Ed-Ventures Staff

With nearly 200 years of collective experience creating tours, the Ed-Ventures staff has gained the skills and earned a reputation for delivering top notch customized group tours to destinations around the world. We offer customized tour itineraries for adult tour groups, student tour groups and faith-based tour groups that are fully escorted and highly inclusive.

The “Ed” in Ed-Ventures stands for education, having started as a company offering tours for student tours. Times changed and our company expanded. Now, for more than 30 years we’ve operated tours for groups of adults as well as students. What hasn’t changed is our emphasis on quality and an experience that is life changing. We customize every detail of each tour we operate, and our list of tours with available space changes regularly, so please check back regularly.

EdSpirit of Ed-Ventures

Ed believes that Americans have rights and that one of those rights is the freedom to travel. He is very approachable and listens to your wishes. He’s outgoing, friendly, and genuinely cares about others. If he is hosting a party, dinner, or tour, he feels responsible for making sure all his guests are having a good time. Ed is fascinated by anything relating to other cultures, whether it be language, customs or beliefs. This makes him not only an enthusiastic traveler, but a life-time learner.

Larry Larsen, Founder (retired)

A former mathematics and German teacher, Larry first traveled with his own students in 1974. In 1977 he helped found a European tour company and there was no turning back. Larry has a B.A. in German from Concordia, Moorhead, Minnesota, and a M.A. in German from Mankato State College. He has guided the growth of Ed-Ventures, reaching out to travelers from most of the 50 states. His spare time activities include church and community leadership. Larry has been married to his wife, Joanne, for 52 years and has 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Paul Larsen, President and Sales Manager
Paul brings a German minor from Concordia College along with 20 years of previous financial expertise to the company. He worked as a CPA and in the commercial real estate and transportation industries. He is the current Chair of the National Tour Association and sits on the advisory board of Explore MN.  He helped create the Faith Travel Association. He has spent 17 years with Ed-Ventures traveling and developing relationships in Central Europe, Egypt, Israel, and Central America. Paul currently serves in a variety of leadership roles in his neighborhood, community and church. He specifically enjoys projects that break down walls and bring people together. Music-based tours, service/mission tours and tours that build cross-cultural friendships are some of the ways Paul uses tours to help people experience significance.

Shannon Larsen, Co-Owner and Operations Manager
Shannon attended Mankato State University where she graduated with majors in International Business and Marketing along with a minor in Spanish. She is actively involved in the community, including Rochester Water Ski Shows and veteran’s organizations/events. Shannon additionally had the benefit of growing up in a family steeped in travel and tour tradition. As an MP, she served with the U.S. Army in multiple settings, and has traveled extensively. Between the Army, involvement with Ed-Ventures and family experiences, Shannon has traveled to nearly 50 countries. Her greatest strength is her knowledge of mainland Europe and planning unique itineraries and faith-based journeys. Shannon’s extensive travel to multiple European countries provides helpful resources and insights. Her favorite places so far range from the majestic Swiss Alps to the zebra-laden plains of Ethiopia to the calm waters of the Dead Sea back to home and Minnesota’s lakes.

Paul AndersenFinance

Paul has been the accountant/bookkeeper at Ed-Ventures for the past 14 years. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, after which he worked as a bank examiner. Upon retirement, he joined Ed-Ventures putting his vast banking knowledge to good use. Paul is very involved with his church, Community Bible Studies and charity work. He enjoys fishing and loves being Papa to his grandchildren.

Meagan Cain, Tour Coordinator
Meagan grew up in the small town of Marinette, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan.  Growing up in this part of the Midwest means that being a packer fan runs in her blood.  During her young adult years, she moved to Minnesota and received her bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education from Winona State University.  Meagan is a former High School Choir Director and a current Church Music Director.  Her extensive musical background has allowed her travel experiences all over the world from Europe to China.  Being a die-hard lover of music, faith, and adventure, her aim is to provide student music ensembles similar experiences and memories through travel as she has had.  When she isn’t glued to a computer screen, she is spending time with her family, coaching high school colorguard, arranging music or practicing piano.  Meagan currently resides in Byron, MN with her husband and young son. 

Amanda Hinzmann, Tour Coordinator
Amanda graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with degrees in Management and French. Already possessing the travel bug from studies in France, she enrolled in the U.S. Peace Corps where she served as a Small Enterprise Developer in a rural community in Togo, West Africa. After returning from her service she continued her travels by taking a job in China. After four and a half years in education management in China, she recently moved back to her native Rochester with her husband. She enjoys learning and speaking foreign languages, reading and playing guitar. She hopes to be able to keep up on her Mandarin skills and knowledge of China through coordinating tours there for Ed-Ventures.

Marie Janezich, Tour Coordinator
Marie was born and raised in Czechoslovakia, in the part that later became the Czech Republic. Her first international travel took her to summer camp in Bulgaria where she traveled as a young teenager on a train for two long days. It was an adventure! Since then, Marie has visited many countries, lived and worked for several years in the U.K. and worked as a tourism intern in the Canary Islands. Marie is Ed-Ventures’ expert on Eastern Europe and Spanish speaking countries, but with over fifty tours under her belt, she can help you plan and coordinate tours anywhere in Europe, North and Latin America. Marie has earned degrees in Business Administration, Spanish and International Business. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughter.

Marilyn Poppe, Tour Coordinator and Airfare Purchaser
Marilyn has been in the travel business since 1970. She has been a leisure travel agent, assisted with medical meetings, worked on corporate travels accounts and escorted groups. Her travels have taken her to Hawaii, Europe, Asia, and Africa; from igloos of the Arctic Circle to small resorts on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Marilyn is active in her church and enjoys meeting new people and assisting them in their travel needs.

Dani Schmalz, Air Coordinator/Sales and Marketing Assistant

Dani graduated from UW – Eau Claire with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Management and Spanish, with a certificate in Fine Arts Administration. She loves animals (cats), music, Walt Disney World, travel, Spanish and can play seven instruments. Dani was a member of the UWEC Blugold Marching Band for 5 years, where she traveled to Tokyo, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, as well as Italy and Spain. During her undergraduate career she studied abroad in Valladolid, Spain. In addition to her passion of travel, Dani also enjoys studying other cultures and religions. She has traveled to twelve countries and looks forward to exploring many more!

Karen See, Tour Director and Designer

As a Certified Travel Consultant (CTC), Karen has 35+ years arranging and leading custom group tours throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and for the past 15 years specializing in Europe. Karen’s attention to detail assures you of a successful tour and a meaningful travel experience. Over the past fifteen years Karen has had the pleasure of introducing her clients to Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.  Her desire is to not only acquaint her tour participants with the people and places they visit but to make them enthusiastic, knowledgeable and well received travelers.

 

Karen is married to Rick See and lives in Omaha, Nebraska.  She has 2 beautiful daughters and 4 grandchildren.  When she isn’t traveling she spends most of her free time playing golf and gardening. 

Joyce Rood, Tour Coordinator

Joyce has a master’s degree in education and was a teacher and director of religious education before joining Ed-Ventures, Inc. Her most memorable gift as a child was a set of luggage she received for Christmas. Her first trip overseas was in fifth grade to visit her sister and her brother-in-law who was in the service, stationed in Germany. There her family explored the countryside in a Volkswagen van visiting castles and learning the legends. Since then, she has traveled to all fifty states, through most of Canada and to several European countries, including Turkey. She recently experienced her first cruise on the Volga River from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia. Joyce enjoys learning about the world through travel, community education and Great Courses classes, and through the eyes of her three grandchildren.

Lisa Smith, Tour Coordinator

Lisa graduated from Winona State University with a degree in Business Administration.  Her travel career started when she studied abroad in college at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England.  After graduation, her first job gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 US states, Canada, live a brief time in Sweden, and then live in London for a year.  Since that time, she has now been to all 50 states in the US, all 7 continents, and has traveled extensively throughout the world.  She still loves the idea of a new adventure taking her to unknown places of places unknown.  Outside of the office, she enjoys time with family and her dog, cycling, snowboarding, scuba diving, hiking, reading and more travel.

Sonja VogenFinance

Sonja is our staff accountant here at Ed-Ventures, Inc. She graduated from Winona State University with a B.S. in Accounting. Outside of work Sonja enjoys bowling, NASCAR and relaxing with a book. She also spends as much time with her family and friends as she can.

Michelle Wiegand, Tour Coordinator and Airfare Purchaser
Michelle graduated from University of Minnesota-Mankato with a B.A in Psychology and a minor in Sociology.  In 1996, she went to Travel School at Carlson Travel Academy in Bloomington. She has been in the travel industry ever since as a leisure agent or corporate agent. Places she has visited are Holland, Canada, Mexico, a couple of cruises and several areas in the United States.  She is kept busy with three kids and a husband. Free time activities include cross stitching, movies, creating digital photo books and just relaxing with friends and family.

Theresa WilsonMarketing

Theresa's parents, who were both in the US Army, met while on an airplane from the US to France. She was only 3 months old when she experienced her first international flight (probably to the dismay of her fellow passengers!) Growing up as an "Army Brat", she attended 10 different schools by the time she graduated from college, including Heidelberg American High School in Germany. She is married to her best friend, Mark, and they are the parents of two adult children.

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