New leadership continues program momentum

WashU Momentum
Brookings & Momentum logo on the Quad side of Brookings Hall.

Nearly one hundred graduate and professional students are taking part in the interdisciplinary and intercultural programming offered through the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at WashU.

The McDonnell Academy continues to evolve to meet the needs of its Scholars, attract new and talented graduate students to WashU, as well as leverage its international partnership network to foster collaborative research across countries and disciplines. As part of its continued momentum to the development of future global leaders, the McDonnell Academy recently announced the expansion of its executive management. Laura Benoist, previously associate director, accepted the promotion to director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

Laura Benoist

Mentoring our talented and diverse McDonnell Scholars as they discover their career fit is undeniably the most rewarding part of my work.


Benoist has been with the McDonnell Academy for five years and knows the community well from the perspective of being one of WashU’s primary global initiatives. She will continue to lead the program’s recruitment, admissions and programmatic elements in alignment with the three pillars of the McDonnell Academy: global mindset, leadership and community.

Vijay Ramani, vice provost for graduate education and international affairs and the Roma B. & Raymond H. Witcoff Distinguished University professor, will serve as the McDonnell Academy’s executive director.

Vijay Ramani

Envisioning and achieving distinctive and inclusive excellence at scale in graduate education is critical to fulfilling the university’s mission as well as to further elevating our reputation through regional, national, and global impact.


As a key member of the provost’s core leadership team, Ramani is in a position to advise on graduate education trends, programming and policy, and will act as a collaborative partner with Benoist and the Academy’s advisory counsel to strengthen global connections and broaden interdisciplinary initiatives.

The McDonnell Academy provides the network with which WashU incubates new ideas and mentors future leaders. The program cultivates a community of culturally and academically diverse leaders, driven to address the world’s most complex challenges. Applications to the McDonnell Academy are accepted from graduates of universities across the world, with a special interest in students who are alumni from its network of partner universities. In creating an international network of research universities, WashU is developing a cohort of future leaders in a global university system, promoting global awareness and social responsibility.