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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.


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.


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.


Kelly Vorndran

Program Assistant



Kelly, a Washington, DC area local, is a first year Asian Studies Masters candidate at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She completed her Bachelors in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia in 2012, and then moved to Shenzhen, China to teach English. After spending a year in China, Ms. Vorndran traveled throughout Asia, before spending 6 months studying Mandarin at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. Her aspiration is to pursue a career in international relations, and eventually to work for the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer.


Melissa Del Rosario

Program Assistant



Melissa is from Orange County, California and will be graduating May 2015 with a degree in Government and Politics and International Development and Conflict Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Melissa is fluent in Tagalog and conversational in Spanish and Cebuano. In July 2014, Melissa completed the China 101 Congressional Seminar Series with the US-Asia Institute. After graduation, Melissa would like to continue her career in politics and international relations in D.C.


Lee Chang

Program Assistant



Lee is from Commack, NY, he is a currently a junior undergraduate at Cornell University double majoring in China and Asia-Pacific Studies (CAPS), and government. His expected date of graduation is May 2016. He is currently spending the semester in Washington D.C. doing the Cornell in Washington program. Lee is conversational in Mandarin and hopes to one day work in a capacity related to policy making in China and the Asia-Pacific.