Criterion Travel is based in Beaverton, Oregon, and is owned and operated by industry veteran Steve Ridgway. Our senior staff members average nearly two decades of experience in the educational travel niche.
Company president Steve Ridgway grew up in a family of educators in a small Midwestern university town. After a 20-year career as a professional tour operator, where he ended up with responsibility for a staff of 120 providing travel programs for 40,000 travelers annually, a mutual friend introduced him to the owner of a small educational tour operator based in Palo Alto, California. He quickly realized that travel with a strong educational overlay provides experiences that combine the best of both these worlds that he loves, so he has spent the second half of his professional career planning and operating educational travel programs for top U.S. nonprofit organizations.
Some of Andy Ridgway’s earliest memories are of traveling around the U.S. with his family. And when, as a teenager, he got his first taste of overseas travel, he was instantly hooked for good. While he’s sure he could happily spend a lifetime or two exploring the Mediterranean region, some of his favorite destinations remain here on domestic soil. And though he’d been plying his marketing trade in other industries for a while, at some point it became apparent that helping others fulfill their passion for travel, which he does as Criterion’s Marketing Manager, is where his heart truly lies.
Bridget spent most of her childhood overseas in Latin America and the Middle East. She grew up in a family of international educators and developed a deep love of travel at a very young age. She worked at her alma mater, the University of Portland, for over a decade in marketing and communications before setting her sights on educational affinity travel. Her commitment to producing marketing assets that effectively showcase Criterion Travel excursions is a source of pride and joy! During her down time, she enjoys tennis, skiing, movies, and exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Francesca was born and raised in Como, Italy and grew up developing a vocation for foreign language studies and travel at the University of Milano. Her first memories traveling with her parents include skiing at the Dolomites, snorkeling in the Red Sea, and eating macarons in Paris. She spent her third year of university in Vienna, Austria as an Erasmus student and she also joined a Spanish language study program in Valencia, Spain. Before she moved to the United States in 2018, she mainly built her professional background in the hotel industry and loved getting to know guests from every corner of the world. Now, with her husband, she always looks forward to planning the next trip or seeking the next food experience in the Portland area. Top three travel adventures in her bucket list: Walking the Camino de Santiago, gazing the Northern Lights from a glass igloo in Finland, and admiring the hot-air balloons at sunrise in Cappadocia.
As Jason Graham traveled to Cordoba, Argentina, to start his year as a high school exchange student, he sat next to a woman who was returning from the Australian Outback. She advised him, “If you’re not interested, you’re not interesting!” These words started Jason on a path of exploration throughout the Americas and all over the world. He has studied, worked, and lived in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica. Over the past 12 years, he has developed, managed, and led scores of trips in the nonprofit educational niche of the travel industry. Most recently he was responsible for a travel series involving several former world leaders.
John Babin, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been an ardent world traveler since participating in an educational tour of Europe his senior year of high school. Inspired by this eye-opening experience, John further explored his budding passion for international educational travel by studying abroad in the historic city of Prague, Czech Republic. Before joining the Passenger Services team at Criterion Travel, John was an advisor to international students from over 30 countries at his alma mater, Notre Dame de Namur University. John’s favorite travel destinations include the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, and he is thrilled to be part of an organization that designs and facilitates exceptional educational travel experiences.
After emerging from UCLA’s Graduate School of Management, Kathie Harvey sprinted up the corporate ladder until she realized that marketing door hardware (albeit top-quality door hardware) did not fulfillment bring. Lonely Planet Guide in hand, she wandered the world for a year, diving with hammerheads, dancing with Australian opal miners, feeding fish entrails to monitor lizards with Tioman Islanders, and trekking over prayer flag–festooned mountain passes. Thus began her fascination with unique destinations and people-to-people experiences, along with a passion for assisting others as they venture forth to explore, which she does as part of the team at Criterion.
Kees van der Zee
Kees van der Zee was born and raised in Holland and was instrumental in creating a successful alumni travel program at the California Alumni Association at Berkeley. Even though he is primarily focused on the financial side of the travel business, having traveled extensively on his own or during his tenure with several different travel companies has given him a great appreciation for the educational travel market. His personal travel preferences align with where he grew up (Europe), including hikes in Switzerland, Austria, and Ireland, as well as exploration of East Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, and Russia when those countries were not as open as we find them today.
After growing up in Southern California, Kylie first moved to the Bay Area to attend San Jose State University, where she earned a degree in Linguistics. Her love of foreign languages and travel went hand in hand, and upon graduating she joined a local travel agency where she spent 3 years learning the ins and outs of the travel industry. After a short time at a travel startup, Kylie quickly realized that she wanted to work with people who took pride in their vacations and traveled with purpose. It was then that she joined the Passenger Services team at Criterion Travel, and she couldn’t be happier!
Maris Shields, born and raised in Hawaii, would be hard pressed to say if it was a reaction to island isolation or her upbringing in an ethnically diverse place that sparked her interest in exploring the world and other cultures. She began her career in the educational travel business as a tour manager; then, while raising three children, she settled into the role of operations manager, designing and implementing educational tours to destinations as diverse as India, Peru, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and, of course, Hawaii. Gaining an in-depth understanding of the complex, spectacularly beautiful, and culturally rich world we live in is a passion that she loves to share with fellow travelers.
A Nevada native with a master's degree in Archaeology, Megan's passion for travel can be traced back to her pre-professional days when she took a backpacking trip across Europe at age 19. She's had severe wanderlust ever since. Anything from visiting the Christmas markets of Central Europe to camping in the Namib Desert--there's not a place on Earth she's not interested in seeing. Outside of the office, Megan is a registered volunteer for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team, which rescues animals from natural disasters and/or abusive situations. Megan is a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan. You can often find her at the dog park or hiking with her beloved hound Huckleberry. If you challenge her to trivia, she's a force to be reckoned with. She also enjoys tennis, rec softball, and riding her bike.
Susannah’s love for educational travel sprouted soon after college. After earning her B.A. at Brown University, she created immersive educational experiences for children in wilderness and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. She spent 12 years at the tour operator High Country Passage, which allowed her to extend the experiential classroom to the entire planet for family and adult groups. Susannah developed and led educational programs to places including Africa, India, the Great Barrier Reef, Galapagos Islands, northern Europe and the Canadian Arctic. Her roles included Director of Marketing and Associate Director of Operations. She is delighted to be focusing her energy on creating exceptional experiences around the globe.
Originally from Maryland, in 1997 Tiffany migrated west to San Francisco and never looked back. Inspired by the cultural diversity flourishing in the Bay Area, she quickly got the travel bug and then started her career in educational travel in 2001. Tiffany spent ten years at a multi-destination tour operator and four years at a China destination specialist, both with a focus on the educational travel niche, before joining Criterion Travel in 2015. Having worked in nearly every aspect of the business, from passenger services to management and business development, she is delighted to concentrate her efforts at Criterion Travel on trip operations and logistics. Tiffany's passion is crafting highly customized itineraries with special access to local communities, and offering inquisitive travelers authentic, educational and transformative experiences.