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During her undergraduate degree, Stacy Benander studied abroad in Toledo, Spain, in order to solidify her fluency in the Spanish language. The experience of study abroad was a life-changing experience, and this was a driving force that motivated her to create Athena Study Abroad.
Stacy founded Athena Study Abroad with the goal of providing personalized study abroad programs at small schools overseas. Athena aims to provide the opportunity for as many U.S. students as possible to study abroad, and by partnering with small schools abroad, Athena is able to guarantee true cultural immersion while also providing programs that will appeal to both small and large school students here in the US.
Stacy began working at an immigration law firm in Cleveland, becoming an expert in U.S. immigration procedures and policies, filing non-immigrant and immigrant petitions for executives and professionals around the country, and also serving as the firm’s Spanish language translator.
She then moved on to The Ohio State University to serve as an International Student and Scholar Advisor in the Office of International Education. She advised many of the school’s 5,000+ international students on all aspects of immigration regulation and compliance, coordinated the university's international student orientation, and served as a DSO and ARO for SEVIS.
From there, Stacy served as the Director of the International Office at Ohio Dominican University where she oversaw all aspects of the university’s study abroad program creation and implementation, multicultural student services and programming, international student services, and international student admissions.
Stacy has been an involved member of NAFSA since 2002, including her most recent position as the Local Arrangements Chair for the Region VI conference in Columbus, Ohio. She was also chosen the recipient of the Experienced Professional Travel Grant in 2007. In 2010, Stacy was named one of Columbus' top forty business people under the age of 40 by Columbus Business First.
Stacy earned her B.A. as a double-major in Spanish and Communications/Public Relations from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. She also earned her M.A. degree in Social and Cultural Foundations (Cultural Studies in Education) Summa Cum Laude from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to her study abroad experience in Toledo, Spain during her undergraduate degree, she has also participated in intensive Spanish language study in Seville, Spain and Bogotá, Colombia.
Stacy and her husband, John, have one child, a son.
“Tolerance is built through knowledge, and knowledge is gained most effectively through experience. Study abroad teaches university students that knowledge has no borders.”
~ Stacy Benander, President and Founder
John Benander is from Richmond Heights, Ohio, an eastern suburb of Cleveland. He graduated as a Computer Science major and Mathematics minor from John Carroll University in Cleveland, while also studying masters level Theology at Ohio Dominican University. John has also studied abroad in Seville, Spain.
John played baseball at John Carroll and parlayed his interest and passion for the sport into a career off the field. He gained employment with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the online arm of Major League Baseball. As a Web Manager, Web Producer and Marketing Producer at MLBAM, John gained excellent experience in marketing, writing, coding, graphics and project management. In the fast-paced environment, John managed several teams' sites, including those of the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox.
John then moved on to work as a Producer with the
Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s oldest and premier newspaper.
When his wife Stacy founded Athena Study Abroad, John was excited to get involved in a venture in which he could blend his work skills with his hope for progress toward global unity. By helping students experience and learn other cultures, John believes he is doing a small part in offering a practical way to narrow the gap of fear that remains a major obstacle to world peace. John directs the technical and marketing efforts of Athena.
John and his wife, Stacy, have one child, a son.
Along with directing the technical and marketing efforts of Athena, John is working on a Masters of Theology at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio.
“I truly believe in the importance of participating in the global community in order to spread awareness, understanding and compassion for people of all nations.”
~ John Benander, Vice President of Marketing and Technology
Elisha grew up on Lake Champlain in the small, rural town of Addison, Vermont. Although she loved the tight knit community there she always dreamed of seeing the world. Elisha decided to study abroad in Rome, Italy during her undergraduate career to expand her horizons and gain a new perspective. Her time spent in Rome was a life-changing experience to say the least and is the reason she is in the international education field today.
After pursuing a degree in Business Administration with an option in Marketing at the University of New Hampshire, Elisha began her international education career with Athena Study Abroad. She is passionate about the benefits gained from studying abroad and excited to help students realize the importance of expanding one’s perspective beyond American borders.
Elisha feels strongly about Athena’s mission and everything the organization stands for. She could not be happier to be a part of such a passionate group of people. Helping students open their eyes to new and different cultures and return from their time abroad as global citizens is exactly what she hopes to achieve.
Although family is an extremely large part of her life, Elisha is excited to explore her new city of Columbus, Ohio. Being given the opportunity to work for such an incredible organization is something she couldn't pass up and her family is thrilled to see her happy and spreading the word about the importance of studying abroad.
“Studying abroad is the journey of a lifetime and the perfect way for students to gain awareness and broaden their horizons. I believe that every individual should have this opportunity and I want nothing more than to help make this more than just a possibility.”
~ Elisha Randall, Manager of Academic Relations
Originally from Ohio, Natalie Rulong earned her BA in French Studies at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. It was during her first trip to Europe with her high school French Club that her perspective and appreciation of other cultures and languages broadened. She went on to study abroad in Paris and Grenoble, France during her third year of college. Her time studying in France would have an immeasurable impact on her career.
Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Natalie moved to Chicago, IL to work as an Events Coordinator for an international non-profit. During this time, Natalie traveled within the U.S. and realized the degree to which her international experience influenced her perspective and abilities.
She decided to return to Europe to continue her travels and teach abroad. Natalie moved to Barcelona, Spain where she earned her TESOL certification. After falling in love with the city, she stayed there to teach English, learn Spanish, and explore what the city and Spanish culture had to offer.
After the academic year, Natalie returned to the U.S. eager to pursue a career in international education. It was her goal to be a part of an organization that afforded students the same opportunity she'd had to live and study abroad. Now in her fifth year of working in the community of international education, Natalie is thrilled to be a part of Athena Study abroad, extending this invaluable opportunity to students around the country.
"Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the world while gaining a fresh perspective of one's own culture and history. Such an experience can only enhance a student's life and professional prospects."
~ Natalie Rulong, Student Enrollment Specialist
Mike is an attorney with the Northeast Ohio-based firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A. A graduate of Central Catholic High School in Canton, Ohio, he received his undergraduate degree in history and political science from John Carroll University graduating
magna cum laude. Michael earned his Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. In addition, Mike also received a Masters Degree in Educational Policy from The Ohio State University with a focus on school law and higher education.
While in law school, Mike was a member of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, and was a recipient of the 2003-2004 Editor’s Award for Significant Contributions to the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, as well as serving as Symposium Editor. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys golfing as well as spending time with his nieces and nephews. Mike and his wife Ann have two children, both sons.
“It has been one of the great pleasures of my career to represent Athena Study Abroad since its inception. The staff’s dedication to individual service and commitment to its student-clients is commendable."
~ Michael Bogdan, Legal Consultant
"During my undergraduate career I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Ghana, Africa through volunteer work, four months in Xi’an China for a semester abroad, and two months in Beijing China for an internship. The combination of my time abroad has broadened my understanding of our globalized society and given me a passion to help others experience life outside of the United States. Going abroad has repeatedly proved beneficial to my academic career as well as my personal life, and I encourage others to have their own experiences abroad!"
Olwyn is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to information related to both Dublin and Ireland. Having run her own company, Over the Top Tours, for the past 17 years, she always has great recommendations for things to do in Dublin and places to go in Ireland.
She has an honours degree in History and Politics from University College Dublin (UCD) and a diploma in Law Studies from the Dublin Institute of Technology. Olwyn is married and has a daughter. She loves reading, travelling, sailing, culture, theatre, cinema and music.
Painter and Writer (Program Director): Masters Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. His varied and substantial teaching career began with the establishment of the Greenwich Painters and Writers Workshop in San Francisco, and has included over the years faculty positions with Texas A and M University, the University of Texas at Austin, Rikkyo University in Japan and the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain.
He has exhibited his paintings worldwide, read and lectured internationally with the Fulbright Commission, and held classes and workshops in Poetry in venues as diverse as Japan, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Egypt and Mexico. His latest book of poems is entitled Collage of the Soul and is available now on Amazon.com
Having grown up as a third-culture kid, Sabina became passionate about international education at an early age. She has lived, worked, and studied in places such as Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, France, and Sweden, and she feels this experience helps her relate to her students, who are also adjusting to living in a new culture. Sabina has a BS in International Business and Spanish and a MA in International Education.
"I'm drawn to working with youth because in this critical time abroad in their lives they have the opportunity to expand their worldview and self-awareness. I'm seeking to help students along this transition, and empower them to unlock their potential and become agents of social change."
Barbara was born in and lives in Rome. She has a BA in Languages and Translation, with majors in English and Spanish.
She recently lived in New York City, and she feels this experience helps her relate with the students, who are experiencing a new culture just as she did.
"I'm drawn to working with young people and making their experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible."
I was born and raised in Paris, and I came to Tuscania nearly 30 years ago. Working at the school gives me the opportunity to share my Tuscanian life experience with students.
"My role as student advisor is very rewarding; students all get very close to the local people and to the town itself."
Matteo has been part of the Istituto Venezia for nearly 15 years and was instrumental in its founding. He enjoys working with study abroad students and showing them the Venetian way of life.
"I'm from Venice, I grew up here, and I feel deeply Venetian. I can't imagine myself living somewhere else ... Working with students coming from all over the world is really great: it helps to broaden your horizon. You keep learning and enriching your mind and your heart."
Talah grew up all over the world, but mainly in northwest London. She studied Neuroscience and Psychology at University.
Talah, fluent in English and Arabic, studied abroad in Iraq and Jordan.
She is a music lover, and has a very wide range of musical taste, ranging from Tchaikovsky to Beyoncé. Her favorite historical site in London is Hampton Court, and she is a big fan of Liverpool FC!
Ana Maria is Spanish and has studied education and psychology. She has previously worked in Malta's Spanish Embassy and in human resources at Peace College in the US. Her hobbies include painting with watercolours, reading, yoga and going out.
She loves Spain because of its charm and her favourite sayings are "¡Haz el bién y no mires a quién!" ("Do good and don't look at others!") and "¡Vive el día de hoy como si fuera el último día de tu vida!" ("Live today as if it were the last day of your life!")