Our Parent Organization

Our Parent Organization: Academic Travel Abroad

CET’s parent organization, Academic Travel Abroad,  is an educational travel provider for some of this country’s most prestigious organizations. Riding the post-war wave of interest in travel to Europe, ATA launched operations in 1950 by assisting universities and cultural institutions in the creation of group travel programs for their members. Today, ATA is a leader in cultural and educational group travel and serves partners such as The New York Times, Smithsonian Institution, American Institute of Architects, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As a business-to-business enterprise, ATA is frequently the “brand behind the brand.” However, the company does have two public-facing brands: CET Academic Programs and Professionals Abroad, organizes delegations that connect professionals through international exchange. Tying together all brands and services are ATA’s focus on innovative program design, collaborative approach to partnership, steadfast insistence on quality, and commitment to environmental sustainability. Every ATA program is designed to change perspectives, deepen understanding, and engage communities.

ATA Resources Open Doors for CET

Salzburg, Austria

ATA Operates Programs on All Seven Continents

This means that CET has access to resources outside of the 16 cities where we have established CET centers and full-time staff. Think we can’t go somewhere because there’s not an in-country CET center? Give us a call! There’s a good chance our ATA resources blended with CET’s approach to custom programming will be able to meet your needs. 

Expertise Beyond Custom Travel

With the combined resources of ATA and CET, we can serve as a partner with your institution in comprehensive internationalization. We can provide assistance with alumni travel, donor cultivation, conference planning, and more. Learn more about our internationalization services.

ATA Leadership

Kate Simpson

Kate Simpson

President of ATA
[email protected]

Kate, daughter of an American diplomat, spent most of her youth in France, where she was born. Fluent in French, Kate settled on a more “exotic” language in college, where she fell in love with Mandarin and all things Chinese. Kate has lived and studied in Australia, Algeria, Ireland and Taiwan. Kate graduated from Yale with a degree in East Asian Studies and pursued a post-graduate fellowship in Chinese Literature at Taiwan National University before settling in Washington, D.C. After stints in public relations and working on the Hill for Senator Harry Reid, Kate began her career at Academic Travel Abroad, Inc (ATA) in 1988 as the China Program Manager and is now a proud owner of the business, along with her partners, Chase Poffenberger and Mark Lenhart. In 2008, Kate completed a three-year executive education program for owners and presidents at Harvard Business School. Kate serves on a Leadership committee for the NTA (National Tourism Association) and on the Executive board of the Fund For Education Abroad, a non-profit that provides scholarships for under-represented students to study abroad.

Mark Lenhart

Mark Lenhart

Executive Director of CET, Vice President of ATA
202.349.7320
[email protected]

Mark has worked for CET since 1990, when he began as Resident Director of CET’s Harbin Chinese Language Program. After nearly five years studying and working in China, he became CET’s Director in 1995, and he oversaw CET’s expansion from a small provider of two Chinese language programs to today’s much larger organization. Mark is a founding board member of the Fund for Education Abroad and the 2014 recipient of NAFSA’s Lily von Klemperer Award. He frequently speaks at national conferences on topics related to study abroad safety, underrepresentation, CET’s local roommates, and the LGBTQ student experience. As a student, Mark focused on Asian Studies, Chinese language, and photography, and he has degrees from Bowdoin (BA), Harvard (MA), and the University of Maryland (MBA).

Chase Poffenberger

Chase Poffenberger

Executive Vice President of ATA
[email protected] 

Chase is a veteran of Academic Travel, having begun her career as a China Program Designer just three short months before the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing that redirected her job, and her life! She has since worn many hats during her tenure, including France Program Designer and Assistant Director of the Program and Marketing Departments. Chase currently oversees Academic Travel Abroad’s team of Sales and Marketing Managers. As a child, Chase traveled extensively through Asia and Europe during her expatriate upbringing in Taiwan, then lived and studied in both Brittany and Beijing. She earned a degree in Chinese Studies from Wellesley College in 1988 and an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland in 1998.

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