role, she works to support and connect workforce resources throughout the Western New York region, develop and deepen relationships with national best-in-class providers, and oversee NYATEP’s communication efforts. In her previous role with the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, Inc., she was responsible for developing and executing career pathway training programs. Megan is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with experience spanning a variety of industries including commercial real estate, manufacturing, and multinational workforce solution firms. She holds a Communications degree from the State University of New York College at Fredonia.
Executive Director, New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP)
Melinda Mack is the Executive Director of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP), a nationally recognized, leading non-profit membership association in the field of workforce development. During her tenure at NYATEP, Ms. Mack has grown the organization by more than 50% and moved the organization to one focused on innovation. Ms. Mack is a co-lead of the Invest in Skills NY initiative and campaign that successfully engaged the State in 2018 to invest more than $175 million in job training and workforce development.
Ms. Mack has received a baccalaureate degree in Urban and Public Policy from SUNY Buffalo, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and a master’s degree in Regional Planning with a specialization in housing from SUNY Albany. She also is a graduate of the Columbia Business School’s Senior Leaders in Non-Profit Executive program, the New York City Workforce Leaders Academy, and Leadership Buffalo. Ms. Mack proudly serves on the National Skills Coalition Board. She is a published author, frequent commentator in the media. In 2018, she received recognition by City and State Magazine as 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in politics in New York State.
Director of LevelUp
Joelle Monaco is the Director of LevelUp with NYATEP. Joelle’s expertise spans over thirteen years in organizational development with more than eight years in the mental health field. She has extensive experience in assessment, planning, directing, and training enhancements for people and organizational success, working with more than 1,500 individuals annually through creative sessions, training and development, and consulting.
Joelle is a current lecturer for SUNY Albany’s Professional Adult & Continuing Knowledge department and has been a trainer for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing for over six years. Additionally, Joelle currently sits on the board of directors for the New York State Public Health Association.
Joelle received her MBA and BS in Psychology with a minor in Education from the University at Albany, New York.
Operations Managers, Niagara University
Stephanie Bevacqua is the Operations Manager for Niagara University’s Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement, the University’s community outreach office, Stephanie works with both the campus community and various local leaders, policymakers, and service providers. She develops programming in areas such as childhood mental health, pathways to college for rising high school juniors and seniors in underserved neighborhoods, and professional development for early childhood providers. She also facilitates speaker series leading to impactful discussions on university community engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Before working for Niagara University, Stephanie spent fourteen years serving as an adult literacy teacher for Orleans/Niagara BOCES and a New York State Education Department Distance Learning Trainer. Stephanie was formally trained as a public school teacher and holds New York State Teaching Licenses in Elementary Education and Literacy, as well as her School Building Leadership Advanced Certificate.
Stephanie is an alumna of Buffalo State College, Medaille University, and Niagara University.
Manager, Government Affairs & Workforce Development, Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Kristine, a Buffalo native, has been part of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership team since 2021 and is currently the Manager of Government Affairs & Workforce Development. In this role, she is actively engaged in various Employ Buffalo Niagara employer-led workforce development initiatives including their Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) efforts which focus on working with regional employers to address their talent challenges including collaboration with community-based organizations to address training needs.
Kristine previously served as a Deputy Director for a national nonprofit in Washington, DC bringing leaders together to solve problems. Kristine also spent time working on Capitol Hill. She received her degree from the University at Buffalo in Political Science.
Deputy Director, Workforce Development Consortium, Inc Buffalo Employment and Training Center
Dixie Farr is a Buffalo, NY native and University at Buffalo Master of Social Work alumna.She is the Deputy Director for Workforce Development Consortium, Inc., forging relationships with stakeholders to develop inclusive solution-focused plans to reimagine the way workforce services are provided in Erie County
Dixie has worked at Center for Employment Opportunities and currently serves on Erie County Conditional Release Commission, and Erie County Corrections Specialist Advisory Board.
Dixie is a working professional who prioritizes work-life balance by spending quality time with her daughter.
Director of Continuing Education, Buffalo State University
Kristin is the Director of the Continuing Professional Studies office at Buffalo State University, bridging community, academia, and industry and providing individuals the opportunity to flourish through the experience of education.
Previously, Kristin served as a Training Director with Learning, Education and Development Services (LEADS) working with the NYC Department of Social Services to train trainers to authentically engage with participants and place humanity at the center of managerial development. Kristin has also worked privately as a consultant and strategic facilitator for over 20 years.
Kristin serves on the Industry Advisory Council for the Charter School of Applied Technologies and is a member of the Buffalo Executives Association, Amherst Chamber of Commerce, NYATEP, and the Leadership Buffalo class of 2022.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology and a Master of Science degree in Creativity and Change Leadership, both from Buffalo State University. She is a born and raised Buffalonian and mother of two.
Community Engagement & Strategy Lead | Tech Academy, M&T Bank – Tech Academy
Jesana is an advocate, analyst, and strategist based out of Buffalo, NY, currently serving the Western New York region as the Community Engagement and Strategy Lead for the Tech Academy located within M&T Bank‚ Tech Hub. Jesana leads initiatives creating equitable pathways into the Tech Industry. Through this work, Jesana has supported WNYers with no tech experience pivot into tech careers and has engaged 600+ local youth in hands-on activities to make technical ideas relatable.
A Buffalo native and proud Buffalo Public School graduate, Jesana began her career in the non-profit sector working with an education based non-profit. She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business/International Relations and completed her Masters in Strategic Communications at American University.
Success Coach II Buffalo Futures, The Service Collaborative
Ondalee Horton is a Success Coach with the Service Collaborative of Buffalo Futures. Prior to joining Buffalo Futures, Ondalee Horton worked for Catholic Charities of Onondaga County for more than 11 years specializing in Children and Family Services. Ondalee’s role as Coordinator of the Parent Child Plus Program helped Catholic Charities of Onondaga County develop and implement an evidence-based Early Literacy School Readiness home visiting program within the community. Before her work at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Ondalee was the Program Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse.
Ondalee is a community mentor and a certified parent educator. She has instructed the Partners for a Healthy Baby/Lullaby League infant care class, providing prenatal education to first time moms and their partners. She also facilitated and instructed the Incredible Years evidence-based parenting course, mentoring parents as they developed specific parenting skills.
Project Director, Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Lillian is the Project Director at the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO (WNYALF), a federation of affiliated public sector, private sector, and building trades unions throughout the WNY region representing over 140,000 workers. Her work involves conducting strategic research, developing new initiatives, and ensuring all programs are data-driven. Lillian is also a member of a research team at Poverty Solutions, a university-wide presidential initiative at the University of Michigan that partners with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research.
Lillian completed a fellowship in qualitative research methods at the Stanford University Center on Poverty & Inequality, and served on a research team at Iowa State University‚ Public Science Collaborative investigating connections between substance use disorders and labor market outcomes. Lillian holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.
WNY Regional Director, Workforce Development Institute
Mike has been with the Workforce Development Institute since 2008 after graduating from John Carroll University in Ohio. In 2012 he was promoted to Western New York Regional Director and has since developed many relationships with a network of businesses, trainers, educators, and workforce professionals.
Through visits, discussions, and program connectivity, he assists a wide range of industries and sectors with incumbent workforce needs and skills pipeline programs consistent with demand in the region.
Business Intelligence & Workforce Manager, Invest Buffalo Niagara
Rob Leteste is with Invest Buffalo Niagara, and was the organization’s lead for WNY’s winning Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant. As part of that award, Rob led InBN’s 2022 Labor Market Assessment.
Rob spent an Americorps term with the John R. Oishei Foundation’s Mobile Safety-Net Team and worked with the University of Buffalo and State University of New York- Erie to create new economic opportunities for Western NY and prepare the workforce to match employers’ needs.
Rob has pursued extensive training in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This education began with programming sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and was expanded upon with his participation in the national Education Pioneers fellowship. Rob spent most of 2020 in Chicago where he worked to guide future essential health care workers through short-term training programs.
Director of Vocational Services, OLV Human Services
A graduate of the NYATEP Advocacy Academy (2017-18), Carol has worked for OLV Human Services since 2009. Areas of passion include workforce development, networking, inclusive employment and accessible transportation. Professional affiliations include Southtown Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (current term), WNY Employment Consortium and the WNY Workforce Development Collaborative. Carol is a member of Senior Leadership at her organization, and an agency trainer for Trauma Informed Care, Risking Connection. Carol is a proud mother to two young adult daughters, one who is in the US Navy and the other a Hospitality Management student at SUNY Niagara County Community College.
Senior Manager, Program Delivery, Goodwill of WNY
Cassidy Malough is the Senior Manager of Program Delivery at the Goodwill of Western New York. She has worked at Goodwill since June of 2021 and specializes in program development and project management. Cassidy is responsible for the operation of Goodskills Career Builder, a 4-week-long workforce development program. Earlier this year, because of the success of Goodskills, the program was awarded $3.6 M in funding which tripled the size of the program and its impact across WNY.
Cassidy graduated in June of 2021 from the University at Buffalo with a Master of Business Administration and Master of Social Work degrees.In her free time, Cassidy enjoys rock climbing, hiking, canyoning, and camping.
Director of Career Services, Villa Maria College
Joseph is an experienced Director of Workforce Development with a demonstrated history of designing Workforce Development Programs. Joseph currently serves as the Director of Career Services at Villa Maria College where he oversees career readiness training and skill development for all college programs. Throughout his career, his goals have been to build partnerships and collaboration, reduce duplication of services, and streamline connections between education and the workforce to increase access for all adults. His design of the student support services model for the Northland Workforce Training Center serves as a new standard in workforce development design.
Training Coordinator, GreenForce Training, Inc.
Harvey Miles is a U.S. Marine veteran, educator and community programmer. He currently serves as Training Coordinator for GreenForce Training Inc. GreenForce is a nonprofit recruitment and training organization that supports companies and their employees by promoting open jobs within the community, helping companies diversify their workforce, and providing onboarding, case management, and retention support.
Harvey has also served as a GED educator, job developer and program manager at Catholic Charities. In addition, he served as Program Director of the Police Athletic League of Buffalo where he expanded programs available to the City of Buffalo youth including workforce development workshops.
Harvey holds an M.Ed. In Adult Ed. from Buffalo State College, a B.S. in Management from Houghton College, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Instructional Design and E-Learning, and an A.S. from Erie Community College.
Economic Development Coordinator & Team Leader, Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI)
Purnima works at WEDI as the Economic Development Coordinator & Team Leader. Prior to WEDI, she worked for Rich Products Corporation and Coca Cola India. She currently works part time at the BNMC (Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus) as Food as Medicine Coordinator. She is also a facilitator at EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) where she facilitates parenting workshops.
Purnima has volunteered with numerous nonprofits (Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Ronald McDonald house, etc.) and serves in the PTSA at Williamsville North High School and the Western Region PTA. She is the VP of Membership at Downtown Toastmasters and is on the Erie County Arts & Cultural Advisory Board.
In her free time, she enjoys arts and crafts, singing, dancing, cooking, photography, and volunteering. She lives in Amherst with her husband and son. Purnima was named WEDI’s Employee of the Month in January 2022.
Career Services Manager, Jewish Family Services of Western New York
Jake Moskal is the Career Services Manager at Jewish Family Services of Western New York. In his role, he leads a team that is responsible for helping refugees in Buffalo become self-sufficient through gainful employment. The department also provides extended case management services, career development for individuals with disabilities, and career counseling for individuals in the community.
Previously at Jewish Family Services, he served as a Job Developer, developing and maintaining relationships with employers, providing job placement services, and helping refugees achieve their goals of becoming self-sufficient. Jake also has experience as a Job Coach at Community Services for Every1, where he helped individuals with disabilities enter the workforce and maintain their positions.
Jake is a volunteer with the Little Portion Friary Shelter and participates in community outreach events with the None Like You/We Care outreach organization.
He holds a BA in Economics and Philosophy from SUNY Albany, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.
AVP – NextGen Talent, M&T Tech (M&T Bank)
Roscoe Naguit serves as Assistant Vice President of NextGen, a strategic operations component of M&T Tech (M&T Bank). His work with NextGen focuses on aligning the goals of various internal business partners and those of M&T to formulate a sustainable strategy for recruitment and retention of tech talent.
Prior to M&T, Roscoe was Associate Director for Niagara University’s Niagara Global Tourism Institute, fostering innovation and sustainability for the regional tourism industry. His work included the creation of a tourism and hospitality workforce program, a public Wi-Fi network in Niagara Falls’ tourism corridor, and TReC, a coworking and business incubation space in downtown Niagara Falls.
Roscoe serves on several boards across WNY, including Leadership Niagara, WNY National Academic Foundation (WNYNAF), Lewiston Porter Academy of Business & Finance, Niagara Alliance for Restorative Practices, and the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls. Roscoe is an alumnus of Niagara University in Finance & Economics.
President, Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce
Jennifer is President of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, promoting businesses, civic organizations and community involvement. Working alongside her staff and board of directors, Jennifer has grown the chamber’s presence and programming over the past fourteen years.
She is the Chairwomen of the Niagara Area Foundation and the Niagara County Peach Queen Program which awards scholarship funds to young women in Niagara County. Jennifer also serves on the Board of Directors of Destination Niagara Falls USA, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and serves as an ex-officio member of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, serving on several committees. She is the recipient of the YWCA Emerging Leader Award in 2018 and Leadership Niagara 12 under 40 Inaugural Class in 2015, and is a graduate of Leadership Niagara Class of 2011.
Jennifer is a small business owner of The Music Box Lewiston, NY where she is a private music lesson instructor. Jennifer and her husband have four daughters.
Director of Workforce Development, Say Yes Buffalo
Stephanie Peete is the Director of Workforce Development at Say Yes Buffalo, where she cultivates employer relationships, develops programming, leads antiracism initiatives, and contributes to strengthening the youth employment ecosystem in the Buffalo region.
Stephanie earned a Master’s in Public Administration from Hilbert College, and graduated from Canisius College with a dual Bachelor’s in Urban Studies and Sociology.
She currently volunteers as a Say Yes Buffalo Mentor; serves on the Board of Directors for Theatre of Youth as Vice President; is an advisory board member of Women United through the United Way for Buffalo & Erie County; a co-chair for the Women of Color Summit; a 2021 recipient of the Bar Association of Erie County’s Liberty Bell Award, a 2022 Buffalo Business First IDEA Award recipient, and a 2023 ATHENA Young Professional Finalist. Most recently, she and her mother launched Second Chapter Bookstore, which is a Black-owned small business in Buffalo, NY cultivating joy, community, and shared learning while centering the Black experience.
Director, Nonprofit Support Group
Katie is the Director of the Nonprofit Support Group (NSG), a funder working group focused on capacity building for nonprofit organizations in Western New York and Monroe County. She leads the design and oversight of strategy for the NSG. In collaboration with partners, the NSG has introduced new capacity building resources to the community such as Catchafire and Impact HQ and has supported initiatives such as the YWCA Equity through Development Program and the Institute for Nonprofit Practice.
Most recently, Katie served as the Director of Community Impact at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, where she worked with a broad network to advance community initiatives such as the Community Lead Action Plan and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. She brings more than a decade of experience in nonprofits and local government, including the creation of a groundbreaking social service network across Cook County, Illinois focused on providing resources for individuals and families facing eviction.
Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County
Justin is currently serving as the Executive Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. In this role he oversees county-wide educational programing in youth development, nutrition, agriculture & food systems, and the environment & natural resources. He also serves as the Director for the Niagara County Fair. Previously, Justin held leadership positions in the Admissions Offices for Canisius College and Hilbert College.
In addition to his professional roles, Justin has served on the Sweet Home Central District School Board and currently serves on the district-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Justin also serves on the Finance Committee for the WNY Land Conservancy. Justin holds a M.S. and B.S. in Environmental Science from State University of New York College at Brockport.
Vice President of Enrollment and Organizational Advancement, Northland Workforce Training Center
Dr. Storms-Stoltman is the Vice President of Enrollment and Organizational Advancement for Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC). Dr. Storms-Stoltman is responsible for planning, directing, and executing activities within NWTC’s applications, admissions, financial aid processes, and leading NWTC’s collaborative relationships with their educational partners.
Dr. Storms-Stoltman is an experienced higher education professional with over nineteen years combined experience as teaching faculty and collegial project management/administration.
Born, raised, and educated in Western New York, Dr. Storms-Stoltman holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from State University of New York at Buffalo as well as a Master & Bachelor Degree in the same discipline. In addition to teaching in both university and community college environments, she has a research background, experience in best practice-driven workshop development, expertise in both qualitative and quantitative analytical methodologies, administrative, project management, grant writing experience, and is dedicated to data-driven consistent program evolution.
Employment Services Manager II, NYS Department of Labor
Michele Taylor is a Workforce Development Professional with over 13 years of experience providing career counseling, delivering services to businesses, planning and facilitating recruitment and job fair events, and forming partnerships with community organizations. Michele is currently an Employment Service Manager with the New York State Department of Labor where she manages four local Career Centers in the Buffalo/Niagara Region. In this role, she leads staff and partners with local businesses and organizations to support the business community and jobseekers. Her organization serves many underserved and underrepresented customers and helps connect job seekers to employment and training opportunities, including apprenticeship programs and on the job training.
Michele is a member of two Workforce Boards and the Buffalo Niagara Human Resources Association, and is a graduate of the University at Buffalo with a Master of Education Degree in School Counseling. She is a native Western New Yorker and married with three daughters.
Director of Programs and Operations, Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center
Brittany is the Director of Programs and Operations at Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center. She has been with Erie Niagara AHEC for six years and currently serves as the Site Coordinator for PATCH (Providers and Teens Communicating for Health) for HOPE Buffalo and Erie Niagara AHEC.
With nearly 10 years of experience in human services, she brings extensive knowledge of program management, professional education, and youth and community engagement to her position. In her current position, Brittany provides direct oversight of programmatic and grant activities, promotes community partnerships and coalitions, and directs organizational policies and procedures. She also coordinates all activities for the PATCH Program at her center.
Brittany graduated in 2016 with her Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree from the University at Buffalo, where she also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Health and Human Services with a concentration in Community Mental Health in 2013.
Jennifer Van Dusen
Workforce & Education Director, The Construction Exchange of Buffalo & WNY Inc.
Jennifer is the Workforce & Education Director for the Construction Exchange of Buffalo & WNY. She holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Buffalo State College. As Workforce & Education Director, she is responsible for increasing the construction industry’s workforce capacity by promoting careers within the industry and skilled trades to influencers such as school officials, elected representatives, and community groups as well as adult jobseekers and youth. She builds relationships with local workforce development training programs to create industry connections for those wishing to enter the industry, and also engages with industry members to understand their workforce needs and coordinate efforts to address them. In addition, Jenn is in charge of managing and marketing the Construction Exchange University class calendar which provides industry-specific education.