WHO IS QUO?

Unique experience.

Incredible talent.

Operational excellence

Meet the team behind Quo Student Travel. We’ve known and worked with each other for more years than we’d like to admit. Okay fine, 20 years and counting.

Over those years we’ve traveled the world, celebrated triumphs and overcome challenges. We’ve created extraordinary, life-changing travel programs and developed industry-defining innovations in safety. We’ve made more friends than we would ever have imagined possible, and we’re more inspired and excited than ever to share our passion with fellow travelers.

Quo is a business that believes in delivering every student travel experience at the highest possible level, for the enduring benefit of every student and leader.

Business aside, however, we truly feel much more like a family. So many long-term relationships are coming together to make Quo Student Travel possible… it’s a dream come true for us to work with the very best people, in all aspects of travel, from all round the globe. And every leader and customer is absolutely part of that valued community.

We’re here when you need us. Have a question? We’d love to talk with you, swap travel stories and dare to dream about our next destinations.

Meet the Team

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Peg Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO

I first saw the world outside my small farming hometown as a 16 year-old on a student trip to Australia. This was the beginning of my lifelong wanderlust and love of all things travel. Later, I was lucky enough to teach English at a high school in Bergamo, Italy. My time in Italy was utterly transformative. Years later, I joined a student travel organization and was fortunate to become their leader as the company grew into a world-class operation. For nearly 20 years, I helped other young people see the world and shape their path for a successful future.

Fifty-plus countries later, my travel passion burns as brightly as it did when I was flying over the Pacific for the first time at age 16.  I co-founded Quo because I want to offer a student travel program that is uniquely tailored to the needs of today’s youth, who are maturing in a multi-cultural, competitive and exciting world.  I believe that travel is one of the greatest gifts you can give to students, as it opens their minds and their hearts to so many things.

I’m a Zag in my heart and soul. While majoring in finance and accounting at Gonzaga University, I was the Captain of the GU Volleyball Team. To this day, you will often find me traveling the country, following my beloved Zags and dragging my family along for the ride.  In addition to my work with Quo, I am the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Gonzaga Preparatory High School where my passions for students and sport come together.

I am married to Jeff, my favorite person in the world. We are blessed to be raising six children together. Besides travel, I love spending time with my 9 brothers and sisters, running, triathlons, reading a great book and living life to its fullest!

Adventure Travel - Student Travel
Jeff Thomas, Co-Founder

The world is an awesome place. It’s filled with exciting experiences, great learning opportunities, and fascinating people.

My first global experience was relocating from suburban Chicago to Caracas, Venezuela when I was in grade school. Millions of miles later, I have visited over 50 countries with longer-term stops in London and Paris.

For nearly 20 years, I led the leading student travel organization in the United States. I am proud to say that we traveled hundreds of thousands of students from over 100 countries to over 50 countries.

With Quo, we are focused on building a great new kind of student travel organization, with more personalized service and a significantly enhanced travel opportunity for students who are curious about the world around them, globally minded and want to develop a broader perspective for the borderless society of the 21st century.  I believe that combining great teachers with inquisitive students in interesting places will help create the leaders of tomorrow – leaders who have the cultural intelligence to adapt, inspire and succeed wherever they find themselves.

In my undergraduate years, I earned degrees in Economics and Political Science at Dartmouth College, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude. While at Dartmouth, I also attended the London School of Economics.  More recently, I attended a special program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for members of YPO (Young Presidents Organization), where I’ve been a member since 1998.

I am very happily married to my amazing wife, Peg. In fatherhood, I continue to find immeasurable joy as we raise six children. Parenting is, as they say, both the greatest challenge and the greatest reward.

Ralph “Raef” Baard, Co-Founder

Many Teachers and families will know Raef by name and reputation. He has 35 years in the travel industry so far, which makes him the wisest of our founding partners.

Raef spent many years at Princess Cruises before investing two decades at People to People Student Ambassadors.  At People to People, Raef was the master of all things travel, and an operations guru of the highest order. If a program had pioneering elements, if a problem required an expert fix, if an innovation was due in the industry, chances are he was behind it. Air, land, systems, delivery, planning and of course customer care – Raef wore all the hats and led these teams to success.

Raised in South Africa during a tumultuous time in the country’s history, Raef’s  upbringing formed his incredibly sweet nature and level of compassion for all people. He was born to celebrate life and bring joy to others. He’s one of those people who is instantly loved by everyone from the moment they meet.

Raef attended school at Rhodes University where he studied Education and Drama, and came to the US to complete his graduate work at The London School in Berkeley, CA.  He immigrated to the United States not long after graduation and soon became a U.S. citizen.  Extensive travels throughout his childhood shaped his perspective of the world abroad from South Africa. Those experiences are an important reason why he pursued a career in tourism and student travel.

Currently, Raef has traveled to 75+ countries, with more to come. He lives in Spokane, WA with his husband Dustin.  Their son Alex, a People to People Alum, is a game designer and entrepreneur in the hotbed of technology – Seattle.

Ralph Baard - Raef Baard - Quo Student Travel
Dustin Daugherty, Co-Founder

Born and raised in America’s heartland – where diligence, hard work and decency are matched with kindness and common sense – Dustin is a “Kansas boy” with a global perspective.

A major influence in his younger years was an educational travel experience to Europe.  This program opened his eyes, for the first time, to the cultural, creative and social diversity beyond his hometown. Once he’d had a taste, Kansas would always be home, but he was hungry to discover what else was out there!

Both of Dustin’s parents are life-long educators. His love of writing, communication and marketing comes from having a strict English teacher for a mother.  (We wouldn’t put it past her to send this bio back with red marks!)  In addition to teaching, his dad was a basketball coach and multi-sport referee.  These influences, and the respect he gained by observing their commitment and sacrifice for students and family, fuels his love for educators and global education.

Dustin was a “Hilltopper” and student leader at KU (the University of Kansas – Rock Chalk, Jayhawks!) and after graduation he shifted from the waving wheat of the Great Plains to the international melting pot of Miami’s South Beach. Then, another cultural shift to the flannel of the rainy Pacific Northwest where he pursued entrepreneurial interests.  After living abroad in Austria, he returned to Spokane where he lives with his husband, Raef.

Dustin worked as perennial volunteer and consultant for People to People Student Ambassador Programs for thirteen years before jumping into Quo Student Travel with both feet.

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Aimee Brayman, Director of Business Development

I suppose you could say that I’ve been a traveler since birth — yes, since birth!  Adopted at nine months, my first adventure began when I flew from Pusan, South Korea, to beautiful Seattle, Washington.  Washington state became my home, but I like to think that that first plane ride cemented my fate as a lifelong adventurer filled with wanderlust!  As a seventh grader, I fundraised my way onto my first student trip to England with a small group of classmates.  For ten days, I trekked across the beautiful countryside, backpack stuffed with snacks and a camera, and soaked up every ounce of being somewhere new.  For me, that was it.  That trip sealed my fate to work in education and try to bring pieces of the world back to students.  I spent three years as a middle school Language Arts teacher and foreign exchange student coordinator before it happened — a fateful chance to work for a student travel company where I could bring my passion for travel and education together.

Many years and many countries later, here I am at Quo.  I am thrilled to be part of such an dynamic and passionate team of professionals, all working to change the lives of students.  I thrive on recruiting new Leaders & building groups, developing processes and procedures behind the scenes, and developing educational components that uniquely set our programs apart.

In my free time, you can find me traveling, hiking, cooking, or sitting in the river with my husband and our spoiled dachshund, Rebel.  As a Gonzaga University alum, we’ve been known to go a little crazy during basketball season;  we also throw great parties and host a lot of fun at our craft brewery in Post Falls, Idaho!

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Olga Burtness, Director of Leader Relations

Born and raised in Kazakhstan, Olga Burtness began her professional career as a teacher, teaching English as a foreign language. She joined her local Sister-City Committee and won a contest to travel as an exchange teacher from Kazakhstan to Waukesha, Wisconsin for two months. A few years later, she returned to the U.S.  to study at Whitworth University, where she graduated with her M.A. in International Management. After graduation, she was hired at People to People Ambassador Programs where she worked until they closed 13 years later.

Olga’s insights into the joys and challenges inherent to teaching and experiencing other cultures, make her uniquely suited to support Quo Group Leaders who guide students from across our nation into a more global education each year.

Olga resides in Spokane with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. She loves spending time with her family, enjoys the outdoors, yoga and golf. Her greatest creative outlet is designing and making jewelry.

Nicole Huling Dixson, Director of Community Relations

I was fortunate to participate in a student travel program when I was 14 years old. That first trip overseas to Australia and New Zealand ignited a passion in me that I had never known. I wanted to see more, do more; nearly 40 countries later, the fun has just begun! I met my husband while studying in Florence, Italy, and together we are raising two glorious, inquisitive daughters and two beautiful, tan-colored rescue pups. Exploration, adventure, and making memories with family and friends are how I most enjoy spending my time.

What has travel taught me?

  • A smile transcends all boundaries;
  • The more you give, the more you really do get back in return;
  • By our very nature, we as humans thrive on connection; and
  • I’ve touched only the tip of the iceberg – there is so much more to explore, so many people I’ve yet to meet…

…and that is what brought me to Quo. It is such an honor to work in the industry that first opened my eyes to what the world has to offer. The Quo approach is unique, wonderfully niche, and completely dedicated to incredible outcomes for every traveler. Each day, I’m ready to help students spread their wings and find the same inner passion that I discovered years ago. I invite you to come along for the journey. We are changing lives.

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Kerri McBride, Director of Finance

I like to think that travel and adventure go hand-in-hand. I learned to appreciate both of these experiences at a young age. Being part of a military family, I have lived in many states in the U.S. in addition to enjoying 2 years in Guam and 3 years in Germany.  Our vacations abroad were spent traveling to each of the countries in Europe.  Highlights I still remember are learning to ski in Garmisch and Berteschgaden, exploring Holland, and entering Berlin in 1977 through Checkpoint Charlie. When my family returned to the states, we hosted 2 foreign exchange students whom we still love dearly. As an adult, I have returned to Europe with my husband and enjoyed introducing him to many parts of my childhood history.

This personal history is a big part of why being part of the Team Quo has been exciting for me. I enjoy knowing that I am helping others travel the world while learning about new cultures and  the history each country has to offer.

As a parent, it has been so rewarding to pass on my love of travel to my three children. Showing them all the wonderful experiences our world has to offer has been priceless. In addition to travel, we are an active family. You can find us on the ski slopes in the winter and camping or at the family cabin in the summer. A few years back, I graduated from Washington State University (GO COUGS!) with a degree in Accounting, with which I have made a very enjoyable career. When I’m not busy with my family or our work at Quo, I enjoy getting together with friends and running/walking with my dogs.

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