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The Rustic Team

The Rustic Team


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.

Brent Watkins

Vice President of Program Operations

Brent holds a master’s in teaching from Johns Hopkins University where he is also on the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining Rustic Pathways, Brent managed the 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 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.

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.

Karen Diedrich

Vice President of Finance

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.


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.

Erin Murphy

Student Impact Director

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.

Dave Dennis

Safety and Risk Management Director

Dave has a master’s degree in risk management and more than 20 years of experience in the adventure and student travel industry. Prior to joining us, he owned a consulting firm that specialized in implementing risk management and emergency response programs for both domestic and global tour operators. He works with our operations team and local country leadership to ensure the quality and consistency of all Rustic Pathways’ programs worldwide. Dave lives in Colorado with his wife and children.

Peter Brown

Global Risk and Safety Manager

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 kicked off an 18-year career in the travel industry. Pete has guided groups across the United States, Canada, the Yukon Territory and way up north to Alaska. Through this vast experience, he has focused his career on Risk and Safety. Pete and his wife continue to travel all over the world and currently live in NYC with their two beautiful daughters.

Ann Dunphy

Medical 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 and even picks up ambulance shifts to keep her skills sharp. Based in northern Wisconsin, Ann selflessly dedicates herself to helping others.

Lauren Anderson

Program Staffing and Training Manager

Lauren joined Rustic Pathways after graduating from Emory University. She spent her first six years in Costa Rica overseeing our operations and seasonal staff. She 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 Sanders

Program Staffing Coordinator

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.

Andrea Bouch

Executive Director, Rustic Pathways Foundation

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 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.

Lauren DeAngelis Àlvarez

Regional Development Manager

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 Aschenbeck

Regional Development Manager

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.

Jared Kahan

Regional Development Manager

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 Gacsi

Senior Program Coordinator

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.

Brandon Hartman

Group Travel Program Coordinator

Brandon joined Rustic Pathways in 2013 as a personal travel advisor before transitioning to the Group Travel team. He studied finance at Miami University, and has a background in banking. Brandon takes pride in customer service, and has employed those skills for the past three years as a group travel program coordinator. Brandon has a beautiful wife and two adorable sons. He is a passionate Ohio State and Cleveland sports fan, and looks forward to teaching his sons about his favorite teams.

Mary O'Connor

Group Travel Program Coordinator

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 Crooks

Group Travel Program Coordinator

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 Silva

Program Leader

Hailing from Northern California but now calling New England home, Shelby Silva 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, Shelby has obtained her Masters Degree in Education. Since 2008, Shelby has been leading outdoor leadership expeditions throughout the US and abroad and is excited to bring her experience to Rustic. When not leading Rustic Pathways programs, she can be found paddling out for a sunrise surf off the coast of New Hampshire, no matter the season.