I’m very excited to announce that our Higher program is gaining a talented new staff member, Lorel Donaghey. Starting July 29, she will be adding her deep expertise to our team as Higher’s Research and Communications Specialist.
Lorel Donaghey comes to us from six and a half years in Texas at the Caritas of Austin Employment Program. There, she worked as Senior Employment Specialist and Job Developer, piloting both of those positions as the Employment unit expanded from 4 to 11 staff members. She also served on the Higher Peer Advisory Network, contributing to our blog and other publications, and in online and peer exchange workshops. Previously, she worked to strengthen nonprofits internationally in training, assessment, organizational development, and field office management. Lorel has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, speaks Russian and Spanish, and brings a strong belief in the importance of helping refugees and other immigrant families succeed in the United States.
For those of you who might not yet be familiar with Higher, the program provides newcomer workforce solutions to corporations across the United States while supporting career entry and advancement for resettled refugees and other new Americans. Begun as RefugeeWorks, this program has served as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement’s training and technical assistance arm for employment and self-sufficiency activities for 15 years. Higher nurtures welcoming communities by assisting corporations, states, counties, resettlement agencies, ethnic-community based organizations, workforce development boards, and policymakers in their efforts to help refugees gain economic stability and create opportunities to fully participate in the American dream.
Lorel will primarily focus on Higher’s website, virtual trainings, and other online communications that are critical to the technical assistance we provide to front-line refugee employment professionals. Lorel’s experience on the front lines, as well as her innovative ideas on how to strengthen refugee employment services, are really going to benefit Higher and LIRS as a whole.
I had a chance to ask Lorel a few questions about her new role. Here’s what she said:
What personal experiences led you to become so committed to standing with refugees?
My commitment to standing with refugees really began with my previous career in international development. When I came back to live in the United States, I wanted work that continued to engage with different cultures and had a global element. Soon, admiration for the resilience, spirit and diverse contributions refugees make here at home joined that need for a broader worldview in my every day life as a sustaining motivation to continue working with refugee resettlement programs.
What excites you most about working with Higher?
I’ve had a little crush on LIRS since participating in Higher strategic planning with Higher Director Rebecca Armstrong and LIRS Vice President for Programs and Protection Mike Mitchell, and after hearing the expertise of the employment professionals in the LIRS field network whom I’ve met at Higher events. So, I’m really thrilled to contribute in a more direct way.
But, I’m actually most excited about finding yet another way in which my life intersects with that of my great Aunt Dee, who lived across the street from my family and was 101 when she died. She married a Lutheran minister when she was in her late 30s after traveling to attend college with her sisters in a covered wagon, graduating from Columbia in the late 1800’s as one of the first women to attend and traveling to Cuba as a missionary in a steam ship from New York City. I definitely have her spirit of adventure and use the trunk she traveled with as a coffee table. I hope I have her longevity, too!
What do you most hope to achieve while in your new position?
I’ve long wanted to do more work with online content and social media, especially after blogging for Higher as I started the Job Development function at Caritas of Austin, so I’m excited for the chance to further hone those skills in my new position. Through that part of my work, I really hope I can help add the knowledge and passion of the LIRS and Refugee Employment networks to the ongoing national conversation around immigration reform and the valuable contribution made by immigrants (including refugees) throughout U.S. history.
I’m thrilled that Lorel is joining our team, and I hope all of our friends and allies will have a chance to meet and work with her. Welcome, Lorel!