Laurel Mahnke (’14) holds Washington State University close to her heart and is willing to do whatever she can to give back to her alma mater to enhance the experiences of current and future students.

Laurel-Mahnke_pa-222x300“I want to give other students opportunities, to impact the value of the University, and to stay connected to WSU wherever I go,” Laurel says.

Her commitment arises from the friends she made and the home-like feel of the campus and community of Pullman. “I didn’t succeed on an island. Many people pulled me up along the way. People I can’t repay, people who do not want repayment. I feel a sort of obligation to future students to be that boost for them. Only good things can come of giving back,” she says.

Laurel grew up in Carnation, Washington and followed the footsteps of an older sister to WSU. She earned a degree in public relations from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. During her junior year, Laurel became involved with PAWS (Philanthropy At Washington State), a student-run outreach program that emphasizes and teaches how private support impacts WSU.

PAWS was the perfect fit, Laurel recalls. She joined PAWS as marketing chair, a volunteer position, and caught on quickly. She was soon promoted to program chair, a paid position. The experience gave Laurel an up-close look at the many ways private support changes lives at WSU and enhances the student experience.

Additionally, PAWS demonstrated that there is strength in numbers. “The landscape of higher education is changing. There are conversations about how higher education may not be a sound investment for students, that state support is dwindling, and in some unfortunate cases students are not seeing the value of their experience. I know I don’t have the ability to make a major gift, but if a larger base of alumni came together and just gave what they can, we could effect change,” she says.

“My hope is that alumni and students of public universities, like WSU, begin to embrace how a gift to their alma mater provides opportunities to students, communities, and yes, sometimes the world. I don’t place a dollar value on my Cougar experience, and I would hope future students do not have to either. Every gift—no matter the size—is progress toward that goal.”

For more information about PAWS and the WSU Recent Graduate Program, please contact Cody Wilson at or 509-335-8263.