Bio Stacy Benander

President and Founder

During her undergraduate degree, Stacy McKay 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 was awarded the NAFSA Region VI’s esteemed Leo Dowling Award of Excellence in 2014.

Stacy also gives back to her community through various volunteer positions. She serves as a Board Member for Strayhaven Animal Shelter in Greenville, PA. In the past, she has served as a Board Member for LEON (Latino Empowerment Outreach Network), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a healthy Latino community in Central Ohio through programs that educate and empower Latinos. Stacy has also served as a Board Member and Director of Volunteers at New Beginnings Animal Shelter, a non-profit animal rescue in the Columbus area.

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 McKay Benander


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