Speakers - SYTA AC 2018
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Julie Bell
Manager of School Programs
National Law Enforcement Museum
Julie Bell is the Manager of School Programs at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC. She designs educational experiences for school-aged children including tours, workshops, and virtual classes. She also designs educator resources such as lesson plans and professional development workshops. Julie was a high school social studies teacher for Arlington (VA) Public Schools for five years before joining the Museum. She holds a B.A. in History and an M.T. in Social Studies Education from the University of Virginia.

Samer Abu-Taleb
Trade Partnerships and Digital Marketing Manager
Jordan Tourism Board

Samer Abu-Taleb born and raised in Amman, Jordan. Samer then went on to graduate from Old Dominion University with a degree in International Business and Marketing, a Masters of Business and Administration from Marymount University and a Degree in Sustainable Tourism Development from George Washington University. Samer started working at the Jordan Tourism Board in February 2011 and currently manages North American trade partnerships and consumer marketing and manages the Mexico and Latin American market.

Mike Bowers
Founder and Principle
The Center for Student Travel Safety
Michael J. Bowers, Founder and Principle at The Center for Student Travel Safety, provides safety system consulting services to some of the top student travel service providers, world-wide. Specializing in safety trend analysis, emergency response preparedness and family CARE team support systems, Mr. Bowers is able to bring a wealth of industry experience to each situation in order to develop innovative, and personalize safety solutions to the industry most complex challenges. He also served on the Board of Directors of the SYTA for 6 years and served as President of SYTA from 2013-2014.

Nicholas Breul
Director of the Officer Safety, Wellness and Research Department of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Nicholas Breul is the Director of the Officer Safety, Wellness and Research Department of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. He is responsible for the current and historic research that is conducted on line-of-duty deaths and the management of five grants. He is a retired Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant, who oversaw portions of the Traffic Safety Branch and served as the Police Department Historian. Over his extensive career at MPD, Nick served in a variety of capacities; supervising a homicide squad, joining an elite team of deadly force investigators and serving as a member of the Public Information Office. Nick retired in 2013 and prior to coming to the Memorial Fund, he served as the Director of Security for the Washington National Cathedral.

William J. Caldwell, CPA

Caldwell & Companies
With his extensive knowledge of tax codes combined with strong accounting skills, CEO William “Bill” J. Caldwell is able to help clients realize their dreams. Prior to founding Caldwell & Companies in 2002, Bill Caldwell honed his financial skills during a tenure at the U.S. Department of Army Audit Agency and a successful career at the accounting firm, Bond Beebe. Bill holds a position at American University, where he is an adjunct professor and teaches a Master’s level class in finance for art organizations. Bill believes in giving back to the community and has served many organizations including a role as past president of the National Capital Optimist Club, a global association of volunteers dedicated to ‘bringing out the best in kids’. Bill consults to SYTA and his most recent presentation on “Tax Planning for Businesses” was well received at SYTA Summit. Caldwell & Companies supports the SYTA Youth Foundation as a Wingman.

Lisa S. Curtin
Caldwell & Companies
Lisa Curtin’s has 20+ years of experience in the student tourism industry, holding senior management roles in operations and sales. In 2016, Lisa left tourism to pursue a new opportunity in public accounting as the Chief Operations Officer of Caldwell & Companies. She’s found her skills in process management, contract negotiations and customer service are universal to any business. Currently, Lisa consults to SYTA, providing website content and has presented on Human Resource topics at the Annual Conference and Summit. Caldwell & Companies actively supports the SYTA Youth Foundation as a Wingman. In her former role as Vice President of Operations for Brightspark Travel, Lisa served on various SYTA committees and was a Past Chair of SYTA Summit.

Daniel Dozier
Students of the World

Daniel Dozier is an international educator, sustainable tourism expert and entrepreneur with more than a decade of work experience in advising a range of clients from global trade associations, nonprofits and political and issue campaigns. Daniel was the Principal of a DC-based public affairs firm where he advised clients ranging from non-profits to multinational brands on ways to connect with constituents using technology and partnerships. Previously he served as Chief of Staff to the US Ambassador for the World Expo in Milan, Italy in 2015 and served in the same capacity at the residence of the US Ambassador to France and Monaco from 2009 through 2012 where he curated social, cultural and diplomatic events for the Embassy. Daniel also worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign as Director of International Fundraising and then served in the same role for the Inauguration in 2009 and at the Democratic National Committee. He has a Masters of Tourism Administration from the George Washington University School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in International Culture & Politics from the Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Alyssa Foley
Manager of Adult and Family Programs
National Law Enforcement Museum

Alyssa Foley is the Manager of Adult and Family Programs at the National Law Enforcement Museum. She designs and implements programs for these audiences including the Museum’s popular panel discussion series and a distinguished speaker series. She has been with the National Law Enforcement Museum for four years having started as a curatorial intern. Alyssa previously worked at the Atlanta History Center and the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a Bachelors with Honors in History from Longwood University and a Masters of Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University.

Al Hutchinson
President & CEO, Visit Baltimore

Al Hutchinson joined Visit Baltimore as president and CEO in November 2016. As the chief executive of the city’s official destination sales and marketing organization, he is responsible for overseeing the promotion of the Baltimore region as a destination for conventions, meetings, leisure visits, day-trips, group tours and family reunions, in addition to serving as the hospitality industry’s liaison to the business, civic and local community, and demonstrating the impact of tourism on the City and the State. Hutchinson brings more than 24 years of experience in the hospitality and destination marketing industry to Baltimore. He most recently served as president and CEO of Visit Mobile, where he was recognized as the 2016 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance’s ‘Tourism Promoter of the Year,’ and in 2014 was the recipient of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners ‘Pioneer Award’.

Ken Jenkins, MAS
Principal /Crisis Response Strategist, NavAid Crisis Consulting Group
Ken has responded to over a dozen fatal domestic and international transportation disasters in his thirty-plus year career, and each one has further strengthened his deep dedication to family assistance and emergency preparedness. He understands the challenges of coordinating the efforts of multiple teams across different locations in a high-stress, multicultural, unpredictable, multi-stakeholder environment. His many roles include leading the airline response to the terrorist events of September 11, 2001 and managing the complex and sensitive return of remains and personal belongings. Ken was subject matter expert and co-author for Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Research Report 171, Establishing a Coordinated Local Family Assistance Program for Airports, and is the author of Resilience: Stories of Courage and Survival in Aviation Disasters. He is an experienced leadership facilitator and trainer and holds a Masters in Aviation Safety.

Joan Keddell
For over 30 years, Joan Keddell has been a tourism industry professional, working in various aspects of the hospitality industry on land and at sea. Her hands-on experience has given her unique insights into the industry from an operational perspective as well as the day-to-day activities of frontline workers.  As president of ITMI, she has been a passionate champion for ITMI graduates to be ambassadors of goodwill. In 2012 she introduced into ITMI’s curriculum a course in Human Trafficking Awareness. This past year ITMI was named ECPAT’s Hero Award due to the efforts of ITMI’s alumni in saving 8 children. Collaborating with SYTA offers Joan a unique opportunity to be actively engaged in the dynamic student tour industry, which enriches young minds by exposing them to other cultures and traditions. Her vision for ITMI is to continually enhance its educational offerings by learning from industry peers through her participation in in professional organizations that reflect the best practices in the industry.

Elias Kontanis, PhD
Transportation Disaster Assistance Division Chief
National Transportation Safety Board
Elias J. Kontanis joined the NTSB Transportation Disaster Assistance Division in 2008 as the Coordinator for Victim Recovery and Identification. In this capacity he was responsible for facilitating the victim recovery and identification process following transportation mass fatality incidents. Elias currently serves as the Chief of the Transportation Disaster Assistance Division, and is responsible for managing the Board’s family assistance program. During his tenure at the Board, Elias has responded to 41 aviation, highway, rail, pipeline, and marine accidents. Elias earned a PhD in biology from Cornell University in 2005 and is a Registered Medicolegal Death Investigator. He is an active FAA Certificated Flight Instructor and Advanced Ground Instructor and serves as an FAA Safety Team Representative.

Stuart Levy, MBA, PhD
Associate Teaching Professor of Management
George Washington University School of Business
Stuart Levy, MBA, PhD, has nearly two decades of experience in management, teaching, consulting and research within a range of organizations — entrepreneurial and established businesses, consulting firms, government and academia. His work background includes consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Hospitality and Leisure Practice as well as management positions in tour operations and internet marketing. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in digital marketing, entrepreneurship, customer experience management, hospitality and event management, and tourism planning and development. He is passionate about experiential education, and serves as a facilitator for GW’s SUMMIT team building ropes course. Dr. Levy’s record of scholarship includes 12 peer-reviewed publications in business journals including the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and the Journal of Business Ethics. His volunteer work involves co-founding JAM (Jews and Muslims) DC, supporting GW Alternative Spring Break and GW Adventure Bound courses as a Learning Partner, representing GW as a DC Public Schools Hospitality Advisory Board Member, and serving as Treasurer of the DC-area alumni chapter of the Cornell Hotel School.

Ellen Malasky

Ellen is president of the National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and is a Certified Master Guide with the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington DC. Through stories and anecdotes, her tours integrate American history, DC history and US government operation. Born in Stamford, CT, Ellen is a long time resident of Washington DC. For over 35 years she worked for Ernst & Young where she developed and implemented learning programs and managed major conferences and workshops. Ellen is an avid theatergoer. She serves on the Theater J Council, was chair of the Arena Stage Guild and sits on the board of The Welders Theater Company.

Barbara McCormack
Vice President Education

Barbara McCormack is the Newseum’s vice president/education. Part of the founding staff when the Newseum opened in 1997, McCormack has since held many leadership positions, including coordinator for the Newseum’s NewsCapade with Al Neuharth. McCormack established the education department when the Newseum moved to Pennsylvania Avenue, and leads the team responsible for extending and enriching the museum experience for learners of all ages. Since 2008, McCormack has grown the staff from two to 12, added 75 volunteers, served 5,100 students in one day, and now reaches over 12 million students each year through on-site and online programming and resources. McCormack is a former middle and high school teacher who was awarded an Outstanding New Teacher in Virginia award in 1995. She has been a noted speaker and committee leader at numerous educational organizations. She currently serves on the executive committee of the Student Youth Foundation’s board of trustees.

Jeff Ment, Esq.

The Ment Law Group
Jeff is the founder of The Ment Law Group. With more than 27 years of experience representing travel companies, he is able to best represent the many facets of the travel industry. He represents tour operators, vendors, DMC’s, travel agents, transportation companies and trade associations. Jeff regularly address travel groups and associations on timely and interesting topics. He counsels clients on our industry’s best practices, including contract terms, compliance with government regulations, risk assessment, crisis response, employment issues and he represents travel companies in litigation throughout the country. His background in the travel industry includes working as a travel agent, tour guide and as a sales manager for two airlines.

Leo Pratte
Division Director
American Red Cross

Leo Pratte is an experienced Division Disaster Director with the American Red Cross. Leo has firsthand experience with the US Air Flight 1549 response from his chapter in New Jersey. Leo was also actively involved in the response to the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia a few years ago, and more recently served on the response team to the tragic Duckboat incident in MO. He has a wealth of leadership experience and response knowledge.

Jeff Skiles

Jeff Skiles has many dimensions as a speaker, writer, safety consultant, and lifelong pilot. Making his home in Madison, Wisconsin Jeff is currently employed as a pilot with American Airlines. In the past he was the Vice President of Communties and Member Programs for EAA, a 200,000 member recreational pilot organization. Prior to that he served as the Vice-President of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association advocating for safety and security issues affecting airline pilots. In this role he testified before congressional committees on three occasions. Jeff will forever be known for 3 1/2 minutes over the Hudson River in January, 2009 when he and Sully Sullenberger piloted their stricken Airbus 320 airliner carrying 155 people to a safe landing in the waters off Manhattan. From this event Jeff has recieved many awards ranging from the Smithsonian Institution’s Award for Current Achievement to the Masters Medal from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.

Courtney Spence
Founder & CEO at CSpence Group
Founder, Students of the World
Courtney Spence is a passionate creative entrepreneur and global storyteller. She is the CEO of the creative marketing firm, CSpence Group, and is the founder of Students of the World, a global nonprofit media organization that she created over 15 years ago ​at Duke University ​and continues to provide services and opportunities to the next generation of creative leaders. Her production experiences range from places across the globe, including: Cuba, Uganda, Cambodia, Haiti, Kosovo, Cambodia, Israel & the West Bank. Through her journey, Courtney has deepened her understanding of emerging creatives, storytelling, and the work of innovative cause-based organizations and purpose-inspired companies. She has had the privilege to produce work for some of the world’s most innovative organizations, including: the Clinton Global Initiative, Water.org, the American Institute of Architects, the Ad Council, the Nature Conservancy, the Make it Right Foundation, P&G, Standard Chartered Bank and Participant Media, among others.

Bradley Troy
Senior Vice President
First Financial Group

Bradley Troy, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP) with First Financial Group, one the largest independent financial services firms in the Mid Atlantic region.  Bradley leads First Financial Group’s retirement plan practice, First Fiduciary Consulting. Bradley has operated as a 3(21) Investment Fiduciary on retirement plans dating back to 2013. His practice works with businesses and owners of businesses to achieve the goals of ownership, while acting as a fiduciary for employees. Business ownership provides great opportunities for wealth transfer, tax efficiency and strategic financial planning unavailable to traditional W-2 employees. By gathering a thorough understanding of a business, it’s demographic and financial data, and the goals of ownership, the objective is to provide strategic financial recommendations unfamiliar to most advisors. His practice assists corporations, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, physicians, business owners, and their families to develop and implement coordinated wealth management and financial strategies.

Paula Vlamings
Tourism Cares
For more than a decade, Paula Vlamings has worked at the intersection of tourism and sustainability. Her 10 years in politics prior to moving into the sustainability world provided her with a unique set of skills in diplomacy, fundraising, and cross-sector collaboration. She excels at breaking down complex issues and forging a path forward, while building consensus along the way. She believes big change can happen when business is used as a force for good. Before joining Tourism Cares, Paula was the founder of Prosper360, a sustainable tourism and social impact consulting firm that works to create a full circle of prosperity within the travel economy. Prior to her consulting work, Paula was the head of The Planeterra Foundation, the nonprofit foundation of the global travel company G Adventures, where she incubated social enterprises supporting women, youth, and indigenous communities into the tourism supply chain.

Sue Warner-Bean
Principal/Crisis Response Strategist
NavAid Crisis Consulting Group
Sue’s passion for her work is fueled by first-hand experience in aviation and rail disaster response, twenty years in emergency management, and a deep commitment to her customers and those they serve. She has worked with a wide range of U.S. and international clients on emergency response program assessments, development, training, and exercises; clients include passenger and cargo airlines, air medical operators, airports, passenger rail companies, travel insurance providers, and non-governmental organizations. Sue teaches family assistance for the University of Southern California’s Aviation Safety and Security certificate program and was Principal Investigator for Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Research Report 171, Establishing a Coordinated Local Family Assistance Program for Airports.

Amy Wescott
Polish Writing & Editing
Amy Wescott is passionate about helping individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations better communicate the messages they want to share with the world.
Through her business, Polish Writing & Editing (that’s “polish” as in “shine up,” not “Polish” as in “from Poland”!), Amy has worked on a diverse range of projects including editing and ghostwriting book manuscripts, consulting doctoral- and masters-level students on their dissertations and theses, producing and editing public relations / marketing materials, and conducting communications training sessions for professionals. Amy is also an adjunct instructor of business communications at College of the Ozarks where she teaches upper-level students writing techniques that will enable them to communicate clearly, concisely, and effectively. Amy and her husband Craig live in Branson, Missouri, with their two daughters.We look forward to welcoming Amy back to the SYTA Annual Conference. To learn more about Amy, visit https://polishwritingservices.com/.

SYTA Strategic Partners