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 ( 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. (

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 ( 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 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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India: Discovering The Living Arts

A visit to the studio of R.B. Bhaskeran for talks on Modern Art Movements in India

A visit to the studio of R.B. Bhaskeran for talks on Modern Art Movements in India

India ranks very high on the “life lists” of many travelers, including the group of museum professionals and ATA staff who set out in early June to learn about India’s booming contemporary art scene, which has its roots in a 5,000 year artistic tradition.

India is “exotic” in a way quite unlike any other place on earth. It was a sensory overload, a spiritual experience, and a mystical, bedazzling riot of colors and activity—all at the same time. Braving India’s summer heat, we were rewarded with virtually tourist-free sights and monuments.

Our exhilarating journey to Chennai, Agra and Delhi provided us with an exciting curriculum in the living arts, as well as an introduction to the India’s most important art movements, archeological treasures, and architectural monuments. For eight days, we had the distinct pleasure of discussing art and culture with painters, dancers, musicians and an extraordinary archeologist. We left India hungry for more, knowing we had just scratched the surface of a rich, multi-layered artistic tradition.

There were so many highlights to cherish on this trip!

First, the artists. Kuntal Desai and R B Bhaskeran in Chennai generously opened their homes to us, giving us a very personal look at their work and inspiration. We also visited several artists’ villages, and a state-sponsored artist studio in Delhi.

Then there were the musicians and dancers, who demonstrated the power of oral tradition in India culture, and sang and played beautiful music on traditional instruments.

And of course, we were awe-struck at the Taj Mahal, where we spent two hours examining this most famous example of Mughal architecture. We also spent time at the temples of Mahabalipuram, built between the 7th and 9th century.

To see a slideshow of our tour, click here

To see a few of our trip videos, click here

Academic Travel Abroad’s website

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Bermuda – A North Atlantic Historical Gem

The historical home of Bloomfield.

The historical home of Bloomfield.

Many think of Bermuda as a subtropical island get-away in the north Atlantic, where sun, pink sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters of the Sargasso Sea can wipe away the ever-present stresses of our hectic every day lives on the main land.

But there is so much more to these tightly clustered islands then meets the eye. Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermúdez., then was permanently settled by the British in 1612 as they sailed to Virgina. Bermuda’s town of St. George (originally named New London) has now been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its depth in world history and culture.

St. George is rich in historical homes and gardens, seaports, quaint lighthouses and museums of the likes one could not find anywhere else in the world. Beautiful gardens surround private white and pink-washed Georgian houses of Bermuda coral limestone, furnished with Bermuda-made cedar furniture and still owned by the original families.

The Royal Navy dockyard has attracted visitors with specific interests military history as it was the acting principal base of the Royal British Navy in the Western Atlantic between the periods of American independence and the Cold War.

Should you be thinking of visiting these islands, it is worth mentioning that the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be hosting a terrific tour to Bermuda November 1-6, 2009.

Specialists will join in for visits, discussions and receptions to share their expertise on such topics as architecture and decorative arts, British forts and native and resident artists. Time to simply relax and absorb the gracious atmosphere of this enchanted island are ample – where narrow lanes, winding roads and well-tended gardens blend easily with pink sand and that famous turquoise sea.

Highlights of this journey include a tour of Verdmont, the “crown jewel” of the Bermuda National Trust; a walking tour of Hamilton and time to explore the famous Front Street; and a visit to Tucker House, home to Bermuda’s most famous families.

Inside the Bloomfield home.

Inside the Bloomfield home.

Bermuda holds a special interest for National Trust members because of the programs of our sister organization, the Bermuda National Trust. Since its establishment in 1969, the Bermuda Trust has acquired more than 60 historic properties and open-space areas in Bermuda, and is a formidable force in the preservation of this fragile island. Hosts from the Bermuda National Trust’s Cultural Tourism Office share their experience and knowledge of preservation issues of their well-kept monuments. To learn more about his tour, download this brochure from the National Trust for Historic Preservation or visit their website here or contact the tour operator, Academic travel Abroad for more information about Bermuda and this one of a kind tour.

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Vietnam: My Experiences


vietnam-istock_000001893968medium1I first visited Viet Nam in 1994 as a new employee of ATA and then again leading Smithsonian Study Tours’ first tour to country the following year.  Since then, I’ve returned to graduate school, studied Vietnamese language, history and culture, and even started work on a doctoral dissertation examining border trade between China and Viet Nam.  In all that time, I’d never actually made it back to Viet Nam.  I’d come close – Cambodia, Thailand, even looked over into Vietnam from the Friendship Gate close to Pingxiang, China, but I hadn’t been able to make it back for nearly 14 years. 

Finally, in October, 2008, I was able to make the trip.  People who’ve traveled there a lot told me I wouldn’t recognize the place, and based on my experience in China, where I frequently visit, I was expecting a complete transformation.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  To be sure, there were changes – the ride from the airport into Hanoi at midnight was along an elevated highway, crowded at the time with motorcycles overflowing with flowers headed to the wholesale flower market.  14 years ago, the road to the airport was at places unpaved and meandered through villages and farms.  There are now skyscrapers in Hanoi, mixed in with the elegant old French colonial buildings.  But it’s still recognizable as Hanoi.  Unlike their counterparts in Beijing, the Vietnamese haven’t torn down the vast majority of their city and replaced it with a hodgepodge of oddly shaped, hyper-modern buildings, or row after row of identical apartment buildings.  The old quarter looks very much as it did when I first explored it:  chaotic and colorful.  There are more cars on the road, and many, many more motorcycles, but it still feels like Hanoi. 

The biggest change I noticed was in the people.  Part of what I loved about Viet Nam when I first visited was the people  — friendly, smiling, welcoming.  They’re still that way, thankfully, but now there’s a sense of optimism and confidence that I didn’t detect before.  People in their 20s and early 30s have grown up and come of age in a period of relative openness and unprecedented economic growth, and they seem to have the feeling that anything is possible.  In the early 1990s, there was a lot less certainty.  Doi Moi had just begun, and no one was sure what would happen.  They seemed tentative, wide-eyed toward the outside world.  No more.  At least in the places I visited – admittedly all very much on the beaten track – people were hip, connected, well-informed and cosmopolitan.  I, being none of those things, felt a little out of place!

14 years ago on my first trip to Viet Nam, I received no fewer than 3 proposals of marriage from young women (none of them serious, but then again they probably weren’t completely unserious) who foresaw that their lives in Viet Nam would be bleak; this year I received none.  I like to think that this is not (only) because I am old, fat and generally unattractive but rather because the Vietnamese themselves like where they are and where they are headed.

Chris Roper
Senior Program Manager

Academic Travel Abroad 

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A New Partnership for Academic Travel Abroad

Here is some exciting news from ATA from a recent press release :

Media Inquiries: Ellen Evaristo, AMNH Department of Communications October 2008, 212-769-5973;


The American Museum of Natural History has announced a new partnership between AMNH Expeditions—enabling Museum travelers to embark on their own explorations of the world in the company of educators and curators for more than 50 years—and Academic Travel Abroad, Inc. (ATA), a travel company based in Washington, DC, that has a long history of serving the country’s elite non-profit organizations, museums, and universities.

Starting in January 2009, the Museum will partner with ATA to operate AMNH Expeditions. The Museum will focus on developing innovative educational programs featuring itineraries that highlight the research of AMNH scientists around the world. ATA will be responsible for the day-to-day interaction with AMNH Expeditions passengers and tour operators and will oversee marketing and tour operations. “I’m delighted that we will be working with a company of ATA’s caliber,” said Arti V. Finn, AMNH Senior Director of Business Development. “This partnership allows the Museum to focus on unique, high-quality educational experiences.”

The American Museum of Natural History, a world leader in scientific exploration, established AMNH Expeditions, the first museum educational travel program in the country, in 1953. For more than 50 years, AMNH Expeditions has presented educational travel programs that reflect past and current areas of interest and exploration by the Museum and enable travelers to embark on their own explorations of the world in the company of scientists, curators, and educators. Participation helps to support the Museum’s mission to discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.

Academic Travel Abroad, Inc. creates and operates exciting travel programs of the highest quality and value for sophisticated, curious travelers. In business for more than 50 years, ATA took Americans back to Europe to experience its rebuilding after the Second World War. This “Marshall Plan in Action” launched pioneering programs throughout Europe from Norway to Portugal. In 1956, ATA opened the doors to cultural travel in the former USSR, and in China in 1979. Now for more than a half century, ATA has continued to offer innovative travel programs around the world.

Academic Travel Abroad’s website

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