Principal Officers

Katherine Hibbs Pherson, Chief Executive Officer, teaches advanced analytic techniques and critical thinking skills to analysts in the Intelligence Community, homeland security community, and the private sector. She is also a consultant to the government on planning, security, and analysis projects. Katherine H. Pherson  co-authored with Randolph H. Pherson, Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, published in October 2012. Ms. Pherson completed a 27-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency in intelligence and security analysis and resource management in 2000. Her leadership in the security arena led to the adoption of a risk management methodology, the strengthening and the implementation of overseas security countermeasures, and improvements in dealing with unsolicited contacts. As Director of the Director of Central Intelligence’s (DCI) Center for Security Evaluation she managed the Intelligence Community’s involvement in rebuilding the penetrated U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Ms. Pherson received her A.B. in Hispanic Studies from Vassar College, an M.A. in Spanish Linguistics and Latin American Studies from the University of Illinois, and an M.A. in Communications from the University of Oklahoma. She is a recipient of the CIA’s Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal and the Intelligence Community’s National Distinguished Service Medal.

Randolph H. Pherson, President, teaches critical thinking and advanced analytic techniques to analysts throughout the Intelligence Community and the private sector. He co-authored with Richards J. Heuer, Jr. Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis and a second book, Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action with Sarah Miller Beebe that was published in December 2011.  His third book, Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, co-authored with Katherine H. Pherson, was published in October 2012. Mr. Pherson collaborated with Richards J. Heuer, Jr., in launching the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses software tool and has developed three other simple but elegant software tools for intelligence analysts. Mr. Pherson completed a 28-year career in the Intelligence Community in 2000, last serving as National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Latin America. Previously, at the CIA, Mr. Pherson managed the production of intelligence analysis on topics ranging from global instability to Latin America, served on the Inspector General’s staff, and developed and implemented a strategic planning process for the CIA as Chief, Strategic Planning and Management Staff under the Deputy Director for Planning and Coordination (ExDir). Mr. Pherson is the recipient of both the Distinguished Intelligence Medal for his service as NIO for Latin America and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. Mr. Pherson received his B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A. in International Relations from Yale University.

Diana D. Pittman, Chief Operating Officer, is responsible for providing overall project and contract management support for Pherson projects, developing a Program Management Office for the company, and supporting government and commercial operations.  She brings more than 20 years’ experience in the development and management of computer applications and systems for local, state, and the federal government organizations, including systems for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Transportation Security Administration.  She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), with a background in software development and extensive experience in requirements analysis and management.

Mary O’Sullivan is Dean of the Forum and responsible for curriculum development and instruction.  She completed her 28-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency as a Senior Executive responsible for production and review of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), the creation of the Agency’s first on-line daily intelligence publication, and the establishment of field-based analytic units.  Ms. O’Sullivan was the first Chancellor of CIA University, a position in which she established standards for training design and development, reinstituted professional certification requirements for all instructors, and obtained new resources for language and leadership training.   She has extensive experience in operational budgeting and strategic planning as well as human resource development.  Ms. O’Sullivan was tapped by the Deputy Director of Intelligence to design training and experiential development paths for each analytic field in the Directorate of Intelligence and was the first strategic resource planner in the Office of the Comptroller.  She began her career as a leadership analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence and was loaned to the Department of Defense to assist in the preparation for various high-level visits and policy meetings.  Ms. O’Sullivan is the recipient of both the Distinguished Intelligence Medal for her service as Chancellor of CIA University and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. She received her B.A. from Western Kentucky University and her M.A. in History from the University of Kansas.  She also has a Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from the Defense Language Institute.


Ray Converse analyzed European and Soviet affairs during his 35 year career at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where he served as an analyst, manager, and faculty member of the Sherman Kent School of Intelligence Analysis. At the Kent School, Mr. Converse was well known for his facilitation and teaching skills, for developing innovative curricula, and mentoring a diverse body of students in the Career Analyst Program. He was a senior analyst on the Director’s Review Group to study the government’s response to terrorism in support of the 9/11 Commission and ongoing Congressional reviews. At the CIA, Mr. Converse managed units responsible for Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, South Asia, and the Soviet Union and its successor states during multiple crises, supervising analysis written routinely for the President and senior officials. He frequently prepared the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) for high-level meetings and attended as their substantive adviser. During three years at the Department of Commerce, Mr. Converse managed new programs for the “Support of East European Democracies Act” and regularly represented Commerce to the public and business community. Early in his career, he worked on the Soviet economy, its industries, and defense economics. Mr. Converse is a professional film and stage actor and has used improvisation and role play to support the training of numerous government and corporate clients. He has written and co-produced a screenplay for instructional purposes. Mr. Converse, an economist, received a B.A. with Honors from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. from the University of Michigan, and participated in MIT’s prestigious year-long Seminar XXI.

Kathryn Haahr-Escolano has substantive expertise in the fields of analytical tradecraft tools and techniques, national security, strategic communications, and open source/social media content exploitation and dissemination.  She served over 15 years at the CIA working on an assortment of substantive policy issues in support of US policymakers on various policy challenges including Iran.   During her years as a public policy consultant in the private sector, she supported several US intelligence and military organizations as well as an energy company and a small think tank, providing substantive expertise in the areas of energy security and the intersection of transnational issues with public opinion assessments.  Ms. Haahr-Escolano has created and institutionalized a variety of risk frameworks to assess life-cycle threats to client critical operations and created strategies to help them mitigate against identified threats.  She is bilingual in Spanish and English, and has working knowledge of French, Italian, Catalan, and Portuguese. She received a BA in International Studies and Spanish Literature from Mary Washington University and a MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies focusing on the political economies of the Middle East and Europe.

Gershon R. Kieval, Ph.D., instructor, mentor, analyst and program manager, served for more than 30 years at the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst, briefer, editor, and manager. He provided intelligence support to senior officials in the Intelligence Community, on the National Security Staff, and in the Department of Defense. Dr. Kieval held rising leadership positions culminating at the Group Chief level and has experience working with all levels of analysts, managers, policymakers, and military personnel.  He also taught at George Washington University and has extensive experience developing and teaching courses on international relations and Middle East studies. Dr. Kieval received a Ph.D. and M.A in Political Science from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A in Government from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

Laura Lenz  serves as an instructor and curriculum developer  providing skilled instruction in analysis for a variety of customers.  For the past seven years, she has taught advanced critical thinking, structured analytic techniques, and critical writing skills to analysts in the Intelligence Community (IC), the Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Communities, and the private sector.  Prior to joining Pherson Associates, Ms. Lenz spent several years as an FBI intelligence analyst, where she analyzed and wrote tactical and strategic intelligence regarding terrorist activities in the United States.  She also developed and conducted training and conferences for FBI personnel and foreign partners on terrorism issues.  Additionally, Ms. Lenz served as team leader at R2 Resources, where she guided two law enforcement agencies as they developed their first five-year plan for counterterrorism analysis, and as adjunct professor of Political Science at Northern Virginia Community College.  She received her B.A. from Regis University and her M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University.

Karen Saunders conducts courses in analytic tradecraft for US Government and corporate analysts, as well as in international affairs and intelligence analysis for graduate and undergraduate students at American University in Washington, DC and Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Prior to joining Pherson Associates, Ms. Saunders worked for thirteen years at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC) as Executive Director of International Programs and Senior Researcher and in other capacities. Her research specializations include post-Soviet organized crime and corruption, illicit air trade, terrorism in Central Asia, human trafficking, weapons smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering, and domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States. Ms. Saunders worked in corporate marketing in Russia for two years following the collapse of the Soviet Union; she has worked and traveled extensively in Russia and the former Soviet Union. She received a dual B.A. in International Relations and Russian Language and Literature from Tufts University, and an M.A. in International Development from American University. She is completing her doctorate in International Relations at American University’s School of International Service (AU-SIS), where she holds the Dean’s Fellowship. In 2017, she received commendation from AU-SIS for outstanding teaching service to the university.

Greg Schlickenmaier serves as a program manager and instructor at Pherson Associates.  During his 32-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency he worked as an analyst, operations support officer, linguist, and manager of analytic and collection programs.  Key assignments included serving as DCIA Representative to AFRICOM; Director, White House Situation Room; Group Director of a sensitive technical collection program; Deputy Group Director of open source collection on the Middle East, Eurasia, counter-terrorism, and counter-proliferation; and Chief of IT support for CIA’s technical analysts and economists.  He also served as a Congressional Fellow in the Office of US Senator Rick Santorum.  Early in his career he was an analyst and manager of the global arms trade and illicit financial transactions, as well as a translator of Spanish-language technical documents.  He received a BA in Spanish and Music from the University of Maryland, an MA in International Politics from Catholic University, and a Certificate of Completion from the Foreign Service Institute’s Economics and Commercial Studies Program.


Program Support

Dr. Mary C. Boardman, Methodologist specializes in methodology design and implementation, along with research methods. She has published articles in peer-reviewed journals including Small Business Economics, Public Administration Review, and World Health and Medical Policy. Her methodological expertise includes agent-based modeling, econometrics/statistics, game theory (computational, evolutionary, and behavioral), structured analytic techniques, testing design, case studies, historical research, field research/human subjects/ ethnography, evidence-based science policy, and biographical research. Dr. Boardman holds a Ph.D in Public Policy from the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University. She also holds an MPP from Pepperdine University, focusing on International Relations and Economics, and a BBA in International Business from the University of Oklahoma.

Jennifer Brown is a senior Human Resources (HR) professional with over 20 years of experience gained through working with various companies in diverse industries. Ms. Brown has extensive experience in HR function turn-around situations, HR strategy and organizational development, recruiting and hiring, performance management, training and development, compensation and benefits, and employee relations. She has a B.S. in Business with a concentration in Personnel/Labor Relations and an MBA with a concentration in HR and Organizational Development from the University of Maryland.