Our Team

Excellence Through Experienced Staff

ATA’s uncommon staff is truly “at home” in the world. Combined, we have over 325 years experience in the travel industry, and we speak 15 different languages – from Mandarin to French, Arabic to Japanese. The fact that we have lived in, and traveled to, more than 40 countries gives us an insider’s view that helps us design travel experiences that go beyond the surface.

Kate Simpson – President

Kate, daughter of an American diplomat, spent most of her youth in France where she was born. Fluent in French, Kate settled on a more “exotic” language in college, where she fell in love with Mandarin and all things Chinese. Kate has lived and studied in Australia, Algeria, Ireland and Taiwan... Read more >

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Chase Poffenberger – Executive Vice President

Chase is a veteran of Academic Travel, having begun her career as a China Program Designer just three short months before the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing that redirected her job, and her life! She has since worn many hats during her tenure… Read more >

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Mark Lenhart – Executive Director of CET Academic Programs

Mark has worked for CET since 1990, when he began as Resident Director of CET’s Harbin Chinese Language Program. After nearly five years studying and working in China, he became CET’s Director in 1995… Read more >

Visit www.cetacademicprograms to read more about our CET staff and programs.

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David Parry – Chairman

Dave proves that there is no cure for the itch to travel the world. His most memorable moments include sneaking into Russia twice; standing in Wyoming’s South Pass where so many pioneers crossed; criss-crossing Russia and China in the bad old days… Read more >

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Sarah Saleh – Vice President of Finance & Administration

Sarah came to ATA from an unlikely field of study: classical music. A French horn player who received a Bachelors of Music degree, she got the travel bug on orchestra tours in Europe, and spent a year in Florence, Italy, before joining ATA over twenty years ago… Read more >

Emma Impavido – Director of Educational Travel Programs 

Emma Impavido was born in the UK. She spent 3 years as a child in Paris and was bitten by the travel bug at an early age. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and spent extended periods in Venice, Milan, and the south of France… Read more >

Jocelyn Flint- Director of Communications

Jocelyn’s tenure with the organization started in 2001 within ATA’s study abroad division, CET. Jocelyn first served as Academic Director of CET’s Chinese Language program in Beijing and then relocated to the United States in 2003 to take on the role of China Programs Manager… Read More >

Wade Jennings – Creative Manager 

Wade was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and spent most of his childhood exploring the many miles of beaches and surfing the waves at Assateague Island’s National Seashore. As a competitive cyclist, he spent years racing in the U.S. pro-am circuit, as well as training abroad in places such as the Sierra Nevadas in the region of Granada and Almería in Spain… Read more >

Melinda Schrom – Senior Marketing Manager 

Melinda is an Arizona native and spent her childhood traveling across the United States camping and hiking in the National Parks. While attending Arizona State, she had the opportunity to study abroad in France and work for a French company as a marketing intern in Paris. After receiving her B.S. in Marketing and a minor in French, she spent a year in Aurillac, France.… Read more >

Megan Brothers – Marketing and Production Coordinator

Megan graduated from James Madison University with a BS in Corporate Communication, and a minor in Creative Writing. Prior to her position on the Sales and Creative Team, Megan worked on the Reservations Team here at ATA. Megan is … Read more >

Emma Willoughby – Program Manager

Emma is a Los Angeles native who was lucky enough to spend her childhood traipsing through Europe exploring France, Switzerland, Ireland, and Norway visiting family. She earned her BA at the University of California Berkeley in International Political Economics, and spent a semester studying at the University of Delhi… Read more >

Samantha Barrie – Senior Program Manager

Samantha Barrie grew up in the Washington, DC area and attended Northwestern University and New York University.  She holds a BA in Arts Management and Theatre & Film Production. She has been on the artistic staffs of some of the country’s most prestigious non-profit theatres, including The Public Theater and Roundabout Theatre in New York and The Old Globe in San Diego… Read more >

Julie Elias – Program Coordinator

Julie is a Baltimore native with a passion for exploring new places and ideas. She graduated from Dickinson College with a B.A. in American Studies, and studied abroad in Norwich, England. After graduating she took the summer off and visited… Read more >

Alyza Wiener – Program Assistant

Originally from New Jersey, Alyza moved to Washington, DC by way of Seattle, where she began her career in travel with REI Adventures. Alyza has a BA in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts and studied abroad in Argentina and… Read more >

Titus Yao – Director of Human Resources and Administration

Titus began his career in Human Resources in 2005 while in undergrad at the University of Florida. In 2010, Titus studied abroad during grad school in Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan where he fell in love with traveling abroad. He has spent his career working in international and domestic HR roles… Read more >

Madison Eckroade – Recruiting and Human Resources Manager

Madison graduated from Pennsylvania State University (BA, 2012) with a degree in Labor and Employment RelationsRead more

Meredith Akery – Senior Manager, Finance and Accounting

Meredith studied abroad in Madrid while studying Spanish and Law at The College of New Jersey. She worked in Education Abroad in NYC at CUNY and LIU Global while earning her MSEd in Higher Education Administration at Baruch College… Read more >

Brooke Masterson– Accounting Associate 

Brooke grew up in Baltimore, MD and attended Coastal Carolina University. She earned her BA in Psychology and a minor in Health Promotions. During her senior year at Coastal Carolina University, she participated in a study abroad program to Sierra Leone, Africa. This experience ignited her love of travel… Read more >

Cherie Mason – HR Generalist 

Cherie joined us when she changed her career path to human resources after a successful career in professional development and meetings where she managed leadership programs and executed key meetings and high profile events. She has always been a people person and has a passion for helping… Read more >

Question and Answer Dice As Symbol For InformationDepartment of Guest Services Advisors

Kate Desvenain, Director of Clients Services Read more >

Direct line: 202 785-9000 x 7382

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Operations –  Booked Guests on ATA Operated Trips

envelope| Megan Burden | 202 349-0681 x 7381

envelope| Kristen Sotzing | 202-349-7323 x 7323

envelope| Grace Soriano | 202-349-7357 x 7357

envelope| Cara Hissey | 202-349-0674 x 7375

Reservations/Call Center 

envelope| John Scaggs | 202-349-7353 x 7353

envelope| Marie Freeman | 202 349-0673 x 7376

envelope| Maxwell Durbin | 202-750-8071 x 7373

Guest Services Advisors Background Information

Megan Burden graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in International Affairs and History. Megan spent a Semester at Sea traveling to 12 different ports of call on four continents. Megan’s previous work included two years as a Peace Corps as a Foreign Language Teacher in Madagascar. She also served as a staff intern at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and at the International Peace Initiative in Kenya. Megan is a native of Seattle, WA.

Kristen Sotzing graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a BA in Spanish. She spent a semester in Spain and then took a month to travel throughout Europe. She also volunteered in Nicaragua for 3 months after she graduated. Prior to ATA, she taught Spanish at a middle school in Richmond, VA. Kristen is a native of Connecticut.

Grace Soriano joined ATA after working several years as an Event Planner with organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. As a first-generation American, Grace often traveled at a young age to her family’s home country of the Philippines and has had a passion for traveling ever since. She is a native of New Jersey, but moved to Washington, D.C. to earn her BA in Public Communications at American University.

Cara Hissey graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences. Her interest in travel was sparked at a young age, after traveling Europe extensively with her family. She spent a month in Peru where she volunteered at an orphanage. A native of Long Island, New York, she relocated to Washington, D.C, to start her professional life at ATA.


John Scaggs graduated with an MA from George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs. He earned his BA in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University. John also studied at the Asia Institute for Political Economy (Hong Kong). Prior to ATA, he worked at the Atlantic Council, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and volunteered for various organizations, including church missions in Guatemala, Mexico and Germany. John commutes from the Annapolis area to ATA.

Marie Freeman is an Ohio native who moved to Virginia after receiving her BA in English-Professional Writing from Miami University of Ohio. She discovered her love for educational travel after studying abroad in London, England during the summer of 2014. After graduation, she worked as a dog-sitter in the DMV area. She loves dogs, theater, reading, writing, and travelling.

Maxwell Durbin studied psychology and gender studies at American University and hopes to someday be a clinical psychologist. He also loves art and history and hopes to travel lots in his lifetime. Although he has lived in several states, he is most recently from Pittsburgh, PA, but now calls Washington, D.C. home.