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Staff

Mary Sue Bissell

Trustee, VP & Exec. Dir.



Mary Sue Bissell is Vice President and Executive Director of the US-Asia Institute. She is also a member of the Institute's Board of 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.


Kathleen Lunardi

Operations Director



A Philadelphia native, Kathi joins the staff of USAI with over 12 years of international business experience. Most recently, Kathi worked for the Fairfax County schools as a lead Special Education teacher, presenting at both the Teacher Researcher Conference and the annual Special Education Conference. She is a frequent community volunteer, committing her time to causes including Dog World Rescue in Alexandria and St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, TN. Kathi lives in Burke, VA with her two teenage daughters.


Robert Jordan

Senior Advisor, VP, Int'l & Go



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.


Rok Dam Beak

Program Assistant



Rok Dam Beak is a Korean who was raised in China. She is a senior undergrad at Calvin College studying international relations and Japanese. She is enrolled in a semester abroad program in DC. She is interested in studying US and East Asia relations, and she is passionate in human rights as well.


Katherine Dickey

Program Assistant



Katherine is a current undergrad at the College of Charleston. As a political science major, she is spending a semester in DC as a South Carolina Washington Semester Program Fellow. Katherine plans on either attending graduate school or teaching English in China after graduation.


Sean Lynch

Program Assistant



Sean Lynch is a current undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill double majoring in Political Science and Peace, War, and Defense. He is spending this semester working in Washington DC through UNC's Burch Honors Seminar on Domestic and International Affairs. Sean grew up in the Washington Area living in Woodbridge, Virginia and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He hopes to continue working in Washington, DC on foreign policy matters upon graduation from UNC.


Owen Ma

Program Assistant



Jiayang Ma is a graduate student at Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. He is majoring in U.S. Foreign Policy. Coming from Beijing, Jiayang was the torch-bearer of 2008 Olympic Games and also was elected as the official delegate of “A World Fit for Children +5 Forum” held by the United Nations in 2007. He received his bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College of Maryland in 2013 and majored in political science.


Christopher Putvinski

Program Assistant



Christopher is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying international development. His research is primarily focused on global resource scarcity and the development of emerging economies. His studies led him to China last summer as a delegate of an international conference that centered on Sino-US relations. Additionally, Christopher is a weekly contributor at Affairs Today, a global business journal based in the UK, where he covers topics related to politics, the environment and international affairs. He received his BA from Villanova University.