Home » 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.

Christine Hongyu Chen

Program Assistant

Christine Hongyu Chen is a senior undergrad at Dickinson College, studying International Business and Management, and Economics. Under a diplomatic family background, her interests continue in the US and Asia foreign policy, multilateral relations, and international business developments.

Catherine Covington

Program Manager

Catherine Covington is a recent graduate from The College of William and Mary with a BA in Global Studies, East Asian Studies. She concentrated in Chinese Literature and Language and spent five months at Peking University in a Mandarin language immersion program. She has been a member of the US-Asia Institute since December 2013. Catherine is interested in continuing her career in US-China relations and international business.

Sean Lynch

Program Manager

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 has been a member of the US-Asia Institute since January of 2014. After growing up in the Washington Area living in Woodbridge, Virginia, he now lives with his family in Charlotte, North Carolina. After graduating from UNC, Sean would like to continue working in Washington DC helping to influence US foreign policy.

Stefanie Merchant

Program Assistant

Stefanie Merchant is a current undergraduate student at Pomona College in Claremont, California. She is majoring in International Relations with a minor in Asian Studies. Having lived in South East Asia for most of her life, Stefanie is especially interested in studying ASEAN countries, as well as Japanese politics and international relations.

Julia Nussenbaum

Program Assistant

Julia Nussenbaum is a rising senior at Oberlin College. She is working on a major in East Asian studies and minors in politics and economics. Julia is conversational in Mandarin and is particularly interested in environmental issues and women’s issues in China.

Sunny Yan

Program Assistant

Sunny is a recent graduate from Mills College with a Bachelor's in English, with Honors. Born in the United States and raised in China, she is very excited to be working with the USAI on relations between US and Asia. She is currently interested in cross-cultural studies, particularly as it pertains to contemporary human and animal rights discourse in China. She can be reached at sunny.yan@usasiainstitute.org.

Naif Yusoff

Professional Development

Naif Yusoff is a graduate from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Oita, Japan with a degree in Asia Pacific Studies. He is currently pursuing a masters at the School of International Service at the American University. Naif is on the Professional Development Fellow program at USAI and hopes to one day work with Foreign Affairs in his home country, Brunei.