From Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to Morocco, Italy’s Amalfi Coast to Ireland, and Peru to Provence, the WSU Alumni Association takes travelers on once-in-a-lifetime experiences with fellow Cougs.

On the itinerary: fine wine, exquisite food, epic sightseeing, and, of course, that famous Cougar camaraderie.

“There’s no group that’s more fun to travel with than Cougs,” says Mariah Maki, WSU Alumni Association executive director and associate vice president of advancement. “Getting to travel the world with fellow Cougs, who often become instant friends, makes these trips even more memorable.”

Travel tour to The Herederos del Marqués de Riscal winery in the Basque Country in Spain
(Photo courtesy WSUAA)

Explore the waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium. Marvel at the blue-footed boobies and other wildlife in the Galápagos Islands. Island-hop in the Adriatic Sea along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.

These are just some of the travel programs offered by the WSUAA in 2024. In all, the WSUAA typically offers around 20 trips each year. And, Maki notes, “Anyone can go on these trips. They’re not limited to just WSU alums. Whether you’re a Coug alum or simply a friend or family member of a traveler, you certainly feel the special bond of Coug Nation when you’re on a WSUAA trip.”

Leilani Carpenter has coordinated WSUAA’s travel programs since 2012. She meets annually with WSUAA’s travel partners to plan trips more than a year in advance. Itineraries for 2025 include Antarctica, Alaska, Africa by private train, holiday markets in Germany and France, Patagonia’s fabled glaciers, and more.

WSUAA trips are a “great way to meet fellow Cougs and have an amazing experience as you travel the world,” Carpenter says. They generally feature an opening reception for WSUAA travelers to connect with each other. “It makes it more special,” Carpenter says, noting some alumni have met new friends through their WSUAA travels and booked subsequent trips together. “We’ve had alumni who meet on a trip, come back and ask, ‘Where would you like to go next?’ and have traveled together ever since.”

Some alumni bring children or grandchildren or both along for the adventure. Others travel with WSUAA to celebrate graduations and anniversaries. Many share photos. “It’s fun to hear from alumni when they get back from a trip. I do enjoy hearing their stories,” Carpenter says.

“We have found that the people we have met on these trips are one of the most memorable aspects of international travel,” says Michael Greenlee (’74 Vet. Sci., ’76 DVM), who traveled with his wife, Mona, first on a WSUAA cruise from Venice to Rome. They’ve since been on two more WSUAA trips. “We really loved visiting Greece,” Greenlee says. “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.”

While they don’t have any 2024 WSUAA travel plans, the Greenlees hope to do a Coug trip to the United Kingdom “to trace our roots.” One aspect that stands out is that WSUAA’s travel partners handle the logistics. “Having all of the details included makes for a worry-free vacation,” says Greenlee, who recommends traveling with WSUAA.

So does WSUAA traveler Linda Simmons. “I’ve always enjoyed my travels with WSUAA,” she says. One of those trips was a Danube River cruise. “It was a wonderful experience. The ship, crew, and food were absolutely outstanding.”

Trips for 2024 start at around $3,300 to about $7,000. A portion of the proceeds benefits the WSUAA.

“There’s a natural bond between Cougs,” Maki says. “We understand one another and often become quick friends upon meeting. Getting to experience these incredible trips around the world with fellow Cougs feels priceless.”

Some excursions include an educational component, featuring guest lecturers and local experts to provide historical context. Top-selling adventures include the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, Scotland, and Canada by train.

And if WSUAA isn’t offering an itinerary a traveler wants? “They can still reach out and we’ll connect them with another trip through our travel partners,” Carpenter says. “You’re not just limited to what’s on our website.”


Cruise companions

Joan Potts Helm and Judy Gorden WardFriends Joan Helm (’64 Elem. Ed.) and Judy Ward (’63 Int. Des.) traveled from London to Reykjavik in July 2023. It was Helm’s first WSUAA travel experience.

“I enjoyed traveling on the cruise and taking part in on board activities,” she says. “The excursions provided opportunities to learn about the area and its customs.”

Not only that, but “the ten-day cruise allowed time to become acquainted with new friends.”

She recommends the experience, noting “the cruise ship staff is very friendly and accommodating.”

In particular, she enjoyed the fact that the cruise allowed her “to unpack one time and see multiple countries.”


Learn more about travel opportunities through WSUAA at


Web exclusive

Traveling with a Coug:  Molly (Malone) Philopant (’76 Busi.)