Happy Quinquatrus!

Minerva_courtesy_of_VromaToday on the Ancient Roman calendar marks the Quinquatrus – a celebration of Minerva.  It is especially appropriate then to celebrate her here at Academic Travel Abroad where we offer educational tours and study abroad experiences because Minerva was a goddess of learning and scholars.

The festival commemorating Minerva continued in Rome for five days. The first and most important day, was the consecration of her temple on the Aventine and the following days consisted of gladiatorial contests, a display of wild animals,  plays, orators, poets, and the consultation of fortune tellers.

Make sure to wish your teachers a very happy Quinquatrus today!


Transition of Ownership at ATA


David and Susan Parry sell final shares to Kate Simpson and Chase Poffenberger on January 1, 2012

Washington, DC, December, 2011—Academic Travel Abroad, a 61-year old international travel company that has served the country’s elite non-profit organizations, museums, and universities in operating specialized educational and immersive study abroad programs, will transition to new owners on January, 1, 2012. Long time employees and co-owners Kate M. Simpson and Chase V. Poffenberger will acquire the company’s remaining shares from David and Susan Parry in January 1, 2012.

On staff since the late 1980’s, Simpson and Poffenberger worked with David Parry to ensure the long term stability of the company through diversification of its portfolio. In 1994, ATA acquired CET Academic Programs, a premier study abroad organization. In 2008, the American Museum of Natural History in New York outsourced the management of their travel program (Expeditions) to ATA.  In 2009, the company launched Professionals Abroad to develop and market high quality international professional programs to associations for their members’ career development and continuing education. In addition, the company manages the reservation and customer service centers for National Geographic Expeditions and The American Museum of Natural History’s Expeditions.

Kate Simpson became ATA’s President in 2005. She is involved in all aspects of Academic Travel Abroad’s business, including its study abroad division, CET Academic Programs (www.cetacademicprograms.com). In 2008, she completed a three-year executive education program for owners and presidents at Harvard Business School and holds a degree in East Asian Studies from Yale University. She serves on the Board of Directors of NTA (the nation’s premier tour operator association) and is Vice President of the Board for the Fund for Education Abroad. (www.fundforeducationabroad.org).

Chase Poffenberger has served as Executive Vice President for the past five years. She oversees ATA’s tour business partnerships with non-profit institutions, as well as its professional delegation division, Professionals Abroad (www.professionalsabroad.org). Chase also leads ATA’s Sales & Creative team, developing new product and brainstorming new marketing approaches.  Chase completed her MBA at the University of Maryland in 1998 and holds a BA in Chinese Studies from Wellesley College.

David Parry acquired Academic Travel Abroad in 1972 from Fritz Kaufman, an Austrian Jewish refugee who committed to educating Americans about the world after WW2.

During my forty years in travel, I found myself in four or five different businesses as the industry changed. Exciting times! Since Kate and Chase became owners in 2005, they have charted a wise course balancing risk management with innovative new business approaches, and have achieved amazing results, even during an economic downturn. Now I look forward to passing the torch to Kate and Chase to shape the future of ATA,” said Parry. “For my part, I’ll serve happily as a consultant; continue to hike in the Alps and spend more time with my grandchildren!

Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.



British Autos & the Goodwood Festival of Speed

See our slideshow below.

Ever wanted to mash the gears as you throttle through chicanes in select British sports car classics at Haynes International Motor Museum’s test track?  What about attend the world-renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed?

Smithsonian Journeys and Academic Travel Abroad present a unique travel opportunity:

British Cars and the Goodwood Festival of Speed
June 27- July 5, 2010.

This is a rare chance for car aficionados and fellow gear-heads to experience behind-the-scenes production and performance of some of the world’s fastest and finest British classic and modern sports cars while taking in-depth look at English auto racing from past to present.

Aston Martin DB9

Collector and Associate Publisher of Hagerty’s Magazine, Jonathan Stein, will lead you through the highlights of the tour include walking the production floors of esteemed Aston Martin and Jaguar and visiting private collections including the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Collection and Donington’s renowned collection of Grand Prix cars from the 1930s to the present.  Participants will get the unique chance to ride in British sports cars and carve around the track at the Haynes International Motor Museum.  This tour concludes at Britain’s largest celebration of motor sport history – the Festival of Speed at Goodwood where you’ll witness live auctions, motorsport track racing and true countless collectors who share a mutual passion and lifestyle of automotive enthusiasm.

To book this tour or find more information, visit http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/britishcars2010/
or call 1-877-338-8687.

Academic Travel Abroad & Professionals Abroad

On December 1st, I watched as President Obama announced his intention to send an additional 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan to create a “surge” and hopefully end the war. In November, I watched as President Obama made his first visit to China and to Russia. I watched as our world leaders celebrated the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and later communism in Eastern Europe. I watched as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton visited the Middle East, seeking peace between Israel and Palestine. All of these events happening over the last 90 days.

Coincidentally, the last 90 days have marked the launching of Professionals Abroad, a new arm of Academic Travel Abroad. The Mission of Professionals Abroad is to provide an avenue for global professional counterparts to share one–on–one, their professional challenges and experiences. Selected teams of professionals, representing their associations will travel to host countries and participate in round table discussions, site visits and social events. All with the goal of learning more about the lives of their counterparts and to gain an understanding of the culture and history of the countries they visit.

Imagine mental health professionals and grief counselors traveling to the epicenter of the earth quake in China, to discuss Disaster Mental Health with the teams of Chinese professionals who are helping the people of this rural area to deal with their devastating loss. Imagine global water environment professionals meeting in Israel to discuss the advances and challenges faced by the Israeli people to ensure clean and abundant water supplies. Imagine a team of professional and academic women representing many of the top institutions in United States, traveling to the Middle East to meet with political and academic women leaders. Further, imagine a team of undergraduate future women leaders traveling along side their mentors, learning and preparing for success in the globalized world. This is Professionals Abroad, and these are just a few of the teams launched for 2010.

As the Director of Professionals Abroad, my vision is to see these teams of professionals gain unparalleled access to their counterparts globally. Through this access, individual citizens can support the missions of our nation’s leaders, as we seek to ensure global peace, and to establish the individual personal relationships necessary to ensure cooperation and lasting professional friendships.

Dawn Davis
Professional Abroad

New Professionals Abroad website coming in January.

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CET Director Mark Lenhart’s Interview with the Global Times

logo cet_logo_white

Education abroad lets you see home in new light

• Source: Global Times

• [22:26 August 25 2009]

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Link to article online at:


• Comments

Editor’s Note:

Along with the emerging economy of China, Chinese language and culture are becoming more popular subjects of study in the US, and more students are coming to China to study. The following is an interview by the Global Times (GT) reporter Chen Chenchen with Mark Lenhart (Lenhart), director of CET Academic Programs, a Washington-based study abroad organization founded in 1982.

GT: How did CET start its business in China? Why do you bring students to China, rather than simply teaching them Chinese in the US?

Lenhart: The roots of CET are really in China. Our first Chinese language program was in Beijing in the summer of 1982. We expanded in China in the 1980s and 1990s, but CET did not begin to operate programs outside of China until 1997.

We now operate in Vietnam, Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, and we’re developing new programs in Japan and the Middle East. But more than 50 percent of CET’s students choose to study in China.

We currently send around 600 students to China, and the majority of them are American. This number is still growing.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of our students stay in China after they graduate. It is wonderful to see them build lives in China, find professional success, and contribute to China’s development.

Many students arrive in our programs with simplistic ideas about what China is like, and as time goes on and as they learn both inside and outside the classroom, their old views are challenged.

Some are critical of what they see, but by the end of their semester or academic year in China, they develop a more nuanced view. They come to understand how complicated China is and how much China has achieved in the last 30 years.

Quite often, they also develop a clearer picture of the US, and they arrive home more critical of American media, our foreign policy, and our economic system.

This is the true benefit of education abroad. Because students experience firsthand life in a very different country, they begin to think critically about the US and its role in the world. They are then in a much better position to solve problems and to create positive change.

GT: How does CET promote China overseas?

Lenhart: While CET makes an effort to distinguish its China programs from the competitors’ programs, we really don’t have to do much to promote China as a destination. Students know from the news, classes and friends that China is a fascinating place of contradictions and change. This is very exciting for me.

When I was a student in the mid- 1980s, it was difficult to find China in the US media or even as a subject in my college classes. Now there is something about China on the front page of the Wall Street Journal every day.

It is not CET’s job to represent China as traditional or modern. Instead, we try to expose students to as much as we can about China, and we try to give them the tools they need to make their own connections and to learn from their Chinese teachers and peers.

We have programs that offer students courses taught in English about China. These courses focus on a variety of topics, including Chinese history, China’s economy, and Chinese society.

Some of our faculty members are Chinese, and some are from other parts of the world, so they offer a variety of perspectives. No matter what their own views are, they try to present information about China objectively so that students can draw their own conclusions.

I personally find it fascinating to see how “traditional China” is presented to foreigners, just as I’m interested in how Americans represent the US to outsiders.

I’ve watched Peking Opera performances dozens of times, but the audience for these performances is nearly entirely foreign.

If foreigners did not visit China, would Peking Opera become a thing of the past?

Similarly, ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province have made a concerted effort to preserve and present their traditional culture to tourists from both abroad and China’s urban areas. If tourism did not exist, would these traditions survive?

I think it’s interesting to consider how everyday people represent their own culture. I hope our students think critically about these questions, and that they discuss them with their Chinese friends.

GT: According to the students’ feedback, have their China experiences changed their original perspectives and how?

Lenhart: Students often write to me that China “changed their lives.” They don’t always elaborate, but I think the changes I’ve described above are at the heart of what changes. They come home with a deeper understanding of China and the US.

In addition, many experience tremendous personal growth – they develop new levels of independence and confidence, and they start to think more broadly about “how to learn.”

Happily, most of our students also return home with lasting friendships with Chinese students. They all make an effort to maintain and renew these friendships when they stay in China after they graduate.

China also changed my life. Of course it was a completely different place when I first studied here in 1987. But my experience was not unlike what our students experience today. I made incredible friendships with Chinese students, I traveled more in China than I had ever in the US, and I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Chinese people from all walks of life.

I knew when I finally left China in 1992 that I would commit myself to promoting US-China educational exchange, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make a career out of this commitment.

GT: What suggestions do you have for those who deeply want to know about China, but don’t have a way to get here?

Lenhart: I think that most Americans can find ways to get to China, even if they face difficult economic constraints. There are more and more scholarships and loans available to students who wish to study overseas.

Since I believe that there really is nothing quite like studying in China, even for a very short time, my advice to those who face these barriers is to find ways around them.”

Link to article online at:


ATA to Launch New “Professionals Abroad” Division


Professionals Abroad debuts on September 1, 2009

Washington, DC, September 2009—Academic Travel Abroad, a 59-year old international travel company that has served the country’s elite non-profit organizations, museums, and universities in operating specialized educational and cultural programs, will launch a new sales division on September 1st.

Professionals Abroad will develop and market high quality international professional programs to associations for their members’ career development, continuing education and cultural enrichment. These programs will provide an opportunity for associations to engage in counterpart exchange and international outreach.  Dawn Davis, formerly the Executive Director of Citizen Ambassador Program, a division of the People to People Ambassador Program in Spokane, Washington, will lead the Professionals Abroad team. Dawn brings over twenty years of experience with professional delegations to ATA, and maintains strong relationships with many of the country’s largest professional organizations.

ATA has ensured its long term stability through diversification of its portfolio. In 1994, ATA acquired CET Academic Programs, a premier study abroad organization. In 2005, ATA acquired Grandtravel, the originator of travel programs designed exclusively for grandparents and grandchildren. In addition, the company manages the reservation and customer service centers for National Geographic Expeditions, Smithsonian Journeys, and The American Museum of Natural History’s Expeditions, as well as managing the overall AMNH tour program as the Museum’s outsource partner.

“We are delighted to be entering a new market,” said Chase Poffenberger, ATA’s Executive Vice President. “Dawn Davis brings a wealth of energy, creativity and professionalism to the company and we feel fortunate that she will be leading our new division.” While Dawn will reside in Washington State, she will travel to ATA’s offices in Washington, DC regularly and collaborate with ATA’s marketing, programming and customer service teams.

To learn more about this program, contact:

Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President
Academic Travel Abroad

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Group Travel Still Makes the Most Sense

Even in tough economic times, people are turning to group tours as a reliable way to travel that provides value and peace of mind. Tour operators negotiate group discounts, plan activities with smooth logistics in mind, access unique venues and draw on well-connected contacts in destinations around the globe. With years of experience under their belt, tour operators offer travelers the most value and security for their dollars.

Here are ten pointers from the National Tour Association’s latest newsletter that reinforces why Academic Travel Abroad is proud to be part of this organization of tourism professionals who share our common goals.


Excerpt from the NTA's "Trip Planner" for August 2009