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


Academic Travel Abroad’s Highlights List of 2012!

Boy, what a year it has been for travel! We close 2012 with our Highlights List of events and trends to remember!

So, here goes!

2Cuba! In 2012 we were proud to work with 54 people-to-people and professional research groups in our role as a licensed Travel Service Provider to Cuba. The 900+ travelers and delegates represented a diverse group of Institutions, including The National Geographic Society, The Smithsonian Institution, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The American Museum of Natural History, The Colorado State Bar Association, The American Psychological Association, The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and others.

mercedesOne-of-a-kind moments for travelers: Smithsonian’s German Cars travelers were treated to “the most tantalizing array of 300SLs, pre-war racing cars and other examples of the greatest Mercedes-Benz cars ever built.” We pride ourselves on these moments of behind-the-scene treats and special access —and they happened this year in places as diverse as Central Asia, southern Italy, the Swiss Alps, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

New FrontiersExploring New Frontiers!  Our team covered the globe in 2012! Senior Program Manager Chris Roper traveled to Namibia in March to ride the The Desert Express, a private train that links some of the world’s grandest national parks. In October, he joined a very short list of Americans who have “gone behind the iron curtain” to North Korea, the most isolated place on earth.  (Yes, he has developed a cultural program there!) In addition, Senior Program Manager Janet Varn “saw the future” on her spring visit to Spaceport America, the New Mexico home of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space travel company. Along the way, she discovered New Mexico’s Space Trail, a route of 52 sites across the state related to space research and exploration.

Downton AbbeyLong Live Britannia! In this celebratory year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics, British literary themes were ever popular! Fans of noted author Elizabeth Chadwick traced  William Marshal, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s greatest knight. Mystery lovers joined discussions and readings with authors Colin Dexter and Simon Brett, and Jane Austen fans depart this week for their Christmas in Winchester and Bath. We will continue all things Britain in 2013 (when we follow in the steps of the Edwardians) in our Downton Abbey tour with the Smithsonian Journeys!  Visit and learn more here: www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/downton-abbey

Milestones, ChinaMilestones: ATA’s Study Abroad Division, CET Academic Programs, celebrated its 30th anniversary in Beijing in June. In 1982, China was a very different place for these intrepid students, but their courage and foresight set in motion what has become CET’s flagship—with eight centers across China. CET truly is the “serious alternative” in study abroad.

New StaffNew Faces: A great group of professionals joined us this year: MaryBeth Mullen as Director of Client Services, Francesca Baruffi as Asia Program Coordinator for CET, Meg Hannan as Tour Communication Specialist, Meredith Akery in her new role as Accountant, Wade Jennings as Graphic Designer, and Cherie Mason as HR Administrative Specialist (not pictured).

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!

ATA Holiday Party

Happy Holidays!
Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President

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.



ATA’s 60th Anniversary Celebration!

Academic Travel Abroad celebrated 60 years in business over this past weekend at Rocky Gap Resort. All employees and their family members were invited to this memorable weekend to pay tribute to this company that not just survived but thrived over the span of decades.

Kicking off the weekend’s activities were group activities by the lake for both kids and adults alike. From there we were off to enjoy all that Rocky Gap resort offers such as kayaking, boating, hiking, tennis, swimming, etc. After drying off and cooling down, we were welcomed to hors d’oeuvres in a beautiful room with an outdoor veranda overlooking the lake.

David Parry, ATA Chairman, started the dinner with remarks on the genesis of the company, its history, challenges, and its bright future. We have weathered many storms over the decades, enjoyed many successes, and in present day we continue to innovate with products and offerings to new markets and in more corners of the world.

Team leaders then gave individual tributes to staff highlighting their skills, contributions, and personality traits (and just when we thought our embarrassing stories would stay within our team.) The evening was capped with dancing and dessert.

The next day we met for breakfast and then ventured out for another day of outdoor activities including kayaking, horseback riding, canoeing, etc.

A big thank you to the 60th anniversary planning committee, Randall, Janet, and Chase for a wonderful job! Here’s to the next 60 years for ATA!

Academic Travel Abroad is Celebrating its 60th Anniversary!

Academic Travel Abroad’s staff and their families will celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary at Rocky Gap Resort in August. (www.rockygapresort.com ).  The resort is located in bucolic western Maryland and was selected for its natural beauty, its warm service and because it offers so many opportunities to have fun outdoors.

For over 60 years, our creative programs and dynamic staff have helped educated travelers unveil the splendors the world has to offer and now it’s time to celebrate with a fun day in the outdoors.

Academic Travel Abroad

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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