Team & Leadership

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Meet the Brand USA Team

Brand USA's dynamic team brings together some of the brightest and most experienced minds in global sales and marketing, consumer products and services, and the travel and tourism industry. Browse this page to learn more about our team.

Team & Leadership
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Christopher L. Thompson

President & Chief Executive Officer

Christopher L. Thompson is president and CEO of Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Chris is responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts to build and execute effective marketing strategies to increase U.S. travel exports, create jobs, strengthen the economy, and help enhance the image of the United States with people all over the world. Under Chris’ leadership, Brand USA has nearly...
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Community Service

Chris gives back through service on the Federal City Council in the District of Columbia.

Favorite Travel Destination

In the USA, Chris has visited 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Travel in the USA

A three-generation family cruise through Alaska that proved Mother Nature is truly in command.

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Thomas Garzilli

Chief Marketing Officer

Thomas Garzilli is the chief marketing officer for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization. In this role, Tom is responsible for leading the development of Brand USA’s strategic marketing plan, and all efforts to ensure Brand USA achieves year-over-year revenue, visitation, and economic impact targets. Brand USA has raised more than $750 million in contributions from over 500 partners and has developed many successful and award-winning marketing programs; most notably, through the introduction of Brand USA’s Many...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Spending 15 summers with my wife and children at Folly Beach, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

Hometown/Home State

I was born in The Bronx, New York, and have since lived in California, Florida, and Georgia. Currently, I call both Washington, DC and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina home.

Travel in the USA

I have most enjoyed visiting Folly Beach, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina and Tybee Island, just outside of Savannah, Georgia. As our kids were growing up, we spent many, many days and nights on these beautiful beaches… and in these great historic cities.

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Donald Richardson in Miami, Florida
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Donald F. Richardson, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Donald Richardson is chief financial officer for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this critical leadership role, Don is responsible for developing and leading the financial strategy for the organization in a way that is responsive to Brand USA’s key stakeholders, ensures compliance with policies and operating controls, and enables the organization to make strategic decisions and accurately measure...
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Community Service

DC Public Library Board of Trustees

Travel in the USA

Miami, Florida and New York City, New York

Hometown/Home State

Apex, North Carolina

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Art Basel in Miami, Florida
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Karyn Gruenberg

Sr. Vice President, Partner Marketing & Strategic Alliances

Karyn Gruenberg is senior vice president, partner marketing & strategic alliances at Brand USA, the public-private partnership whose mission is to increase incremental international visitation, spend and market share in order to fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. In this position, Karyn is responsible for leading partner marketing efforts, as well as building global strategic alliances to leverage the combined resources and expertise of the industry. Her leadership includes development and oversight...
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Favorite Travel Destination

So many, I love all my destinations.

Hometown/Home State

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Favorite Travel Memory

Sitting on the Rocks in Sydney eating fresh lobster, drinking champagne and overlooking the Sydney Opera House OR Swimming in the Great Barrier Reef.

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Park City, Utah
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Tracy Lanza

Sr. Vice President, Integrated Marketing

Tracy is senior vice president, integrated marketing for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States' first ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Tracy directs the development and implementation of the strategic marketing plan and supporting programs designed to advance the mission of Brand USA, including global consumer marketing and trade development. Her responsibility includes oversight of all of Brand USA’s international offices and in-market trade strategies...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Since I was a child, I've spent my summers on Cape Cod - a tradition I've continued with my own children.

Favorite Travel Destination

A road trip is the best way to discover this country, while also learning a little bit about yourself.

Hometown/Home State

I'm from Connecticut and a visit to New England to explore the history and landscape along the eastern coast should be on everyone's "must do" list.

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Aaron Wodin-Schwartz

Sr. Vice President, Communications & Public Policy

Aaron Wodin-Schwartz is senior vice president, communications and public policy for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Aaron develops, executes, and leads outreach efforts to key stakeholders to promote and advance Brand USA's mission and raise visibility worldwide for the organization, build community engagement, and respond to requests from these stakeholders regarding the organization’s...
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Favorite Travel Memory

I spent a year as a high school exchange student in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Nearly every single day was an exhilarating adventure.

Favorite Travel Destination

Anywhere with fields and ponds to explore, where day-hikes can be capped with a surprisingly good meal.

Something Interesting

Kids in my town spent our summer working at a blueberry farm starting at age 11 or 12: boys picking in the fields and girls working the sorter belts in the barn.

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Jack Conte in Washington, DC
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Jake Conte

Vice President, General Counsel

Jake Conte is vice president, general counsel for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Jake provides corporate and legal counsel on a wide array of matters including corporate and board governance, employment law, procurement and contracts, tax, and intellectual property, as well as developing policies and procedures to ensure best practices in accounting and operational activities. He also works...
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Favorite Travel Memory

If you don’t say your honeymoon, you’re in trouble right? Honeymoon eating, swimming, and sailing on the Croatian coast.

Something Interesting

In my misbegotten youth I once ate nine hot dogs at a baseball game.

Travel in the USA

New England has it all. Four seasons: Beach, skiing, fall foliage, clam bakes and Sunday suppers. There’s only one Fenway Park.

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Jackie Ennis at North Rim, Grand Canyon
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Jackie Ennis

Vice President, Global Trade Development

Jackie Ennis is vice president, global trade development for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Jackie leads Brand USA's trade engagement and marketing efforts, manage Brand USA's global offices, and continue to effectively work to optimize trade and consumer reach around the world. Jackie joined Brand USA in August of 2018 as senior director...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Circling the Statue of Liberty for first time.

Community Service

Delivering Meals on Wheels in remote northern Vermont homes.

Hometown/Home State

Stowe, Vermont

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Las Vegas, Nevada
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Joann Pelipesky

Vice President, Human Resources & Administration

Joann Pelipesky is vice president, human resources and administration for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States' first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Joann has the responsibility for the creation and implementation of policies and procedures encompassing all aspects of human resources, including employment, compensation and payroll, orientation and training, placement, staff planning and development, benefits, and employee relations. In addition...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Attending the 2008 Masters Golf Tournament. It truly was a religious experience!

Hometown/Home State

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – truly a destination to visit if you love history, great food, museums, and sports of course.

Travel in the USA

Las Vegas, Nevada – I love desert scenery, the shows, the restaurants, the people watching, the shops, and the golf.

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Honolulu, Hawaii
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Carroll Rheem

Vice President, Research & Analytics

Carroll Rheem is vice president, research and analytics for Brand USA, the nation’s public- private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Carroll leads Brand USA’s intelligence function, which serves as the foundation for global marketing strategy, as well as the company’s performance metrics. The research and analytics department she heads is responsible for market research – including consumer insight, market sizing and projections –...
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Favorite Travel Memory

My niece’s first trip to Disney World.

Favorite Travel Destination

People often think of Aspen, Colorado to ski, but I love it in the summer.

Hometown/Home State

Chicago, Illinois

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Honolulu, Hawaii
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Cassady Bailey

Sr. Director, Partner Marketing & Planning

Cassady Bailey is senior director, partner marketing and planning for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. Cassady heads up interactions with Brand USA’s expanding network of nearly 500 partners. Her department assists partners with cooperative-marketing opportunities and manages efforts to attain targeted levels of partner contributions and renewals. These continued efforts have great success as Cassady and her team have a 94...
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Something Interesting

I used to work as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.

Hometown/Home State

Charleston, West Virginia

Travel in the USA

I enjoy white water rafting on the New and Gauley rivers near Fayetteville, WV (have been over 30 times) and for a more relaxing getaway, I love Sonoma, CA.

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Mark Lapidus in Fairfax, Virginia
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Mark Lapidus

Sr. Director, Digital Development

Mark Lapidus is senior director, digital development for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. Mark joined Brand USA in March 2015 and is responsible for leading the global digital/social strategy, as well as the high impact execution for eight websites and social media outlets targeting international tourists through Brand USA's consumer brand, Discover America. The websites include: GoUSA.cn, Go USA.tn and...
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Favorite Travel Memory

North Carolina’s Outer Banks! If you love quiet beaches with amazing sunsets and fishing, Route 12 is the place!

Something Interesting

Mark was the final Program Director for one of the USA’s most iconic disc jockeys, the late Wolfman Jack.

Hometown/Home State

Arlington, Virginia

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Lake George, New York
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Renee Mason

Sr. Director, Partner Programs

Renee Mason is senior director, partner programs for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this position, she works with destination and travel brand partners to maximize the value of their marketing efforts and provide them world-class service and support throughout the life of their relationship with Brand USA. Renee joined Brand USA in April 2012, bringing with her strong travel-industry based experience...
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Favorite Travel Memory

A family road trip to New England when I was in middle school. My family still tells stories from that trip because it was so eventful.

Favorite Travel Destination

I’ve been fortunate in my personal and professional life to travel to many places in the U.S., but there’s still so much more I want to see. I mostly travel for the cuisine, and I have a list of places I want to visit based on how badly I want to try the food there.

Hometown/Home State

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Las Vegas, Nevada
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Nick Mattera

Sr. Director, Consumer Marketing

Nick Mattera is senior director, consumer marketing for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Nick – who joined Brand USA in July 2018 - oversees consumer marketing and social media campaigns and content development for the organization. Prior to Joining Brand USA, Nick has spent more than eight years working in the travel and hospitality industry...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Backcountry hiking/camping in Southern Utah – Zion, Bryce, and Arches National Parks.

Hometown/Home State

Buffalo, New York

Travel in the USA

Maine in the Fall or Yosemite National Park in the Spring.

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New York City, New York
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Jessie Newcomb, CPA

Sr. Director, Finance & Accounting

Jessie Newcomb is senior director, finance and accounting for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Jessie manages Brand USA’s accounting and finance department. Jessie joined Brand USA in October 2014 and has more than 15 years of professional experience in business operations, accounting systems, budget analysis and financial management. She has expertise in managing finances for international and domestic...
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Something Interesting

I love to read and listen to stories about history, people and cities.

Hometown/Home State

Taipei, Taiwan and have been in the states over a quarter of century.

Travel in the USA

Crete Island, so much so, that my ideal post retirement career is to be a tour guide there.

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Rosina Barbastefano in Portland, Oregon
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Rosina Barbastefano

Director, Consumer Research

Rosina Barbastefano is director, consumer research for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Rosina executes and supports a global market intelligence program that informs both internal and cooperative partner initiatives. Rosina joined the Brand USA team in June of 2018 to manage the consumer research and metrics programs that measure the...
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Favorite Travel Memory

First trip to Naples, Florida with my wife.

Hometown/Home State

Cali, Colombia

Travel in the USA

Portland, Oregon

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Colleen Mangone in Richmond, Virginia
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Colleen Mangone

Director, Media Relations

Colleen Mangone is director, media relations at Brand USA, the nation’s destination-marketing organization. She is responsible for corporate media relations, executive communications, and corporate messaging. Brand USA’s mission is to increase international visitation to the United States, fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. Colleen came to Brand USA in March 2018, after nearly nine years on staff at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), based in Alexandria, Va. She...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Celebrating my parents 50th wedding anniversary as a family in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Hometown/Home State

I split my growing up between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Community Service

I volunteer at my church.

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JessicaMcClain
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Jessica McClain, CPA

Controller

Jessica joined Brand USA in February 2020, bringing with her over 11 years of audit, project management, and business process improvement experience. She has worked for organizations such as Williams, Adley and Company-DC, LLP—where she managed the firm's Department of Defense business portfolio; Grant Thornton, LLP; IBM; and KPMG, LLP. Jessica is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), a Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). She is very...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Summer Trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Hometown/Home State

Maryland

Travel in the USA

Orlando, Florida

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New York City, New York
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James Namude

Director, Global Sponsorships

James Namude is director, global sponsorships for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. James joined Brand USA in March 2012 with responsibility for supporting all efforts related to the launch and expansion of the organization’s consumer marketing campaign, digital marketing initiatives, international trade show presence, and advertising programs. In this role, he works with a variety of Brand USA partners...
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Favorite Travel Memory

First time coming to the United States

Favorite Travel Destination

I've been to 20 states and Washington, DC.

Hometown/Home State

Born in Kampala, Uganda. Most of my childhood was in Potomac, Maryland.

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Mount Hood, Oregon
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Jennifer Ross

Director, Global Marketing Programs

Jennifer Ross is director, global marketing programs Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Jennifer furthers the Global Market Development efforts, organizational goals, and brings value to the industry for Brand USA. She maintains relationships with international Brand USA representation firms, and seeks opportunities to create new partnerships within assigned sectors. Prior to joining Brand USA...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Family vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains growing up

Community Service

Community Outreach for Capital Rowing Club

Hometown/Home State

Charleston, South Carolina

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Brian Watkins in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
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Brian Watkins

Director, Information Technology

Brian Watkins is director, information technology for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Brian plans, designs, coordinates, and directs all Information Technology (IT)-related activities of the organization. Brian directs and provides administrative support for daily operational activities of the IT Department. Brian joined Brand USA in March of 2013, bringing with him over 18 years of...
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Favorite Travel Memory

For Spring Break 2015, taking my family (wife and 4 daughters) to Cancun, Mexico. Kids were old enough to appreciate a different culture.

Something Interesting

Played in a semi-pro Spanish soccer league for 4 years.

Travel in the USA

Outer Banks, North Carolina. Vacationing in the 4x4 beach area and waking up to the wild horses roaming around outside the house.

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Craig Ashby

Sr. Manager, Business Processes & Financial Analytics

Craig Ashby is senior manager, business processes and financial analytics for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Craig, who joined Brand USA in July 2019, oversees financial systems analysis and treasury management. He focuses on improving the department’s capabilities and efficiency while still achieving accounting and audit objectives. Prior to...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Visit to George Washington National Forest in West Virginia. The Dark skies show the Milky Way and it was one the most beautiful sites I have seen.

Community Service

Habitat for Humanity rebuild in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I also volunteer for church projects to assist the elderly.

Travel in the USA

There are many. My favorite destination in the U.S. would be the Rocky Mountains; Puerto Rico for magnificent scenery, beaches, and musical nightlife: and New Orleans for the jazz music.

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Chicago, Illinois
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Imani Carter

Sr. Manager, Graphic Design & Communications

Imani Carter is senior manager, graphic design and communications for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Imani is responsible for developing and managing a wide variety of marketing assets: including print collateral, corporate advertorials, email templates, newsletters, and presentations to support the marketing communications strategies and programs related to Brand USA’s business-to-business initiatives...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Participating in an architecture boat tour down the Chicago River, and learning about the city's beautiful design and rich culture.

Something Interesting

I had the opportunity to sing in various cathedrals in Barcelona, Spain with my high school choir.

Hometown/Home State

Baltimore, Maryland

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La Jolla, California
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Dev Chadha, CPA

Sr. Manager, Budget & Financial Analysis

Dev Chadha is senior manager, budget, and financial analysis for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Dev is responsible for roughly $220 million in contributions annually, composed of cash, in-kind, and government-matching contributions.
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Favorite Travel Memory

Making a running, paragliding jump off the cliffs in La Jolla, California.

Favorite Travel Destination

I have visited 16 states.

Something Interesting

I have held the Stanley Cup in my hands!

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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
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Luke Hennig

Sr. Manager, Partner Operations

Luke Hennig is senior manager, partner operations for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Luke works with partners and rep agencies to collect and value all in-kind contributions for the Marketing team. He also liaises with the Department of Commerce and mitigates compliance issues to ensure submissions of in-kind contributions receive full Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) funds matching. Last...
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Favorite Travel Memory

I got the travel bug early when my family lived in India for five months and I spent half my eighth grade year at an international school!

Community Service

As co-chair of Brand USA’s Corporate Social Responsibility committee, I am honored to help shape Brand USA’s approach to giving back.

Hometown/Home State

I’m proud of my home state of Minnesota for its many “hidden gem” experiences for visitors, especially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

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Jevonya Hughes at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
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Jevonya Hughes

Sr. Manager, Digital Analytics

Jevonya Hughes is senior manager, digital analytics for Brand USA, the nation’s public-marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Jevonya is responsible for measuring, communicating, and optimizing the performance of Brand USA marketing campaigns. Jevonya, who joined Brand USA in August 2018, previously worked as the senior digital analyst at Pew Charitable Trusts, a web analytics...
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Favorite Travel Memory

My visit to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium for a guided tour and the game against the Philadelphia Eagles the following day.

Hometown/Home State

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Travel in the USA

New York City, New York! I really like Times Square.

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Blanca Romero in Ocean City, Maryland
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Blanca Romero

Sr. Manager, Office Management

Blanca Romero is senior manager, office management for Brand USA, the nation's destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States in order to fuel the nation's economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. Blanca has more than 25 years of experience in the operations and hospitality industry. She joined Brand USA as the organization’s receptionist in December 2011. She was promoted to her current position in September 2012. Prior to joining Brand USA, Blanca was clerk...
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Favorite Travel Memory

My first solo trip to Disneyland where I learned that I am still a child at heart!

Community Service

Serving others in times of need is a fulfillment in my life.

Hometown/Home State

I consider El Salvador and Maryland my home.

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New Orleans, Louisiana
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Suzy Shepard

Sr. Manager, Global Trade Development

Suzana “Suzy” Shepard Durini is senior manager, global trade development, Asia Pacific, for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Suzy cultivates and maintains relationships with international Brand USA representation firms and partners in the Asia Pacific, seeks new trade opportunities, and manages day-to-day operations including market activation...
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Something Interesting

I’ve been doing Krav for about 5 years now and am Level 4.

Hometown/Home State

San Jose, Costa Rica

Travel in the USA

Somewhere new that I have never been to before.

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Susan Billings in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
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Susan Zachar

Sr. Manager, Consumer Marketing & Social Media

Susan Zachar is sr. manager, consumer marketing and social media for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort.
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Favorite Travel Memory

Visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands via sailboat.

Hometown/Home State

Chicago, Illinois — The Windy City!

Travel in the USA

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado - the most beautiful hiking and camping I've ever experienced.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona
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Alexis Adelson

Manager, Marketing Projects

Alexis Adelson is a manager, marketing projects for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Alexis works closely with Brand USA’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tom Garzilli, and the entire marketing team to manage projects and events. Alexis, who officially joined Brand USA in January 2015, also provides support to the administrative team, and is an active...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Summers in New England with my family.

Something Interesting

I have a motorcycle driver’s license and a commercial driver’s license.

Hometown/Home State

Potomac, Maryland (born in Washington, DC)

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