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Staff

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Esther G. Kee

Co-Founder, President

Esther G. 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 various 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 within 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, 106 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 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 also 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.

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Mary Sue Bissell

Trustee, VP & Executive Director

Mary Sue Bissell came to the US-Asia Institute in 1979 and worked with co-founders Esther G. Kee and Joji Konoshima as Director of Programs and Publications from 1979-84. From 1987-90, she served as USAI’s Executive Director. While at the Institute, she sought to strengthen relations between the United States and Asia through organizing high-level conferences and policy dialogues, managing government-to-government exchange programs, and coordinating congressional staff trips to various Asian countries.

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 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. 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.

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Robert Jordan

Senior Advisor, VP, International & Government Affairs

Robert F. Jordan started a 36-year diplomatic career with the U.S. Information Agency in 1956. He served 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.

Mr. Jordan 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.

Mr. Jordan 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 frequently selected 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. From 1995 to 2001, he worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency handling the Spanish-speaking media on disasters around the country.

Mr. Jordan served overseas in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1947 and then attended the University of Massachusetts, graduating in 1951. He also attended Boston College Graduate School and the University of Mexico in Mexico City.

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Joycelyn Su

Program Director

Joycelyn Su was a program assistant with the US-Asia Institute in Spring 2015 before she took the position as Program Director in May 2016.

Prior to joining USAI, she 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 has also held various other research and program management internships with institutions like the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and New York University in Shanghai.

While at UNC, she served as Deputy Director of Duke-UNC China Leadership Summit, the premier Southern undergraduate conference in US-China relations. In Fall 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 Distinction and 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.

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Kaoruko Kobayashi

Program Assistant

Kaoruko Kobayashi is from Japan and spent nearly half of her life overseas in the US, Bahrain and South Korea due to her father’s business. She received a B.A in Political Science from Keio University with a focus on East Asian relations. During her junior year at Keio, she studied abroad at Georgetown University. Currently, she is pursuing her master’s degree in public policy at the University of Tokyo.

In the future, she hopes to contribute to promoting mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.

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Robert Byung Hoon Ryu

Program Assistant

Robert Byung Hoon Ryu is from Seoul, South Korea. He is pursuing a double major in Political Science and International Studies and a certificate in East Asian Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Robert enjoying learning about the complexity of foreign relations in East Asia and he hopes to help establish multilateral cooperation in East Asia and between the United States and Asia in the future.

After he receives his diploma in December, 2017, he plans to pursue a law degree, focusing on either international law or trade.

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Kiralina Soare

Program Assistant

Kiralina Soare is a Political Science Major with minors in Chinese and Environmental Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She is particularly interested in US-China relations and democracy building in the Asia Pacific region.

After receiving her diploma in 2019, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree or attend law school.