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The Rustic Team

The Rustic Team

Our exceptional staff members are the backbone of our organization. Their incredibly diverse backgrounds provide us with a profound understanding of the destinations we visit and offer our students one-of-a-kind experiences.

International Staff

Rustic Pathways spans the globe! Most of our staff members are based outside the United States. While the cultural traditions of our team vary from country to country, the shared values that define Rustic Pathways and make them exceptional extend across all borders. Country Operations teams include international and local staff who work together to ensure Rustic students have fun, empowering, and safe experiences with us.

Exceptional Program Leaders

Our Program Leaders have backgrounds in teaching, experiential education, service learning, wilderness training, international development, and other outdoor and educational fields. Each year, we hold in-country training sessions for both new and returning staff to ensure we maintain our standards in safety, student learning, community service, and the overall Rustic Pathways student experience. Program Leaders are incredible role models for students and, most importantly, they are all dedicated to creating the best possible programs for students.

Leadership

Chris Stakich

Chief Executive Officer

An expert on travel and service-based education, Chris leads Rustic Pathways with an eye for innovation and excellence. Since graduating from Harvard in 2001, Chris has worked in virtually all areas of our organization, from running programs in Costa Rica to managing our global team. He works diligently with our team to develop future leaders who embody a broad perspective and compassion for the world. Chris lives in San Francisco with his wife and three young sons.

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Anna Beckerman

Vice President of Sales

Anna is an alumna of School Year Abroad and has a dual degree in geoscience and Mandarin from Dartmouth. Anna’s passion for experiential education and travel was sparked in high school and furthered in college. She now applies this passion at Rustic Pathways, providing opportunities for teachers and students to immerse themselves in new surroundings and engage powerfully with other cultures. Anna was previously director of our China operations and now resides in San Francisco.

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Team

Kevin Porter

Global Program Operations Director

Kevin has been  directing our global program operations since 2014, after serving as Ghana Country Director for three years. Now based in Boston, he manages our team of diverse country directors and ensures the quality of the programs we deliver on the ground. Prior to joining us, Kevin worked with development organizations in East Africa, completed research for the United Nations in South Korea, and oversaw wilderness leadership programs while attending Harvard University.

Ryan Gibbons

Vice President of Business Operations

With a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Ryan brings his talent in marketing, photography, and design to Rustic Pathways. Originally a Costa Rica program leader, Ryan spent four years building our creative team before taking over Business Operations. Ryan now focuses on creating a world-class client experience for each and every family at Rustic. Prior to joining Rustic, Ryan worked for NPR in Washington D.C.

Dave Dennis

Safety and Risk Management

With a master’s degree in risk management and more than 20 years of relevant experience, Dave specializes in implementing risk management and emergency response programs for domestic and global tour operators. 

Dr. Will Smith

Medical Director

Dr. Will Smith is a recognized leader in wilderness medicine who joined Rustic Pathways in 2015. He practices emergency medicine in Jackson, Wyoming, and is clinical faculty for the University of Washington School of Medicine, as well as the Medical Director for the National Park Service. Locally, he serves as the Co-Medical Director for Grand Teton National Park, Teton County Search & Rescue, Bridger Teton National Forest, and Jackson Hole Fire / EMS.

Ann Dunphy

Participant Screening Manager

Ann has been in emergency medicine for 35 years and has been a professional EMT and Wilderness First Responder instructor for decades. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education in addition to having certifications in specialized emergency medicine. When not screening our student’s before their programs, Ann teaches for Wilderness Medical Associates. Based in northern Wisconsin, Ann selflessly dedicates herself to helping others.

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Lauren Anderson

Program Staffing and Training Director

Lauren joined Rustic Pathways in 2008 after graduating from Emory University. She spent her first six years in Costa Rica overseeing our operations and seasonal staff. Lauren then formed our Alumni Association where she developed programs for continuing student involvement. She now uses her extensive skill set to continue to improve the hiring and training of all program leaders across the globe. Lauren lives in Chicago, travels often, and enjoys maintaining her Spanish fluency.

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Emily Stickle

Program Staffing Manager

Emily first encountered Rustic as a student, traveling to Asia and South America. Emily’s positive personality and leadership skills made her an integral part of the Costa Rica team before moving to our Program Staffing team. Emily is a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in anthropology. Her mastery of icebreaker games, talented singing voice and love of sloths make her a favorite. Always looking for a challenge, Emily also completed the Camino de Santiago, a 510 mile trek across Spain.

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Patrick Ziemnik

Customer Service Manager

Patrick began his career in experiential education as a Harvard student, managing the University’s First-Year Outdoor Program. After graduating with high honors from the Social Studies Department, Patrick continued his passion for social enterprise as an AmeriCorps volunteer. He now brings his strong leadership skills, love of the outdoors, and experience as Country Director in Mongolia and Tanzania to our team of Personal Travel Advisors in Ohio. Patrick’s immense dedication to community partnerships and passion for creating meaningful student experiences continue to shine through in our customer service.

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Marisa Ferro

Personal Travel Advisor

Growing up where the ocean meets the redwood forest of northern California, Marisa’s first love was nature. After earning an undergraduate degree in International Relations and African Studies her passion was ignited for travel and cultural immersion. She then moved to Portland, where she became immersed in Native American indigenous teachings and community outreach supporting refugee youth. After receiving a Masters in Sustainability Education, Marisa led gap year programs throughout East Africa and Southeast Asia. Marisa is excited to continue working with likeminded people and helping students use travel and an opportunity for educational growth.

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Hollie Wolfinger

Personal Travel Advisor

Hollie’s life changed when she witnessed the impact that Rustic Pathways programs have on both students and communities while leading her first program in 2015. After teaching art for 7 years in Baltimore, Maryland, she joined the Rustic team in Fiji for over a year. Now, Hollie is happy to be at home in Findlay, Ohio working as a Personal Travel Advisor. Being a PTA allows Hollie to talk about the programs she loves all day long with her dogs at her feet and her family nearby!

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Carly Caldrone

Gap Year Travel Advisor

With a gift for organization and a calm, compassionate personality, Carly has supported students traveling with our growing Gap Year division since 2012. After earning her degree in international studies from Miami University of Ohio, she spent several years in New York City before returning to the Cleveland area. From her own adventures in Europe, Morocco, and Costa Rica, Carly knows firsthand how powerful and life-changing world travel can be, and she loves helping to provide similar opportunities to young people on the threshold of adulthood. She also enjoys working on home improvement projects, reading novels, and taking nature walks with her young daughter.

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Heather Love

Personal Travel Advisor

Heather is a graduate of Cleveland State University with a degree in Psychology. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, her desire to learn new cultures is always satiated with each day working at Rustic Pathways. Her first international travel was with Rustic and helped her be brave enough to travel alone to Ireland and Scotland. When not working, she enjoys reading, taking nature walks and exploring all parts of Ohio.

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Carrina Crow

Personal Travel Advisor

Carrina loves travel and is passionate about helping others. A graduate from Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, Carrina puts her degrees in international business and spanish to use as a personal travel advisor since 2013. In her spare time, Carrina loves photography, gardening, beekeeping, and scuba diving. In 2008 she traveled to Australia to play for the United States World Softball team.

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Michelle Michal

Personal Travel Advisor

A true Clevelander and a graduate of Kent State University in hospitality management, Michelle joined Rustic Pathways after working for six years as an event planner for a local winery. Her emphasis on customer satisfaction, love of travel, and desire to experience new cultures make Michelle a great fit within the Rustic family. Michelle has visited our operations in Fiji, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and New Orleans. In her spare she time enjoys cooking and selling her own line of jam!

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Colleen Liggett

Personal Travel Advisor

Born and raised in a small Northeast Ohio town, Colleen has an insatiable curiosity about the world and loves learning about other cultures. She has visited our operations in New Orleans, Costa Rica, Fiji, and Australia. Colleen is an accomplished professional photographer and appreciates the power that photography has to capture a memory that will last forever. When not at work helping others plan their adventures, you can often find her planning a trip for friends and family, or camping at a music festival.

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Dustin Aschenbeck

Group Travel Senior Account Executive

Dustin joined Rustic Pathways in 2010 as the Director of India operations. Whether he is busy working on the river guiding trips in the mountains of Colorado or sharing stories of his many global adventures, Dustin believes that his life’s journey should never be a destination but a journey of careful observation and intentional living. When not traveling throughout the world, Dustin enjoys playing classical piano and kayaking with his friends.

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Mary O'Connor

Group Travel Account Executive

Mary graduated from Boston University with degrees in photojournalism and Spanish. Mary is from the North Shore of Massachusetts. Since graduating in 2011, Mary has worked as a photographer for newspapers in Massachusetts and Vermont, taught English in Montezuma, Costa Rica, coordinated a volunteer program in Cuzco, Peru, and taught snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, California. Mary has lead and photographed Rustic Pathways programs in Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, and Peru. She is fluent in Spanish and culturally competent across the globe. Mary’s free spirit and passion for travel and photography make her a natural on Team Peru.

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Dustin Huffman

Group Travel Account Executive

Hailing from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, Dustin earned a degree in public policy and environmental ethics from the University of Georgia. After working three years as an Education Policy Advisor in Washington, D.C., he set off on a year-long Southeast Asian sabbatical that linked up with Rustic Pathways along the way. Dustin has led Come With Nothing trips in Thailand and Laos and is now working full-time for Rustic as Thailand Program Manager.

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Cameron Griffin

Group Travel Account Executive

Cameron has overseen partnership development in Middle East/North Africa  since 2018. His work with students and stakeholders in improving educational outcomes extends back to his first job as an English teacher in Thailand, and subsequent roles across working with universities and institutions across the US and Gulf Countries. A proud alum of the University of Florida’s International Studies program, as well as four exchange programs, his passion lies in connecting communities, bridging cultures, and sharing success with as many people as possible. When not on the move for Rustic, Cameron enjoys running marathons and cooking… sitting still only for the occasional (ok, daily) NYT crossword.

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Shelby Silva

Group Travel Account Manager

Shelby, a Californian native, avid surfer, and retired rugby player, was inspired to pursue a career in travel, education, and adventure while studying abroad in New Zealand. Since graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in ecology, she has obtained a master’s in education. After leading outdoor leadership expeditions around the world for 10 years, Shelby joined Rustic in 2016 to lead programs in Fiji and now manages Group Travel in Hong Kong.

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Kelli Crooks

School Partnership Manager

Kelli has worked in the student travel industry for the past 10 years with a focus on both the sales and operational sides of the business. She studied Social Studies at Eastern Washington University with an emphasis in Secondary Education and has since traveled extensively both domestically and internationally to meet with teachers eager to travel with their students. Kelli currently resides in McKinney, Texas with her husband and two young girls. She is an active board member and volunteer at her local elementary school with the PTA.

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Evan Johnson

School Partnerships Coordinator in Asia

Originally from Portland, Oregon in the states, Evan’s travel bug was bit when she studied abroad in Kenya, Tanzania, and Israel in college studying both Biology and Film Studies. She says that photography is what brought her abroad initially, but it’s the people she meets around the world that keep her traveling. She began Program Leading with Rustic in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and Vietnam in 2015, and has since then called a village in Bali her home base in Southeast Asia.

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Amanda Nitzken

International School Partnerships Manager

Amanda, a rock music junkie and amateur rock climber, fell in love with service-oriented travel when she first embarked on a service-learning trip to Belize. After graduating from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in Middle Eastern Studies and Spanish, Amanda packed her bags to teach English as a Second Language in the island nation of Comoros. Amanda brings these travels, work experience in refugee resettlement, and a love for mango sticky rice to Rustic, where she helps customize our group travel experiences for international schools.

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Matija Paunovski

Regional Recruitment Director-International

Matija completed an undergraduate degree at Northeastern University, then went on to earn a master’s degree from Harvard. Her expertise in leadership training and recruitment has enabled her to achieve great success within the Rustic Pathways Group Travel division. Her highest priority is that educators and students walk away completely satisfied and fulfilled from their incredible experience. In her free time, Matija enjoys reading, working out, running, and practicing power vinyasa yoga.

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Emily Harney

Client Recruitment Manager

Born and raised in New England, Emily now resides in New Zealand. Emily is a Rustic veteran, having led community service and animal conservation programs throughout Australia, Fiji, India, China, Cambodia, and Thailand since 2007. Emily earned a masters degree in education from Salem State University in 2010. Emily has a deep knowledge of our global program operations and when speaking with our students and parents, she never hides her enthusiasm for volunteer and adventure travel.

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Erik Schoon

Gap Year Operations Manager

Staying true to his viking blood, Erik has visited more than 80 countries and lived in numerous locations across the globe over the past 25 years. With eleven years under his belt with the company and several years as our global gap year guide, he now helps ensure that our gap year programs run smoothly. Erik is an avid photographer, bladesmith, fisherman, and is known to be a fearless connoisseur of wild foods. He also recently completed a 3500 km road trip through east and central Africa!

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Troy Pearson

VP, Student Travel Sales

You can find Troy typically doing anything that involves the outdoors. It could be deep in the Sierra’s or relaxing somewhere along the Pacific Coast. Troy was born and raised in California and still lives there today, Morgan Hill to be exact. Troy’s hobbies today include, hunting, bbq’ing, working on his vegetable garden, and playing with his chocolate labradoodle, Tully. Troy joined Rustic in 2019 and works as the VP of Student Travel Sales.

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Theresa Brecker

Global Program Advisor

Theresa is a University of Maryland alum and an avid traveler visiting over 45 countries. After graduation she completed two Fulbright grants in Colombia, deep in the Amazon rainforest. She joined Rustic as a program leader in 2017 working in Costa Rica, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and meeting with students and families as our representative in Europe and the Middle East. When she isn’t helping families pick their perfect program you can find her reading, dancing or practicing new languages with whoever she meets.

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Connor FitzGerald

Global Program Advisor

Connor joined the Rustic Pathways team in 2018. After working in both Fiji and the Midwestern US, he now works with families to find the perfect program for them. He has a background with summer camp and non-profits, working with SeriousFun Network, a network of camps providing free summer camp for kids with serious illnesses. Connor is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in neuroscience. A Cleveland native, he enjoys spicy food, live music, and Cleveland sports.

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Cody Miller

Global Program Advisor

Cody is a graduate of University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. He fell in love with the ocean and the water at a very young age. He was a nationally ranked swimmer and bodyboarder, as well as, the team captain of the university’s swim program his senior year. Since he was five, he’s always wanted to protect the marine ecosystems around the world. Cody is an avid scuba diver, surfer, bodyboarder, and free diver. Cody program led in Fiji, was an outreach coordinator in the Midwest US, and now is working to help pick out the best program for you and your family. He loves live music and all types of foods.

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Anna Quinn

Global Program Advisor

With a degree in Global Studies, Spanish and World Religions, Anna has always had a passion for international development and adventure. Anna started with Rustic in 2018 as a Program Leader in Costa Rica, then headed to Fiji to lead. After working in the Pacific Northwest to promote student travel with Rustic, she was pulled up to help pair students with their dream trips. When she isn’t working, you can find her outside, typically on a beach and hopefully with a surfboard in hand. She’s always ready for an adventure, especially if it includes food. Anna is stoked to spend her life traveling the world and doing what she can to make it a better place for all.

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Zoila Blackson

Global Program Advisor

Zoila was born in New York, Brooklyn. She later moved to the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo with her mother and father. She was the only girl of four brothers. Her being Dominican and Haitian has changed her view on life. At the age of five, she moved back to New York. Zoila loves to sing and is often called a songbird. She is a mother of four, two boys and two girls and a wife of seven years. Zoila is a very vibrant individual who loves to help people and always tries to see the good in them. She is very positive and optimistic about life and believes that everything happens for a reason and good comes out of bad.

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Candice Jackson

Team Resources Manager

Candice is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio with a degree in business administration, and she recently earned her MBA from Lake Erie College. Candice brings her expertise, kindness, and attention to detail to our human resources department. She assists with the on-boarding of all staff and manages staff benefits and professional development.

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Scott Ingram

Marketing Director

Scott joined the Rustic team in 2018. He has been passionate about travel and sustainable development since he was bitten with the travel bug in college. He spent 5 years working in Japan, first as an English teacher and then pursuing an MA in International Development. He has led gap year programs that circumnavigated the world but now gets to spend a little less time in airports and focus on sharing the value and importance of intentional Rustic Pathways travel experiences to families. On his next travel adventure, he wants to go to Namibia.

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Jamie Kobylinski

Travel Administrator

A member of the Rustic Pathways family since 2007, Jamie holds a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in non-profit administration and psychology with a focus on contemporary urban issues, fundraising and development. In addition to her work as a certified travel administrator for Rustic Pathways, she has a passion for world travel and learning about foreign cultures. She has extensive travel experience in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. In her free time, Jamie can be found volunteering, reading books, and spending time with her three children in Ohio.

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Katie Ortman

Travel Administrator

Born and raised in the Cleveland area, and a veteran member of our Ohio office, Katie is instrumental in keeping our complex administration systems running smoothly. She is a certified travel agent, who greatly enjoys the dynamic, face-paced environment of travel operations. In her spare time, Katie enjoys spending time with her family, and is passionate about baking and trying new recipes.

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Krystal Phillips

Accounting Assistant

Krystal is a born and bred NE Ohioan. Following many years on her feet in customer service positions, she joined the accounting team as an assistant in 2018 and can finally sit down!  Krystal enjoys domestic travel and has built a bucket list of foreign destinations that she would like to visit in the near future. Her daughters had both studied abroad while in college and they let mom live vicariously through them. She has five cats and a hamster and is still happily married.  Her weekends are spent “muddin” in her Wrangler, exploring parks and gardens, and stargazing, all with her high school sweetheart husband of 27 years.

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