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.
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.
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.
Brent first joined Rustic Pathways as a Program Leader in 2007. He earned a master’s in teaching from Johns Hopkins University where he is on the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education. Before returning to Rustic, Brent managed training and preparation of new classroom teachers for Teach For America-Baltimore. With extensive experience in learning development and teacher training, Brent ensures the highest level of quality across our programming.
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.
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.
A three-time Rustic Parent and lifetime traveler, Karen joined Rustic Pathways in 2018 from Athersys, a publicly traded biotechnology company where she was Senior Director of Finance. Karen is a graduate of Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. Outside of work, Karen enjoys cheering on her children at athletic events, and traveling with her family.
Anthony joined Rustic Pathways in 2018 after building his marketing career in industries ranging from financial services, telecom, and food and beverage. Originally from the Midwest, Anthony graduated from the Kelley School of Business with honors at Indiana University. Beyond his passion for travel and the outdoors, Anthony is dedicated to supporting youth education initiatives through his participation as a volunteer mentor and Young Executive Board Member with the non-profit iMentor in New York City.
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.
Erin is passionate about Rustic Pathways’ vision of a world where travel is an essential part of every student’s education. After graduating from Notre Dame, Erin spent three years in northeastern Thailand teaching business English at Khon Kaen University through a Princeton in Asia Fellowship. Erin earned her master’s in education at Harvard and brings great energy to our team of educators. Though Erin bounces from country to country quite a lot, there is still no place like home in Virginia.
With a masters degree in risk management and more than 20 years of relevant experience, Dave is the perfect fit to lead Rustic’s Health and Safety Team. Dave joined us in 2014 after owning a consulting firm specializing in implementing risk management and emergency response programs for domestic and global tour operators. He now works with our global teams to ensure quality and consistency in all Rustic programs. Dave lives in Colorado with his wife and children.
Pete is a RIMS Certified Risk Management Professional, Wilderness First Responder and has an OSHA certification. A graduate of St John’s University in Minnesota, Pete developed his first love of travel studying abroad in New Zealand and Australia. That experience has set off a career spanning two decades in the adult and student travel industry. Pete and his wife continue to travel all over the world and currently live in NYC with their two beautiful daughters.
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 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 and even picks up ambulance shifts to keep her skills sharp. Based in northern Wisconsin, Ann selflessly dedicates herself to helping others.
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.
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.
Going on her father’s university field trips to Costa Rica as a child, Ellery learned the value of experiential education and travel at an early age. She has been working in travel, adventure, and education since before she graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in culture, health, and the environment. Before assuming her role on the program staffing and training team, she worked as the New Orleans Program Manager, led programs for Rustic in five countries, and spent two years in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Andrea has spent her career exploring social impact and sustainable development while working in microfinance, impact investing, philanthropy, education, and tech. Andrea traveled with Rustic Pathways as a high school student in 1997 and has since visited 50+ countries. She holds an MBA in nonprofit management and international development from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, where she was also an adjunct professor in social entrepreneurship, and a BA from UC San Diego. A California native, she has lived in Chile, Guatemala, and Switzerland and considers travel a central component of her happiness.
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.
Our Regional Sales Manager, Lauren brings experience from across Rustic Pathways’ sales and operations, including as our Strategic Partnerships Manager and USA Country Director. She lives between two Caribbean cities—New Orleans and Santo Domingo—and spends time by the ocean in New England where she grew up. She is a Temple University alumnus and non-fiction reader. You can usually find her hosting unexpected parties, exploring cities, or hiking the bayous with her family.
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.
Originally from the DC area, Jared has a strong love of international travel and community service. He has a diverse background, including stints as an AmeriCorps team member in New Orleans, tour guide in Italy and 2 years spent managing our Ricefields Service Base in Thailand. Jared has a degree in Global Studies: Violence, Conflict and Human Rights from Arizona State University and is an avid DC sports fan.
Sammy has a degree in sociolinguistics from the University of Szeged in Hungary which is where he was born and raised. During his many years working with Rustic Pathways, his enthusiasm, creativity, and leadership skills have made him an integral member of our global team. Sammy takes great pleasure in sharing his passion for education and travel with our teachers and their students.
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.
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.
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.
After a summer backpacking trip in college, Michael decided to move to the Czech Republic for a couple of years and teach English. It was during this time that he saw the long-lasting, positive impact that educational travel can have on individuals and communities. Upon his return to the USA, Michael began working in the student travel industry helping teachers make the world their classroom. His favorite aspect of the job is developing relationships with educators and finding creative ways to impact their students while abroad. He is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and now resides in Denver, Colorado. When not traveling he enjoys trying new food, reading fiction and spending time in the mountains with his wife Kelly and their chocolate lab, Dwyane.
A native Clevelander, Ashley joined Rustic Pathways in 2015 after four years in the North American travel industry. With degrees in Anthropology and International Studies, she has studied and worked abroad in the UK and Australia, and in the past few years, has traveled extensively throughout the United States and most recently to India. In her spare time, Ashley can be found running the trails and local races of Northeast Ohio, and chasing her favorite music bands across state lines.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Connor graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a triple major in journalism, art history, and cinema studies. He joined the Rustic Pathways team in 2009 and has previously worked as our China Country Director, social media manager, and full-time trip leader. He’s run over 60 different programs in fifteen countries with Rustic Pathways and now brings that experience advising families to perfect program choices around the globe. He is an avid traveler, visiting places from North Korea to Antarctica, and is an internationally ranked pinball player.
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.
With nine years of experience running programs in Fiji, India, Mongolia, Morocco, New Orleans, Peru, the US and formerly our Tanzania Country Director, Jessie has an extensive knowledge of our programs and operations. She now works directly with our clients to help them choose the perfect program to match their interests. She has traveled to more than 60 countries and still ventures out from Colorado to lead Rustic Pathways programs around the globe.
Staying true to his viking blood, Erik has visited more than 60 countries and lived in numerous locations across the globe. With eight years under his belt with the company and several years as our global Gap Year guide, he now helps ensure that our Gap operations run smoothly. Erik is an avid skydiver, scuba diver and 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!
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.
Casey received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Indianapolis in Spanish and Philosophy. Between years of undergrad, he took a gap year to volunteer as a volcano tour guide and English teacher in Nicaragua. Before returning to studies, Casey spent four months hiking the Appalachian Trail. With exceptional bilingual communication and leadership, he has managed Summer programs in Costa Rica and Rustic Pathways outreach in Europe. As a member of the Gap Year team, he now works with students planning their own gap years. Casey is happiest when he is on his bicycle!