Alicia Stanley wins Lifetime Achievement Award


Evan Hein

Alicia Stanley realized her passion for an international education after she studied for a full year abroad in Paris.

Eleanor Corbin, Community Editor

When Alicia Stanley stepped onto Rice University’s campus, she planned to become an engineer. She had no intention of working in international education. Her first French class, however, would change the trajectory of her studies forever. After a long and lively career working internationally, culminating in her job here at Grinnell as the director of off-campus study, Stanley received the 2022 Institute of International Education for Students’ (IES) Lifetime Achievement Award. 

In order to qualify, individuals must have worked a minimum of 15 years in study abroad or international education and have made significant contributions to the field. The recipient is selected by IES’ nominations committee, composed of other study abroad professionals.

But as a first-year at Rice University, she was not aware of the world that was waiting for her. 

“Even though the math and science courses were really hard, the French language class I started taking as a first-year student was terrifying,” said Stanley.

Stanley had little exposure to foreign language education up until that point, only briefly taking Latin in high school. In an effort to challenge herself, she decided to spend her full third year abroad in Paris with the IES.

Stanley said studying abroad was a life-changing experience for her. She fell in love with the museums, music and culture of Paris.

“I had started to make friends and really feel like I had enhanced my language skills,” she said. “I was dreaming in French.”

When she returned from Paris in the fall of 1988, she changed her major and graduated from Rice with a bachelor’s degree in French that spring.

Stanley received her master’s degree in public service management at DePaul University in 2002. She said that DePaul is where she learned that a career in study abroad was possible. 

Stanley began working for IES in 2004. She joined the organization’s enrollment management division before moving to the academic department where she worked with their centers in Italy and France.

“I felt like I had come kind of full circle,” said Stanley.

While she enjoyed her time at IES, Stanley says that she missed the individual interactions with students that she got in some of her work prior to graduate school.

Stanley went to work for DePaul University as their assistant director of operations in the study abroad program. Then, she moved to Northwestern University, where she worked as associate director of study abroad for nine years.

Finally, in 2017, Stanley made her way to Grinnell College where she has worked since as the director of off-campus study.

“I kept hearing about this sort of global movement that was happening at Grinnell College,” she said. “I was just so curious to see what was happening here.”

Stanley described her job as happening in cycles. In the fall, she said that it is all about promoting off-campus study and encouraging first-years to check out the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE). After Feb. 1, when off-campus study applications are due, Stanley reviews applications and helps students prepare for their abroad experience. IGE then spends the summer reviewing and updating their off-campus policies. Once the fall starts, the cycle begins again.

Now, the Institute of Global Engagement and the Student Council on Curriculum are going on a listening tour in which they have conversations with the SEPC for all majors and concentrations. The goal is to understand the curricular barriers that students may have to consider when planning an international experience.

In addition to Stanley’s work through educational institutions, she has also served as the vice chair of the Forum Council, on Academic Council and on the 60th Annual Conference Planning Committee with IES.

“I was being recognized for my service in the field beyond my day-to-day,” she said, “so it was nice to be recognized in that way.”

Stanley sees international experiences as a way to expand one’s perspective, having learned so much about France in her time living there. She noted language building, career development and independence as examples of the various goals students can have for their time abroad.

“You learn so much about wherever it is that you call home and yourself and your place in the world,” said Stanley.