Flying Jayhawks Hosts

img_fj_hostsTraveling with Flying Jayhawks soon? Get to know your hosts from the KU Alumni Association, KU Endowment and many of our other partners on The Hill. We make every effort to send a University host when possible in order to enhance your experience and make each trip unique. Who will you travel with next?

Merideth Warinner, d’16

Operations and Membership Coordinator

Flying Jayhawks Host - Merideth WarinnerIt has always been a dream of mine to travel the world and experience different cultures. My grandmother has always told me to take every opportunity you get to travel the world. Having that instilled in my from a young age has made me hungry to see the world. It truly is a blessing to have a career that allows me to do this. Sadly, I have yet to leave North America but am ready to take on some amazing adventures. One thing I’ve learned from my travels is the people you travel with make the experience and I am so lucky to begin my travels with Jayhawks and friends!

Number of countries visited: 1

Favorite travel destinations: To be determined!

Trips on your bucket list: Singapore, South Africa, Antarctica

Travel tip: Don’t be afraid to try new things and get out of your comfort zone.

Past trips:
Wonders of Peru

Teri Harris

Vice President for Marketing, Membership and Business Development

In addition to membership and business development responsibilities, I work with Tegan Thornberry to plan and market the Flying Jayhawks program. I’ve had the great fortune to travel personally and professionally throughout my 30-year career in banking, golf association management and now alumni relations. No matter where I go, I always meet great people and learn about different parts of the world, which is what makes traveling with Flying Jayhawks so great. I grew up in a small western Kansas town and never dreamed I would have the opportunity to experience places like China, Singapore, Russia and Barcelona. I always say, ‘You never know who you might meet when traveling’ – I met my significant other, Andy, while we were both traveling on business. Thank goodness for the vacant seat in the exit row during a flight from Dallas to San Antonio. We’ve been together for 15 years and love to travel.

One of my favorite travel memories is from the Flying Jayhawks trip to China I hosted in 2012. I’m a shoe fanatic and realized as soon as I landed in Beijing that so too is every young woman and man living in China. Throughout my trip in China I discreetly captured photos of every shoe style imaginable with the help of all of my fellow Flying Jayhawks travelers. Unique shoe sightings became a game for our entire group. I hope to create a piece of artwork some day from all of the crazy shoe photos I saved.

Number of countries visited: 18 and counting

Favorite travel destinations: Switzerland, Estonia and Spain

Trips on your bucket list: Italy, Australia and New Zealand

Travel tip: Purchase trip insurance – you never know what might happen. Pack comfortable shoes – most Flying Jayhawks trips include walking tours and you want to be able to enjoy the sites and not be worried about your feet! Lastly, enjoy the local food and beverages – don’t be afraid to try new things.

Past trips:
Island Life Greece

Cruise the Face of Europe

Baltic Treasures

China & the Yangtze River

Heather Hawkins, j’06

Executive Assistant to the President and Coordinator of Donor Relations

Flying Jayhawks Host - Heather HawkinsThis will be my very first time traveling internationally and (sadly!) the first time I’ll experience the ocean. This small town Kansas girl is ready to see part of the world outside the US and even more thrilled to get to experience it with a handful of amazing Jayhawks!

Number of countries visited: 1 (I’m a travel newbie!)

Favorite travel destinations: Washington, D.C. is my favorite! I love the history and the feeling that you’re walking amongst the spirits of America’s greatest leaders.

Trips on your bucket list: Australia, Brazil, Paris

Travel tip: Take lots of pictures – it’s the best way to share your adventures with your families and friends.

Past trips:
Celtic Lands


Kelsey Hill, c’12

Assistant Director of Kansas City Programs

Flying Jayhawks Host - Kelsey HillI love traveling and immersing myself in the culture of whatever country I am in. It is so interesting to learn about their history and what makes them unique. I haven’t been to very many places, but being able to travel with the Flying Jayhawks has awakened my curiosity about new places and experiences!





Number of countries visited: 5

Favorite travel destinations: I loved Switzerland! The Alps are so breathtakingly beautiful it is hard to describe to people! I would say Mount Pilatus was my favorite place in particular!

Trips on your bucket list: I would love to see Greece and all of the history that comes with that country. I would also enjoying going somewhere tropical like Fiji!

Travel tip: Pack essentials in your carry on, because you might be on a 10 day trip and your luggage may not arrive for 7 days—-and you’re going to need those extra set of contacts!

Past trips:
Holland and Belgium

Great Journey through Europe

Kentucky Derby

Danielle Hoover, c’07

Director of Donor Relations and Wichita Programs

Danielle HooverI was born and raised in Kansas, I love KU and I love to travel! I caught the travel bug at an early age from my parents, and creating memories through vacations became one of life’s greatest joys. That love of travel has carried over into my adult life and now I get to share the experience with my own family. Making new memories with my children and seeing places through their eyes has been so much fun! I could not be more excited for the opportunity to visit new countries while traveling with fellow Jayhawks!

Number of countries visited: 8

Favorite travel destinations: Florida, Hawaii and Paris

Trips on your bucket list: Italy, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, (pretty much all of Europe!) Fiji. Australia, New Zealand

Travel tip: Plan ahead with books and movies for long travel days. Reading traveler reviews online can be helpful with picking places to stay, sights to see and places to eat. Eat where the locals eat.

Past trips:

Coastal Vignettes

Debbi Johanning, c’98, g’18

Director of Digital Media

Debbi Johanning, KU Alumni Association, at the mosaic octopus sculpture in La Coruna, SpainI was born and raised in Kansas and enjoyed family vacations while growing up. Some of my favorites included trips to Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Colorado. We also took many camping trips to lakes in neighboring states. I hosted my first Flying Jayhawks trip in 2014 and visited Portugal, France and Spain with 40 fellow Jayhawks. I enjoy traveling with my husband and our son; a favorite trip of ours was five days in Chicago for the Champions Classic and lots of museum time!

Number of countries visited: 6

Favorite travel destinations: Anywhere with a beach

Trips on your bucket list: Australia, Iceland, and several spots in the Caribbean

Travel tip: Take lots of pictures! I also like to make a few notes in a journal at the end of each day to help me remember the things I did, places I saw, food I ate, and other parts of the trip.

Past trips:

Coastal Vignettes

David Johnston, j’94, g’06

Vice President of Marketing and Digital Media

David JohnstonDavid grew up in a “KU” family that traveled coast to coast, seeing much of the country from the back of the family station wagon with his twin brother, Peter, while sister Emily rode in the coveted “middle seat” all to herself. From this vantage point, he was able to tour classic American destinations, from the Grand Canyon to Monticello. The Johnstons even enjoyed a European vacation.

As a student at KU in the early 90’s, Johnston traveled with the KU track and cross country teams as a long-distance runner. The cross country All-American was able to travel to Mexico and Canada for competitions. He honeymooned with his wife, Sara, by taking a Disney Cruise, and today, they enjoy traveling with their three children, Sydney, Sophia and Austin. The Johnstons are planning a return trip to DisneyWorld soon!

Number of countries visited: 5 (plus 47 states- still need to visit the Dakotas and Montana!)

Favorite travel destinations: I loved Paris when I visited there with my family, but one of my favorite memories was travelling to Vancouver in British Columbia with the KU cross country team back when I was a student.  Beautiful city!

Trips on your bucket list: Sydney (my oldest daughter was named for this Olympic city).

Travel tip: Always travel with Jayhawk stickers. I always stick some on my luggage and I wear them on the road. You’d be amazed how often you hear somebody say “Rock Chalk!”

Past trips:

Celtic Lands

Southern Culture & Civil War


Nick Kallail, d’04, l’07

Assistant Vice President of Alumni and Career Programs

Nick KallailMy favorite part of traveling is meeting people from all across the world and connecting over similar interests. I love exploring new foods with a beer or a glass of wine. You are more likely to find me relaxing and people watching than in a line to see something I can easily access online. It’s about the experiences!


Number of countries visited: 7

Favorite travel destinations: Lebanon

Trips on your bucket list: Dubai, Greek Isles

Travel tip: Tourist things are always a letdown. Make a friend and check out the real deal.

Past trips:
Baltic and Scandinavian Treasures

Kristi Laclé, c’99

Assistant Vice President of the Jayhawk Career Network

Wanderlust is my middle name … or at least my family motto. I was lucky enough to have parents who loved traveling so my passion for adventure started young, with many trips crisscrossing the United States. From skiing in Colorado to road-tripping to Disney, I’ve enjoyed seeing the sites across the states.

After landing my first job as an event planner, my desire to travel only increased into adulthood. I’ve traveled the globe both personally and professionally but when the love of my life turned out to be a native from Amsterdam, NL, our itch for traveling only intensified. Our bucket list keeps getting longer!

While we’ve crossed many destinations off our list, we’re raising two girls who love to hop on an airplane or seek out the next adventure so we have many more places to see!

Number of countries visited: 12 (many of those more than once.)

Favorite travel destinations: The Netherlands, Aruba, Paris (FR), Australia and the Wild West (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming)

Trips on your bucket list: New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy

Travel tip: Go with the flow – and don’t over schedule yourself

Panama Canal and Costa Rica

Michelle Lang, b’01

Director of Alumni Programs

I can’t imagine my life without travel. I love living in Lawrence, KS but to be able to venture out and see so many different places and experience so many different cultures is something I am so grateful for. Growing up I was able to travel quite a bit with my family and those trips are some of my best
memories. From the simple things like going to the mountains of Colorado or the crazier things like walking over the top of huge waterfalls in Brazil, all of our travels have been filled with so many wonderful experiences. Now that I have children of my own, I can’t wait to explore the world with them. The only thing better than experiencing things yourself is watching your children experience them.

My list of places I want to see is super long! I am so lucky that working for the KU Alumni Association affords me the opportunity to travel to some amazing destinations and meet great Jayhawks while doing it.

Number of countries visited: 12

Favorite travel destinations: Argentina, Italy, Hawaii

Trips on your bucket list: Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany…so many more!

Travel tip: Always pack your necessities and 2 changes of clothes in your carry-on…on your way there and back!

Past trips:

Amalfi Coast


Chris Lazzarino, j’86

Associate Editor, Kansas Alumni magazine

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 9.05.18 AMMe with my friend Tini, a Munich gal who I met during our 2003 flying Jayhawks trip to Provence, when she joined us for our meet-the-locals dinner. (She was student teaching in Aix-em-Provence at the time.) We sat next to each other and have been close friends ever since. This photo was taken in Bern, when Tini drove up from Geneva, where she now teaches, to join us for lunch during the 2013 Great Journeys Through Europe Trip.

Number of countries visited: 13

Favorite travel destinations: Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Lisbon, Munich

Trips on your bucket list: Ireland, Scandinavia, Japan

Travel tip: Buy yourself one nice trip gift instead of a bunch of trinkets.

Past trips:

Great Journey Through Europe

Paradores & Pousadas

Alps in Kitzbuhel




Crysta Moon, c’17

Coordinator of Marketing, Membership and Business Development

Traveling and discovering new places is one of my favorite things to do! It is truly an eye-opening experience that is beyond words. I’ve had a travel bug my whole life and I’m always looking forward to the next destination. Growing up a Jayhawk, a lot of my family vacations were traveling to away KU basketball games – not complaining because it was the best of both worlds – seeing amazing cities and watching KU basketball. Now I’m excited that my travels will continue to revolve around KU and being
with other Jayhawks!

Number of countries visited: 4 and counting!

Favorite travel destinations: Italy, Costa Rica

Trips on your bucket list: Switzerland, Greece, Spain

Travel tip: Always comfortable shoes and ladies, always pack a scarf- it’s warm, it’s comfy, it’s stylish and
it may just come in handy more than you think.

Past trips:

Springtime in Provence

Wild Atlantic Way

Jodi Nachtigal


Jodi Nachtigal - Flying Jayawks hostI feel so very fortunate to be able to work at a place where I can use my education and experience as an accountant, while also having the opportunity to travel the world with some really amazing Jayhawks! I never dreamed that I would someday have the great fortune of traveling to see such beautiful places as the countryside of Italy, the turquoise blue water of Belize, or the white sandy beaches of Mexico.  Every adventure no matter how far you go has something new and exciting to experience.  All you have to do is embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.

Number of countries visited: 6

Favorite travel destinations: Favorite travel destinations: Italy was absolutely amazing with its beautiful countryside, majestic architecture and unique and delicious red wine. The Normandy region of France with its rich history ranks a very close second.

Trips on your bucket list: Australia, New Zealand, Turks & Caicos, African Safari, Greece

Travel tip: Pack lightly with multi-use in mind for everything. Take lots of pictures…you can never take too many! Immerse yourself in the local traditions – food, drink, and activities. Try new things!

Past trips:

Dutch Waterways



Kara Rodriguez, j’10

Assistant Director of Digital Media

Kara Rodriguez - Dutch WaterwaysI know it’s cliche – but travel really does do the mind, body and soul some good. Whether it’s a relaxing beach vacation, an educational voyage abroad or simply a domestic road trip, every opportunity to explore is a gift.

I’m lucky enough to work at a company where travel is encouraged, have a husband who enjoys a good road trip and a daughter who we can (usually) take anywhere. We love to spend a long weekend finding new “hot spots” around the midwest, visiting family along the west coast and making time for friends all over the country.

Number of countries visited: 7

Favorite travel destinations: Cozumel, Belgium

Trips on your bucket list: Italy, Greece, Germany and Spain

Travel tip: Always, always, always bring an extra pair of contact lenses.

Past trips:
Dutch Waterways

Angela Riffey Storey, b’04, g’07

Vice President of Donor Relations

Angela Riffey StoreyExperiences are one of the most amazing gifts you can receive. When I’m able to travel, either for business or pleasure, I feel like I am given a gift. I have always been a “people person”, so the joy of meeting new people, seeing new cultures, tasting new dishes, and re-living history in unique places, really fills my soul. Whether it is somewhere I’ve been before, or someplace I’m visiting for the first time, I love to see it through a new lens, and take in the moment for all that it is worth.

We’ve tried to instill in our three daughters (ages 10, 6 and 4), that experiences are greater than things, and I do hope that I’m able to travel with them and fill their souls with a lifetime of experiences too. I am so thrilled to go on this next Adventure – to a place I’ve never been before! Rock Chalk.

Number of countries visited: 14 (I think?)

Favorite travel destinations: I have spent a lot of time in Europe, with a majority of my time in Italy. My mother’s family roots are Italian, so my heart sings when I visit. I love the culture, the food, the way you can feel the romance in the air. I spent part of my Master’s degree studying in Northern Italy, and our class schedule allowed us to travel for long weekends. During that time I was able to visit 11 different countries. So, Italy holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons – not the least of which is that it is a launching point for travel to so many other beautiful places!

Trips on your bucket list: Where do I start!? Australia and New Zealand are certainly on my list. I’d also like to experience Asia and their unique culture. Ireland is one of the European Countries on my list that I definitely want to see. And I’d love to do an African Safari someday. And, of course, there are still many places in the U.S. that I’d love to visit as well – including Hawaii and Alaska! Truthfully, if you give me the name of a location that I haven’t visited – it’s probably on the list!

Travel tip: Two words: Snacks and Layers! I have found that I get hungry at weird times… and when I’m not familiar with an area or where the next (amazing!) restaurant will be… a bag of mixed nuts or some beef jerky will go a long way. And I always pack with layers in mind. The key here is that layering can mean you wear a different version of the same outfit and no one can tell. Plus, no matter how many times you check the weather app before you travel, it will ALWAYS be hotter or colder than you thought. Sometimes in the same day.

Past trips:
Swiss Alps

The Galapagos Islands

Italian Lakes and Venice

Mediterranean Cruise

Danny Woods, j’12

Assistant Director of Legacy Relations and Alumni Programs

Danny WoodsTraveling, to me, is the most important thing a person can do. You not only learn a lot about the new location and culture you are immersing yourself in, but you learn a lot about yourself as well. Each place is unique as is each individual that travels there. As one location offers something to one traveler, it can offer a completely different experience to the next. For me, that experience often times comes in the form of local cuisine. Traveling is literal food for thought. The world is filled with different flavors and I’m trying to experience them all.

Number of countries visited: 7

Favorite travel destinations: Machu Picchu is absolutely breathtaking, not only from the altitude, but from the view as well.

Trips on your bucket list: I base all of my bucket list locations on Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. With that said, I have Paris, Australia and Rome on my bucket list for now.

Travel tip: Pack your own toilet paper.

Past trips:
Journey to South Africa

Legends of the Nile

Mediterranean Radiance

Susan Younger, f’91

Creative Director

I am so excited to go back to Sorrento. My husband Jerry and I hosted the trip in 2001, and I can’t believe that was 15 years ago! It was on that trip that I discovered the mosaics in Pompei, an experience that has greatly influenced my art work. We also hiked all the way up Mount Vesuvius. I made Jerry carry heavy bottles of wine because I wanted to surprise everyone with a toast, but when we arrived at the top, they said “no outside wine allowed.” Luckily they took pity on us, because it was an amazing experience to stand at the top of the world and make a toast to Italy and KU.

I love to travel. I’ve lived in England, skied in Austria, gotten really lost in Mexico, and watched my son get married in a traditional Hakka wedding in China. But the best experiences, hands down, are the Flying Jayhawks trips! The people, the incredible destinations, and the thoughtful planning that goes into these trips make them truly unique. Italy and Peru are tied as favorites.

Number of countries visited: 12

Favorite travel destinations: Italy, Peru and China

Trips on your bucket list: Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland

Travel tip: Bring a back up battery charger for your phone (those international trips are long!) Pack only the things that have multiple/flexible uses! I’ve been trying to pack lighter, but always find that I bring waaayy too many shoes.

Past trips: