Established in 1964, The Travel Institute is the education destination for all travel professionals. Through innovative education programs, professional certifications and customized learning solutions, The Travel Institute fulfills its non-profit mission to promote a standard of industry knowledge and excellence.

Brian Darcy

Fun Fact: Been associated with ICTA/TTI since 2001 and yet I am only the 6th most senior member out of the 12 staff members listed.

Carla Smith, CTA
Director of Membership

Fun Fact: Need something done? Ask a mom with twins!

Carolyn Cuzzone

Carolyn Cuzzone
Database Administrator

Fun Fact: Loves quilting – her last quilt had 880 pieces and took almost three years to complete

Diane Petras, CTIE

Diane Petras, CTIE

Fun Fact: Was a travel agent for 10 years, and wants to know who remembers red ink on their hands and why. She also wanted us to say she started her career at age 2.

Guida Botelho, CTIE
Director of Education

Fun Fact: Guida was born in the Azores.

Lisa Owers, CTIE
Manager, Content and Continuity

Fun Fact: She never met a craft she wouldn’t try or a free class she wouldn’t take.

Pat Gagnon, CTC
Certification Testing

Fun Fact: Has a large collection of books and memorabilia on U.S. presidents

Patty Noonan, CTC
Director of Sales

Fun Fact: Did a practice run with Olympic bobsled team in St. Moritz.

Shannon Coughlin

Fun Fact: As the 10th of 11 children, the size of her family was actually not uncommon in her neighborhood growing up.

Suzanne Connor
Database Administrator

Fun Fact: Suzanne loves being outdoors with her family!

Taylor Ruecking
Director, Marketing & Technology

Fun Fact: Was on the American Eagle Safety Card, before being replaced by illustrations.

Ulmer S. Coy, III, CTC
Office Manager

The best part of having a passport … is using it.

Vanessa Cabana

Vanessa Santo-Domingo
Testing Coordinator

Fun Fact: Vanessa is a second-generation team member with The Travel Institute.

Board of Directors

Founder and Principal, Robb Aspect

Brian Robb, CTIE, is founder and principal of Robb Aspect located in southeast Wisconsin. He joined The Travel Institute Board of Trustees in 2005 and was appointed vice chair in 2010. He became chairman in October 2015.

With a travel industry career spanning nearly 40 years, Robb has worked as an agency manager as well as sales manager for an airline, has operated tour companies and led in the creation of travel technology systems. This broad background has continually focused on leading efforts to grow and develop the effectiveness and success of travel agencies and their travel supplier partners.

Prior to forming Robb Aspect, he was senior vice president at the Mark Travel Corporation and Trisept Solutions, where he most recently worked to advance VAX VacationAccess, a product that he helped define, develop and launch in 1999. Robb also spent 12 years at Carlson Travel Group where he was global vice president of marketing, managing an annual budget of over $12 million dollars. Leading up to his role at Carlson, he was an airline sales manager and general manager of the travel agency, Nordic America Travel with offices in Minneapolis, Oslo, and Stockholm.

Robb has served on several industry advisory boards, including Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Gaylord Entertainment Company, Hawaii Tourism, and TravelCom. A frequent keynote speaker, Robb has addressed issues ranging from travel technology and strategy development to agent-supplier relations. He has also lectured at Cornell School of Hotel Administration where he reinforced the role of travel agents and tour operators in hotel yield management.

A native of Minnesota, Robb resides in Wisconsin with his wife Kris. They are the proud parents of two daughters and a horse. A firm believer in pursuing your passions, his interests include continuing education, the fine arts, an occasional round of golf.

Gary Pollard, CTC - Vice-Chair, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
President and CEO, Ambassador Tours

Gary M. Pollard, CTC, is President of Ambassador Tours in San Francisco. Founded by his parents, Stan and Leone Pollard, in 1955, Ambassador Tours is a full-service travel agency specializing in affordable vacation travel to all parts of the world.

Gary knew at an early age that he wanted to be part of the family business. So, after a couple of years of college, he joined the business and the folks made sure he started at the bottom – in the mail room – where he coordinated the mailing of cruise and tour brochures. Not long after, Gary graduated from Echols International Travel School.

In the ensuing years, Gary held a wide variety of jobs of increasing responsibility, covering all aspects of the business and eventually taking over the daily operations of the business with his brother, Bruce Pollard, in 1995. Finally, in 2003, his parents officially turned the reins of the company over to him, appointing him President, with overall accountability for Sales, Marketing, and Operations. Now, more than 50 years after its inception, Ambassador Tours remains a leader in the travel industry, working hard to offer the best prices, best service and the best possible vacation for every travel interest.

Gary has served on advisory boards for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and currently serves on the advisory boards for Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and Club Med. He has sailed on more than 40 ships. Gary is also actively involved in his community, serving as Board President of the Foster City Youth Baseball Association, President of the San Mateo High School Athletic Boosters, and a Committee Member of the Foster City Park and Recreation Citizen Advisory Committee, and past President of Peninsula Temple Sholom. He earned his CTC in 1988 and became a life member in 1989.

He resides in Foster City with his wife, Chris, and their two sons, Bryan and Marcus.

Patrick McGovern, Secretary - Executive Committee
Director of Business Development, Ascedia

Pat McGovern has been in the Marketing and Advertising space his entire career. He currently is the Director of Business Development for Ascedia, a digital only agency located in Milwaukee. Throughout his career, Pat has worked with a wide array of clients from Fortune 500 to start-up players and everything in between.

He has extensive background in the travel space. While at The Mark Travel Corporation, Pat worked on the marketing and branding for Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations, Blue Sky Vacations and Sun Country Airlines. He has also worked extensively with hotel chains and CVBs throughout Mexico and the Caribbean.

Pat is also the president of the American Marketing Association – Milwaukee chapter. He is an avid runner, reader and loves the opportunity to get into a river to enjoy fly-fishing.

Drew Daly


Drew Daly, CTIE, is a long-time member of the World Travel Holdings’ family. He started his career 23 years ago as a travel agent and is currently the General Manager of Network Engagement & Performance of home-based travel agency franchise Dream Vacations. His charismatic personality makes him perfect for this role, where he oversees all agent-facing functions including Recruitment Sales, Training, Support Services, Engagement and Business Development. Drew’s teams provide ongoing award-winning training programs, create networking opportunities throughout the year and engage with the most successful travel agents in the industry to become part of our network. As a leader in the travel industry, Drew sits on several boards and is currently the Chairman of CLIA’s Strategic Travel Agent Review Board (Cruise Lines International Association) and on the Board of Directors for PATH-the Professional Association of Travel Hosts. Drew is a regular contributor offering travel advice and tips on NBC and FOX affiliates, and is a contributor in travel trade publications as an industry expert.

Scott Ahlsmith, CTC - Past Chair
Industry veteran, consultant, and educator

Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, completed his term as chairman of the Board for The Travel Institute in December 2010. Scott has a travel industry career that dates to 1972. From owning his own agency to being an expert on travel technology and distribution, Ahlsmith continues to serve on the board today and brings a depth of industry knowledge that is hard to match.


Scott’s résumé points to the following stops in his travel industry tour: He was branch manager of Thomas Cook Travel; the director of sales for Cartan Tours; the director of the Electronic Edition of the Official Airline Guide; the President of Gant Travel Management; and Vice President and General Manager of TRAMS, President and CEO of Magellan Travel Group, Founder of You! The Brand and Executive Vice President Global Technology for Virtuoso.


Scott graduated from Kansas University in 1972, earning degrees in journalism, education, and computer science. He has put that journalism experience to good use, having written “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Vacation.” Scott also hosted daily radio shows for Voice of America and has appeared on The Bill O’Reilly Show. Scott is a travel professional’s advocate, ombudsman, evangelist, true believer, guinea pig, arbitrator, intermediary, moderator, consultant, educator, coach, customer and cheerleader.

Rick Baron, CTC
Former Managing Director, Global Sales, Tauck, Inc.

Rick Baron, CTC, former Managing Director, Worldwide Accounts for Tauck, Inc. in Wilton, CT is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in Marketing and Sales Management. Rick had been with Tauck for 40 years and was responsible for worldwide strategic partnerships.


Rick has had extensive travel industry experience starting his travel career as a Tour Director and then trainer, having worked in New England, Eastern Canada, and Hawaii. Since joining Tauck’s sales force in 1989 as Director of Sales Development, Rick has hired, trained, and managed the majority of Tauck’s sales staff, developed numerous sales seminars and travel presentations, a series of sales and marketing symposiums, and has written Tauck’s sales training manuals for business development managers.


Rick and his wife Linda have a 30-year-old son Jason, who is also in the industry working for SAS as National Accounts Manager, and a 25-year-old son Randy who just graduated from University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business with an MBA in Sustainability. As a hobby, Rick is a certified Level 3 Alpine Ski Instructor, teaching skiing and coaching most winter weekends at Hunter Mountain, NY and has been involved in fundraising for STRIDE Adaptive Sports skiing to raise money to support skiers with disabilities and has served as a keynote speaker for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.

Laurie Bohn, CTIE
Director, National Accounts, Training & Trade Associations | Sales, Royal Caribbean International

As part of the industry’s largest sales organization, Laurie oversees trade association partnerships, training and the cruise line’s relationships with North America’s top travel advisors, agencies and networks. Bohn and her team manage the sales and marketing initiatives of these accounts, driving an original approach to achieving success.


With years of management experience in the cruise industry, Bohn brings with her a broad perspective and varied expertise in working with all business channels. She most recently was director of Trade Sales and National Training. In this role, Bohn led the operations of business development services as well as national training for the company’s sales force and travel partners in the U.S. and Canada.


She previously spent 15 years at Holland America Line and Seabourn, serving as director of National Account Sales. Bohn also has the know-how of working in the field from her time as a sales manager for sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises.


Bohn earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia.    She resides in Miami with her husband, Laurent.

Jackie Friedman, CTIE
President, Nexion Travel Group

Jackie Friedman, CTIE, is the president of Nexion, a fully licensed, bonded and accredited host agency with operations in both the United States and Canada. She oversees an operation that employs 68 staff supporting more than 3,500 independent leisure and corporate travel professionals, most of whom work from home. Jackie joined the Nexion leadership team in 2004 as Vice President of Operations. In early 2007, she was promoted to President and General Manager of the host agency with a focus on membership growth, supplier relations, marketing, business development, training, customer support, product development and fulfillment services. Under Jackie’s leadership, the Nexion membership base has more than quadrupled and annual gross sales have grown to over $390,000,000 a year.

Prior to joining the Nexion team, Jackie enjoyed a 15-year career with Sabre Travel Network, serving in a variety of account management, sales, business development and leadership positions in both Canada and the United States. Prior to joining Sabre, Jackie got her start in the travel industry working as a front-line agent and eventually a travel agency manager in her home town of Toronto, Canada. Jackie is a native of Canada, but recently became a citizen of the United States.

Evan McElligott, CTA
President, Longer Vacations

After successfully completing an advanced diploma in Travel and Tourism in Dublin, Ireland, Evan McElligott, CTA, began his career in the Tourism industry. The first ten years was in the aviation side of the business and he quickly took on leadership roles in Ticketing, Check-in Supervisor, and eventually worked his way up to Airline management.

His passion for the industry fueled his curiosity for the world and after exploring all the options available to him in the airline industry, he decided it was time to explore the world for the next few years. His travels took him from Europe all the way to Asia, and then to Australia and New Zealand. In 2004 he settled in the United States where he set up his travel agency, Longer Vacations.

Longer Vacations is a local travel business specializing in planning trips to faraway places and with an emphasis on developing markets, all of which he personally visited and has spent time in. Evan still operates as a home based agent and agency. As the business grew, added to his brand and set up an Ireland only agency called Independent Ireland, which focuses on immersive travel to his native Ireland.

Evan has an undying interest in education, certification and professional advancement in the industry and has earned his CTA designation to add to his IATA certification. He has served on the board of ASTA’s Young Professional Society as the Vice President and his passion for learning continues today, through destination trainings, attending conferences, and as many webinars/training events as his schedule allows.

Richard Meadows, CTC
Industry Veteran, Consultant

With 40 years of experience serving in key senior leadership roles, beginning his travel career as a Travel Advisor in Kansas City, Missouri in 1980.Most recently, President of Seabourn, Carnival Corporation’s Ultra-Luxury brand with overall executive responsibility leading business and global operations for the award-winning ultra luxury cruise line.

Between 2014 and 2016, held an additional leadership role as President of Cunard Line – North America, with operating responsibility for the iconic Cunard brand through the North American continent.

Prior to the dual role with Seabourn and Cunard, served as both President of Seabourn and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Guest Programs of Holland America Line.Previous roles include; Senior Vice President of Seabourn; Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Carnival Corporation, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Windstar Cruises a former subsidiary of Holland America Line.Also, serving as Director of Sales for Carnival Cruise Lines beginning his cruise career with Carnival Corporation in 1985.

An advocate for the cruise and travel industries, a long time member of the Board of Directors of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).Appointed by former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire as Commissioner on the Washing State Tourism Commission.Named to NBC’s PRIDE30 list in 2018, Seattle Business Journal as one of the ‘Outstanding Voices’ in their business of pride program and as a Fellow by the Culinary Institute of America.Served on the Board of Directors for Seattle Repertory Theatre, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

Anita Pagliasso
Vice President of Industry Relations, KHM TRAVEL

Anita Pagliasso took a leap of faith in 1992 when she switched gears from owning a successful and thriving electronic manufacturing rep business in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA. to opening her home-based travel business, Ticket To Travel.In 2020 Anita merged Ticket To Travel, with KHM Travel Group and now serves as Vice President of Industry Relations. This partnership brought together two leading host agencies with like-minded business goals and matching strong core values.
Anita’s passion has always been in all aspects of educating travel agents.Anita is the author of “How I Made a Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent”, as well as the top selling book is entitled “From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE! – Marketing Strategies to take your Travel Passion to Profit”.She has also produced the popular CD – “Anita’s Tool Box for Home-Based Agents”, which includes dozens of travel business letters, and other relevant documents and templates.
You will find all her material relevant since it comes from her own personal journey of building a one-person home-based business to a thriving enterprise. She provides inspiration, encouragement, motivation and, most of all, shows how to keep the fun alive while selling travel.
Anita has produced numerous seminars based on the content of her publications and also makes regular presentations to various colleges, chamber events, travel education forums, travel industry conferences, and was the conference director for several years for the Travel Agent Forum.She has presented keynotes at many venues, including the Greek Chamber of Tourism in Athens, TPOC (Travel Professionals of Color) as well as produced the “30 Second Marketing Course” for Princess Cruise Line’s One Source Academy and was a keynote speaker for Celebrity Cruise Line’s “Keys to Success Series”.
For over 14 years, Anita was a featured monthly columnist for Agent@Home Magazine.She has also had numerous articles written about her success in publications such as, Income Opportunities Magazine, Travel Weekly, Travel Agent, Travel Age West, San Jose Mercury News, Saturday Evening Post and the New York Times.In addition, she writes monthly articles for Travel Research Online (TRO).
Ms. Pagliasso is part of the Travel Institute’s Professional Educators’ Program (PEP), joining an esteemed group of travel educators who provide quality training to their members. The Travel Institute is the industry’s source for professional certification and designation of professionalism.
Anita has served on numerous supplier advisory boards, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Classic Vacations Home-Based Agent Initiative, NCL’s Home-Based Agent Advisory Board, and currently serves with positions on ASTA’s Independent Contractor Advisory Committee, the President of PATH (Professional Association of Travel Hosts), NorCal ASTA 1st Vice President, and CCT0 2nd Vice President (California Coalition of Travel Organizations).

Helping to foster travel agent’s successes, elevate the image of the professional home-based travel agent, and the travel industry overall, are, and will always be, Anita’s greatest passions.

Jennifer Simmons
President, Marketexture, Inc.

With more than 25 years of B2C and B2B experience in travel and tourism, Jennifer’s specialties include thought leadership, brand strategy, strategic plan development, marketing research, consumer behavior & psychology, and integrated marketing communications.

Jennifer’s tourism clientele includes country tourism boards, state tourism offices, CVBs, hotels/accommodations, airlines, attractions, and recreation brands including Belize, the Dominican Republic, Colorado, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Nevada, Maine, West Virginia, Nebraska, Orlando, Las Vegas, St. Pete/Clearwater, Fort Myers/Sanibel, Reno/Sparks, Newport Beach, The Broadmoor, Gaylord National, Southwest Airlines, United Vacations, and Funjet Vacations, to name a few. She authored Maine’s Five-Year Strategic Plan for tourism for each of most recent two periods and completed the same in 2020 for the Nebraska Tourism Commission.

Jennifer holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in brand management and a Bachelor of Science in computational mathematics. She has served as an adjunct faculty member and lecturer at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. Jennifer is a frequent keynote speaker with past appearances at annual state conferences on tourism, HSMAI sessions, media events, CVB meetings, media events and university roundtables for travel and tourism (as well as healthcare, CPG, post-secondary education, and high-tech).

Debbie Wilson, CTA
Professor and Department Chair, Los Medanos College

As Professior and Department Chair for Travel Marketing programs, Debbie Wilson, CTA, combines three of her passions: training, technology, and travel. After spending ten years in the high-tech industry, including two years as a sales trainer, she earned her certificate in travel marketing and entered the travel consulting field. In 1998 Debbie returned to the Los Medanos College travel department as an instructor and has been training travel professionals for the past several years, applying her advanced degree in distance education.

Horst Schulze - Emeritus
Founding President and COO, Ritz-Carlton

Horst Schulze is a legend and leader in the service world.His vision has helped reshape concepts of customer service throughout the hospitality and service industries. Mr. Schulze served as the vice chairman of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company from 2001-2002, after serving as president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Group since 1988. Under his leadership, the Company was awarded the 1992 and 1999 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and has been continuously voted “best hotel company in the world” by convention and trade publications. In November of 1991, Mr. Schulze was recognized as “corporate hotelier of the world” by HOTELS Magazine. In 1995 he was also awarded the prestigious Ishikawa Medal for his personal contributions to the quality movement. In 1999, Johnson & Wales University recognized him with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. In January 2002, Mr. Schulze was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Hotel, Sales & Marketing Association International.Today, Mr. Schulze serves as a director on several boards including Reliance Trust Company; Cancer Treatment Research Foundation; and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Mr. Schulze remains an honorary board member and guiding light for The Travel Institute.

Academic Council

Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC
President & Chief Visionary, JASON COLEMAN, INC.

Jason Hedrick, CTC, CTIE
Director of Vacation Travel, CI Azumano Travel/American Express

Beci Mahnken, CTC, MCC
President and CEO, MEI Travel

Lisa Sheldon, CTC, CTIE
President, DWHSA

Marie Smith, CTA, VTA
Director of Agent Development and Engagement, KHM Travel