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Speaker Biographies





Mike Bowers

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.


Lisa S. Curtin

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.



Bud Geissler 
Bud is Groups, National Account Manager for Travel Insured International. He is celebrating over 20 year’s experience in the student and group travel industry. He has served as President of the Student Youth Travel Association from 2011-2012 and currently serves on the SYTA Youth Foundation’s Board of Trustees.




Norm Hull

Norm Hull, CSP is the principal owner of Norm Hull & Associates, a leadership consulting company based in Southern California. An internationally acclaimed speaker and leadership expert, Norm has provided his various audiences with thought-provoking, interactive and inspirational presentations for the last 35 years. As a professional facilitator Norm services are utilized during high stakes meeting, national and international conferences, as well as programs that benefit from an engaging leadership expert. Today, Norm is helping businesses identify their “area of differentiation” and helping them create videos that drive sales.


Cathleen Johnson
Cathleen Johnson is president of Cathleen Johnson Tourism Consultants, LLC, and Co-founder of Buddha Travel. Cathleen is one of the foremost authorities on travel and tourism marketing and communications. She created the travel and hospitality practice at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm., and throughout a 25+ year career there, grew the specialty area to the #1 tourism practice among independent PR agencies. Following her “retirement” from Edelman, she focused on a communications consulting practice, and most recently formed Buddha Travel, a retreat management and marketing firm. Buddha Travel represents her coming “full circle” in the travel industry, focusing on offering experiences that offer “A Path to Conscious Living. Through Travel.


Alastair Macmillan-Bell

Alastair has been with Aon Affinity (formerly The Berkely Group) since March 1997, as Senior Vice President, after eleven years at Marsh & McLennan in the London and New York offices, in their Marine & Energy practice. His initial assignment was to help manage our large travel insurance relationships across our broad client portfolio. Alastair also contributed to the TAPL team given his international experience and assisted in the renewal of the larger, more complicated accounts. In mid-2015 he took on the role of assisting in the management of the TAPL business and in July of 2016, took on full P&L responsibility. He has established strong relationships across the travel industry and participates in many conferences and risk management panels.


Jeff Ment, Esq.

Jeff is Partner at Silver Golub & Teitell, LLP and is head of the firm’s Hartford, CT office. For more than 20 years, Jeff has represented companies and individuals in the travel industry. His experiences range from helping form new companies to defending companies in litigation. Jeff’s focus is on helping ensure that his clients are always ahead of the curve – following the best practices of our industry. This includes contracts, legal issues, risk management, documentation, vendor selection, tour director training and insurance coverage. Jeff relies on his experience as a travel agent, sales manager for two airlines and his work as a tour guide to understand what his clients need most.



Greg Takehara

Greg is Chief Operating Officer of Trip Mate, Inc. He joined Trip Mate, Inc. in November 2014 after 19 years in senior management at Aon Affinity/Berkely Travel. He was responsible for all claims related operations for Berkely’s Travel Agents Professional Liability program. Greg has been a Board Member of Tourism Cares since 2012 and serves on the Executive Committee. Greg was on the Board of NTA from 2009 – 2011 and has served on SYTA’s Safety Committee and USTOA’s Associate Member Advisory Committee. He maintains his law license in the State of Wisconsin and is a licensed Adjuster, as well as a Life, Accident & Health Agent.


Ken Whitman

Ken serves as Senior Program Manager and Counsel to the Professional Liability Insurance Program at Aon Affinity Travel Practice. In his present role, he oversees the day-to-day operations of both the claims and underwriting departments. Ken is a licensed New York State attorney. He contributed significantly to the drafting and creation of the current insurance policy offered to Student Tour Operators. A significant part of his current role involves educating travel companies about risk management tools and procedures. When first arriving at Aon/Berkely back in 2002, he served as the Claims Litigation Manager. Ken began working in the travel industry in 1990, serving as a tour guide for a local Ski Tour Operator out of Long Island.


“Not only does a SYTA Summit allow ample time for senior executives and business owners to network and attend educational sessions, it always takes place in an interesting, relaxing setting before the student travel season gets really busy.”

Dan Kellerd, Executive Vice President, WorldStrides

“The best part of a SYTA SUMMIT is that it provides the opportunity for travel professionals to meet in a conversable setting without the pressure of a 7 minute meeting or have to deal with the barrage of conference masses. Every tour operator has unique abilities, and since I am a big proponent of partnerships, SUMMIT becomes an ideal network to forge plans for new and exciting joint ventures.”

Dr. Michael A. Mazzarisi, President, Performing Arts Consultants

“To me, SYTA Summit is the most valuable conference that I attend. I always find the educational seminars very useful and because it is a smaller, more intimate conference, you get to build a much deeper relationship with the sponsors. This is also the only conference that I have ever really had the opportunity to get to know other attendees. I absolutely LOVE SYTA Summit!”

Kara Mihalevich, Group Travel Coordinator, Adventure Student Travel, LLC

“SYTA Summit provides an unique opportunity to get up close with my SYTA partners and many of our buyers. The environment lends itself to a causal, natural environment – no pressure just building my network!”

Tara Hippensteel, Director of National Tour & Travel, Hard Rock Café

“SYTA Summit has been an invaluable resource for both personal growth and building partnerships with other tour operators and vendors that has helped strengthen our business.”

Steve Maehl, Vice President, Global Travel Alliance

“The Summit is great. I Love the destinations we have visited and the size of the event itself. There is a real opportunity at Summit to spend quality time with all of the attendees and in a relationship based business, that time is everything.”

Bob Hofmann, Vice President, Broadway Inbound

SYTA Strategic Partners