2013: The Year in Review

Another whirlwind year has come to a close. While we welcome the adventures that 2014 will inevitably bring, we want to reflect on 2013 with our annual Highlights List  featuring the events, destinations, and people that made this year so incredible.

Spanning the Globe: Several education and law groups enjoyed professional exchanges with counterparts in Myanmar, and demand remained strong in Cuba, where we facilitated over 50 people-to-people and professional groups to Havana and points beyond. Europe was bustling with a renewed interest in the prehistoric caves in southwestern France, an exploration of Downton Abbey film locations, a family adventure in Switzerland, and a look at the legacy of Olympic Park in London. Close to home, art lovers descended on Seattle’s rich art scene and enjoyed visits to private collections.


Giving Back: Staff volunteered their time and talents this year in a variety of ways, and for two charities close to our hearts. The Fund for Education Abroad (http://www.fundforeducationabroad.org/) benefited from Team CET’s run in the Cherry Blossom 10K in the spring.

Meanwhile, five ATA staff members volunteered for Tourism Cares (http://www.tourismcares.org/) joining 600 other tourism professionals to clean up Coney Island, New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


We share our story! ATA produced a new corporate video this year. Partners shared their experiences working with ATA and their stories of meaningful and engaging travel that the trips brought to others.

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New Faces:  We welcomed a great group of professionals this year!

From top left to the right: Tim Ambrose,

Top left to right: Tim Ambrose, Sales Director; Megan Horrigan, CET Intern; Stacie Kellerman, Tour Communications Specialist; Joan O’Neill, Tour Communications Specialist; Kara Nichols, FEA Fundraising & Admin Coordinator; Kevin Hoercher, Reservations Specialist; Kimberly Sine, CET Middlebury in China Programs Manager; CET Hector Cruz-Feliciano, Brazil Programs Manager. Bottom left to right: Natalie Pascale, Tour Communications Specialist; Shelley Jessee, CET Director of Marketing; Allegra O’Donoghue, CET Middle East & North Africa Programs Manager; Leya Brown, Reservations Specialist.

Significant Milestones: In January, President Kate Simpson celebrated 25 years at ATA. Overseeing a company engaged in constant evolution, she reminisced about the many companies she has served, all while working at ATA. Never a dull moment, even after 25 years!

Kate Simpson

In May, we celebrated Dave Parry’s 80th birthday. The party was an extended family reunion, a real who’s who of ATA staff and clients who were here in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and in more recent years.


None of our successes would be possible without the partners and travelers we serve, and the dedicated tour managers and colleagues we consider part of our ATA family. We are grateful for all of you this holiday season!


Happy Holidays!
Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President


Happy Birthday to ATA’s Chairman!

Last week friends and colleagues from decades past to present day gathered to wish our Chairman, David Parry, the happiest of birthdays on his 80th!  It was  a celebratory night and a wonderful occasion to commemorate a man who has inspired us all and continues to do so.Dave’s Birthday – 27

Dave's Birthday - 56

Dave's Birthday - 23

Dave's Birthday - 14 Dave's Birthday - 52

Culinary Creations of Tuscany…and the making of pici pasta!

tuscan_pastaWe first met Pamela Sheldon Johns, renowned cookbook author and gracious host, at a cheese maker in the Tuscan hills. After learning about the organic process, Pamela bought ricotta and pecorino which we would use to make our lunch. Armed with flavorful cheese and enthusiasm, we then sailed through rolling hills to arrive at Poggio Etrusco – the home  (and kitchen extraordinaire) of Pamela and her artist husband, Johnny.

Our task…to make the famous Sense pici pasta and ravioli (with our ricotta) and then to enjoy our creations with some of Pamela’s homemade wine, olive oil, gelato, etc. Everything we consumed was from the land right underneath our feet.  All vegetables and herbs from the gardens; olive oil pressed from their trees, and wine from their own vines. Just like Tuscan cooking – the most important component: fresh ingredients.

Join us this Fall in Siena on Smithsonian Journeys tour at: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/siena

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!

Trailing La Traviata


In our series, “Following the Soprano”, we trace the steps of our talented soprano, Diana Damrau. She will star as Violetta in La Traviata  in Zurich during our Smithsonian Journeys’ opera tour http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/italian-opera-tour this May. (There’s still space to book!) But before seeing her in Zurich, Diana is taking on this famed role at the Met. It’s been a dream that she has had since she was 12 years old having seen Zeffirelli’s sumptuous production of the opera.


We can’t wait to see you soon, Diana!

Richard III Revealed

king_richard_dnaBack in September last year, author, Sharon Kay Penman and I were talking about where she would like to lead a tour to next, for her loyal readers and fans. The hotel at the Abbaye de Fontevraud is currently closed for renovation and not being able to stay there we decided, would detract from the overall Eleanor of Aquitaine experience, that we had been planning for 2013. Sharon suggested we offer a Richard III tour, given that her highly acclaimed Sunne and Splendor about Richard is being republished (after 30 years!) in the UK this September. Little did I know (though Sharon seems to know everything about her characters…) that a skeleton would be found beneath a council car park in Leicester last October and yesterday it was confirmed to be that of Richard III. Historians, Richard III Society members, Sharon Kay Penman fans are ablaze with excitement at the news. This short-lived Plantagenet king who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, has long been portrayed as a villain by his successors, now many are keen for Richard III’s story to be retold.

Sharon Kay Penmans’ fans have long seen a different side to Richard, than the official story. An exclusive group of them has signed up to join Sharon this  September to follow in Richard III’s footsteps from York to Bosworth. This tour will allow the participants the opportunity to relive history and bring Richard’s story alive. Philippa Langley, originator of the search for Richard III said on seeing the reconstructed face of Richard “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant.” Only time will tell how he is portrayed for future generations.

Emma Impavido
Senior Program Manager

25th Anniversary of our President, Kate Simpson

kate Last week Academic Travel Abroad celebrated the 25th anniversary of our President, Kate Simpson.  Under Kate’s tutelage and vision, she has led us through the most interesting and challenging of times.

We are all grateful for her inspiring leadership, her high standards and ideals, and her laser sharp focus and guidance that brings out the best in all of us.  Thank you, Kate, and congratulations!