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, 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 was awarded the “Enlightened Employer Award“ by the Women in International Education Awards in Berlin, Germany in 2018. That same year, for the second time, she was named to a 40 under 40 list as a top business leader, this time in Western PA, and the first being in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. She was also named the “Business Person of the Year” in 2018 by the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce. Stacy was awarded the NAFSA Region VI’s esteemed Leo Dowling Award of Excellence in 2014.
Stacy also gives back to her local and global community through various volunteer positions. She served as a Founding Board Member of the Global Leadership League, an organization focused on empowering and networking the women of international education. She also served as a Board Member for Strayhaven Animal Shelter in Greenville, PA., worked 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, and 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 M.A. degree in Social and Cultural Foundations (Cultural Studies in Education) Summa Cum Laude from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She also earned her B.A. as a double-major in Spanish and Communications/Public Relations from John Carroll University in Cleveland, 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