Meet the Travel Professionals — with 35 years of experience!

Joan Russell

Joan Russell, Vice President of Travel

Joan has run the Council's travel program for over twenty years and in 2010 was appointed Vice President, Travel.  Prior to joining the Council, she ran the travel program of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; held the position of Product Marketing Manager for the British Tourist Authority; and worked for several special interest tour operators based in England, Australia and the U.S. During her career in travel, Joan has visited every continent and led many tours around the globe.

Shoshana Altrichter

Shoshana Altrichter, Associate Director of Travel

Shoshana has been with the travel department at the World Affairs Council for over ten years.  Prior to arriving at the World Affairs Council, Shoshana earned a B.A. from Drexel University in Philadelphia.  Shoshana had led several tours for the Council including a Ukraine Dnieper River and Black Sea Cruise, a Russia River Cruise, a tour to Iran with Ambassador Mark Johnson, Israel, Cuba, Northern Italy, a Mekong River Cruise and a European Coastal cruise.

Meet some of our Lecturers and Leaders

Mimi Gregory


Mimi Gregory

Mimi Gregory is Vice President and Program Chairman of the Naples, Florida, Council on World Affairs. Mimi has traveled extensively in Europe, participated in a Council Leadership Mission to Germany, and led a Great Decisions group the past 16 years. She also lived in France for several years, where she worked as an Executive Recruiter for the banking industry. Mimi maintains very strong ties with France through her association with the Alliances Francaises and was honored by President Sarkozy with the National Order of Merit, Rank of Commander.  She will lead our Rivieras & Islands of France, Spain & Italy in 2016.


Ambassador Heather Hodges

Ambassador Heather Hodges became the President and Ambassador-in-Residence of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in November 2011 after 31 years in the Foreign Service, spent mostly working on issues related to Latin America. She did consular work in Venezuela and Guatemala and was Deputy Chief of Mission in Managua, Lima, and Madrid.  Her Washington assignments included the Peru desk and Cuba. Ms. Hodges was Ambassador to Moldova from 2003-2006 and was Ambassador to Ecuador from 2008 to 2011. She has a B.A. in Spanish from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an M.A. from New York University.  Ambassador Hodges was Deputy Director of Cuban Affairs from 1991-1993.  Ambassador Hodges has led Council tours to Central and South America and will lead our Spain and Portugal tour in September 2016.

Dr. Jerry Leach

Dr. Jerry Leach

Dr. Leach earned a  PhD and an MA from Cambridge University as well as an MA from Berkeley on Turkish affairs.   His fascination with Turkey began as a Peace Corps Volunteer, serving with his wife Marianne there, in the 1960s.  They both have been back to Turkey many times since then and he has led several tour groups there.   In recent years, he served as a professor at the American University in Cairo 2006-2011 and as the National President of the World Affairs Councils of America 1996-2006.   Within the US Government, he was Peace Corps Regional Director for Eastern Europe, Soviet Republics, Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific; NSC Director of International Economic Affairs;  Deputy Director of State's Strategic Technology Affairs Office; and a consular officer at the US Embassy in London.  In addition to AUC in Egypt, Dr. Leach has taught at Cambridge University, the University of Papua New Guinea, and Gazi University in Ankara.  He speaks frequently within the world affairs council system and at universities.  Jerry lectured on a cruise to Turkey in October 2015 and an Egypt tour in 2016.

Kay Maxwell

Kay Maxwell is the Executive Director of the World Affairs Forum in Stamford, CT, and served as President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. from 2002-2006. Internationally, she has led League-sponsored trips and conducted training of women leaders in Bosnia and Azerbaijan. Kay has also conducted workshops for women,political, NGO and business leaders in Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, Mongolia and Rwanda under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s International Speakers Program. She received her BA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania. Kay led a Council tour to Cuba, to Myanmar, and a cruise to Viet Nam and Cambodia.  She will return to lead our 2016 tour to Viet Nam.


Norm Olsen

Norm Olsen is a former Senior United States Foreign Service Officer.  He served for 26 years. His professional skills and experience include negotiations, contact work, team-building and management, economic development, USAID project monitoring, peacekeeping, and award-winning political, economic and security analysis, in both benign and hostile environments.  He has served in Europe, Jamaica, the Marshall Islands, and the Middle East, where he served for nine years in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Norm has led our Croatia and Slovenia tour and a tour to Morocco.  He will accompany our upcoming Danube River cruise.


Carla Thorson

Dr. Carla Thorson

Dr. Carla Thorson, Vice President of Public Programs, World Affairs Council of Northern California, earned her MA and PhD in Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to joining the Council, she was on the faculty at UCLA and was Outreach Coordinator for the UCLA International Institute’s Center for European and Eurasian Studies.  While studying for her degrees, she also worked as a consultant at the RAND Corporation and as an analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc. Dr. Thorson has led several Council tours and lectured on a Baltics cruise and Antarctica cruise.  She will lead our tour to Tanzania in 2016.

Dr. Pamela Zeiser

Dr. Pamela A. Zeiser is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno, and both a Masters degree in International Studies and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Zeiser teaches courses on International Relations and Europe, generally, with special interests in foreign policy and the European Union. Dr. Zeiser has lectured for previous World Affairs Council programs in Europe, including two previous programs in Germany and the Czech Republic, and has led student study abroad groups to Central Europe. She is a member of the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville, where she volunteers as liaison between the Council and the University of North Florida.  She led our 2015 cruise along the Elbe River and will lead our 2016 tour to Eastern Europe.





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