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Innovative Social Policies for a Better World
Esther G. Kee is a co-founder, trustee and president emeritus of the US-Asia Institute. Mrs. Kee has a long history of community, political and international service and leadership. With the late Joji Konoshima, Mrs. Kee participated in the official White House ceremonies welcoming Deng Xiao Ping on his historic visit to the United States. Additionally, she coordinated his trip throughout the United States, and accompanied the delegation to the U.S. cities. More recently, she was a guest at the White House welcoming ceremony and luncheon honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao on his visit to the United States. In 1979, Mrs. Kee and Mr. Konoshima founded the US-Asia Institute to work more closely with Asian nations and to open an informal dialogue between government and private sector leaders with these countries, especially China. In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Kee worked with the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs to establish the Congressional staff delegations to the People’s Republic of China. To date, 77 of these trips have been organized to China, 11 to Japan and 10 to ASEAN. Mrs. Kee has been active in a variety of community activities in New York City including the Chinatown Planning Council, the Chinatown YMCA, the YMCA Camp Council of Greater New York and other civic organizations. She has served on the Presidential Ambassadorial Selection Board, the Selection Board of the State Department, the Advisory Board for Channel 13, the Board of Directors of the Community Service Society of New York and the Executive Committee for the Democratic National Committee. She has raised millions of dollars for local, state and national organizations, candidates and causes. She organized the Asian/Pacific American Women’s delegation to the International Women’s Year conference in Houston, Texas and is active in numerous Asian American and women’s groups.
Mary Sue Bissell is Vice President and Executive Director of the US-Asia Institute. She is also a member of the Institute’s Trustees. Ms. Bissell came to the US-Asia Institute in 1979. She worked with co-founders Esther G. Kee and Joji Konoshima as Director of Programs and Publications from 1979-84, and from 1987-90 as Executive Director. While at the Institute, Ms. Bissell planned and implemented international conferences in Washington, D.C., the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines and Japan on topics such as international trade, security and telecommunications. She also coordinated government-to-government activities with Pacific-rim nations, including international exchanges with China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Ms. Bissell coordinated Congressional staff trips to China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and organized policy dialogues on issues of concern to the U.S. and Asia. She edited conference proceedings from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th National Leadership Conferences, and a publication on U.S. immigration policy toward Asia. She also provided oversight to the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange for 2.5 years. Ms. Bissell has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management, conference planning, volunteer coordination, grant-writing, editing, strategic planning, marketing, education and fundraising. She has successfully directed the largest in-school opera education program in the U.S., reaching over 300,000 students each year; planned/implemented marketing strategy for one of the United States’ top ten aquariums; directed a regional voting project for youth; served as press officer and public relations manager for U.S. Army concerns in Hawaii; worked as a program assistant for the Asian Affairs Unit of a national political party, writing the U.S.-Asia section of the foreign policy plank of the 1980 party platform; and served in the field office of South Dakota Senator George McGovern. She has received numerous local, state and national awards and recognition for writing, public speaking and community service. Ms. Bissell is a graduate of the University of South Dakota. She is married with two daughters.
Robert F. Jordan was born and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts. He served overseas in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1947 and then attended the University of Massachusetts, graduating in 1951. From 1951 to 1956 he was a high school teacher of Algebra and Spanish. He also attended Boston College Graduate School and the University of Mexico in Mexico City. In 1956 he started a 36-year diplomatic career with the U.S. Information Agency, serving as the Public Affairs Officer and director of the United States Information Service in 11 countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America with responsibility for all U.S. government press and cultural exchange programs. He learned four foreign languages. He was president of the Fulbright Commission in several countries and was also president of the Government of Ireland’s scholarship board. While on a Washington tour he was assigned to USIA’s inspection corps and conducted policy and public diplomacy inspections of American embassies in some 40 countries worldwide. He is the recipient of several meritorious and superior honor awards and performance pay awards from USIA, the Department of Defense and the Department of State. He also received the Order of Merit from the Government of Portugal. He was chosen several times to organize press facilities for the White House Press Corps for overseas visits of U.S. presidents. Following retirement in 1992 he was called back by both USIA and the Department of State to conduct policy inspections of some 20 embassies worldwide. In 1994-95 he was a senior advisor to the US-Asia Institute where he prepared a brochure on the Institute’s history and also accompanied congressional staff delegations to China and Singapore. From 1995 to 2001 he worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency handling the Spanish-speaking media on disasters around the country.
Teresa Vanfleet Barndt returned to the US-Asia Institute as Senior Program Director early 2015 after two years spent finishing her M.A. in Asian Studies from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, working in public affairs for an international manufacturing firm in Shanghai, China, and finishing a year-long research fellowship on security and foreign affairs for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Teresa continues to manage the J. Matthew Szymanski Rule of Law Program as she did from 2011-2012. In addition she directs the Institute’s communications and development of an upcoming line of published research and reports. She received a B.A. in International Studies with a Minor in Chinese Language from Utah State University, studied abroad at Northampton University, U.K., and spent eighteen months serving a religious mission in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from 2006-2008.
Joycelyn Su is Program Director for the US-Asia Institute. Prior to joining USAI, Joycelyn was a researcher with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based bipartisan think tank. She also held various research and program management internships with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and New York University in Shanghai. In the fall of 2015, Joycelyn appeared in China Hands Magazine as one of “25 Under 25: Rising Stars in US-China Relations.” Joycelyn received a B.A. in Economics and Global Studies with Highest Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Singapore native, spent over a decade in China, and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.
Caochong Zeng is currently a junior at Union College, NY, with double majors in Political Science and Asian Studies. He is a Chinese national from Beijing, and has great interest in Chinese foreign policy making, the Chinese government’s political reform, and American engagement in regional affairs in East Asia. Last summer, he interned at the Beijing office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He plans to apply for master programs in international relations and regional studies after graduation, and eventually work in the political risk consulting industry. He speaks five languages.
Tai Gray is a senior at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah studying Political Science, Asian Studies, and Chinese. He served a religious mission to Taipei, Taiwan from 2011 to 2013 where he developed a love for the Chinese language and culture. Since then, he has continued his language studies in college and is currently part of the Chinese Flagship Program, a unique program designed to help students achieve professional language proficiency in their field of study. Tai is very interested in U.S.-China relations and its influence on national security. His recent research topics include the recent Chinese military reform, cybersecurity, and territorial disputes in East Asia. Tai plans to spend the following academic year studying at Nanjing University and completing an internship in China.
Collin Joyce hails from the southern state of Texas, but attends the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in the frigid state off Minnesota. At his university, Collin is highly involved in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and will commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in May of 2017. Upon commissioning, he aspires to become a Military Intelligence Officer and then a Foreign Areas Officer for the U.S. Army to help to prevent conflicts from arising between Asia and the U.S. Collin is ecstatic to be at the US-Asia Institute to promote understanding between the peoples and governments of the U.S. and Asia in hopes of preventing conflict and violence from ever occurring.
Samantha Pryor is currently a sophomore at Tufts University, studying International Relations and Chinese. With many family members hailing from Hong Kong, Asia has always been an area of interest for Ms. Pryor – specifically US-Asia foreign policy and international security. Having interned at University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Pacific Studies in the past, she is continuing on to the US-Asia Institute to better ground her knowledge of Southeast Asia. Ms. Pryor plans on attending law school after receiving her BA and working for the U.S. Department of State.
Monica Sato is a senior at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, majoring in Diplomacy and International Relations with a specialization in East and Southeast Asian Studies. As a Filipino, she aspires to study and resolve the issues encountered by Overseas Filipino Workers and to expand the literature in Asian-based international relations. While working for the US-Asia Institute this summer, she hopes to gain more knowledge and experience in policy-making and US-Asia relations.