Three decades ago, Jane Leu, a refugee resettlement caseworker and social entrepreneur, toured a New York poultry processing plant that was considered a model employer for refugees. The plant owner introduced her to two standout employees: one had been an engineer in Iraq and the other a surgeon in Bosnia. The meeting was eye-opening to Jane: How many other internationally-trained professionals were working in subsistence jobs that did not utilize their professional skills? What did these individuals–and the country–lose with these missed opportunities?
At her kitchen table, Jane crafted a plan that would become the first organization focused on connecting an estimated two million un- and under-employed immigrants and refugees living in the U.S. with pathways to professional success, while also working to advance the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce.
Business plan in hand, she recognized that the organization needed a name: “I wanted to express the mutual benefit of immigrant inclusion: economic mobility for immigrants and refugees, with the benefits of global mindsets–diversity, resilience and innovation–for our country.”
Upwardly Global was born in 1999 – the first organization to focus on workforce inclusion of immigrants and refugees with international credentials. Over 20 years later, we are a leading national nonprofit that has supported more than 18,000 internationally trained professionals and U.S. employers in succeeding together.
Over two decades, the organization has grown to have offices in four cities across the country, remote jobseekers in other states and a digital infrastructure to scale its work nationally. With the leadership of three visionary female CEOs, Upwardly Global’s work has received numerous national awards and recognitions, and is cited internationally as a standard for inclusion and innovation. Today, we remain committed to advancing the powerful vision of a nation where everyone–including immigrants and refugees–can contribute and thrive.