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Staff

Esther G. Kee

Co-Founder, President



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

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.


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.


Teresa Vanfleet Barndt

Senior Program Director



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 is developing an upcoming line of 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

Program Assistant



Joycelyn Su is currently a third-year undergraduate student double-majoring in Economics and Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. She was born in Singapore and spent ten years living in Shanghai, China before coming to the U.S. for college. Her experiences living abroad gave her a passion for international affairs, development, and Chinese bilateral relations. She hopes that her time at the USAI will equip her with skills and experiences that will be useful for any career path down the road. After graduating from UNC in 2016, Joycelyn hopes to work for a think tank, government agency, or NGO that focuses on any of the topics mentioned above. In her free time, you can find Joycelyn reading at a coffee shop, test-tasting different restaurants/food trucks around D.C., or stress-cleaning at home.


Henry Finkelstein

Program Assistant



Henry is a rising senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine pursuing a double major in Politics and Chinese Language. He was born and raised in northern New Jersey, 30 miles west of New York City. Henry is passionate about US-Asian relations, and this summer he plans to broaden his scope of knowledge of the region beyond China. Upon graduation, Henry wishes to seek employment in the government, at a think tank or with a strategic consulting group performing critical research on Chinese politics and military affairs. He will eventually pursue a master’s degree in Foreign Service or International Affairs. In his spare time, Henry enjoys singing A Cappella, playing cards or just hanging out with his friends.


Shane Miller

Program Assistant



Shane Miller is a rising 2L at The George Washington University Law School, where he holds several student government positions and intends to focus on international corporate law. A native Texan, Shane earned a bachelor of arts in English Literature, with Honors, at The University of Texas at Austin and spent last summer interning at King and Wood Mallesons in Shanghai. He is interested in working in China after completing law school, and hopes to use his time at USAI to achieve this goal. When he's not reading law school textbooks, he enjoys reading fiction and listening to and making music.


Fedorah Philippeaux

Program Assistant



Fedorah Philippeaux is a graduate student pursuing a Double-Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies from The University of Kent (UK) and The University of Marburg (Germany). She is currently a member of the Conflict Analysis Research Center, working on a literature review analyzing Stephen Pinker's Decline of Violence theory. After living and working in China for a year, she developed a special interest in US-China Affairs. Her other areas of specialization include: Conflict Resolution and Terrorism/National Security. Upon completion of her MA, Fedorah hopes to enter the U.S. Foreign Service to become a career diplomat. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Fedorah has spent much of her time living abroad in places like Belgium, China and the UK. In her spare time, Fedorah enjoys singing, musical theatre, acapella, playing instruments, and learning languages.


Dustin Vesey

Program Assistant



Dustin Vesey is a rising junior majoring in Political Science at Yale University. He developed an interest in Sino-American relations while studying Mandarin Chinese his freshman year. Consequently, he spent last summer in intensive Chinese language study with the Harvard Beijing Academy in China. He is interested in international relations and and hopes to one day work as a Foreign Service Officer. During his time at USAI, Dustin is focused on Chinese-related research facilitating congressional staff delegations and expanding his experience in the foreign policy-making process. Besides his academic pursuits, he manages a late-night café and is the captain of Yale's Alpine Ski Team.


Lisa Irving Venus

Research Coordinator



Prior to joining the US-Asia Institute, Lisa Irving Venus served for nearly 14 years as Counsel and Analyst on the Budget Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, gaining expertise on a broad range of policy and legislative issues including budget process and enforcement and House and Senate rules and procedures. Ms. Venus obtained a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in both history and psychology from Yale University.