The Power of Connections: Internships and Study Abroad
For undergraduate students, experiential learning and structured studies off campus are priceless. Kiki Tauck Mahar ’91 and Dan Mahar ’88 know this. Their major gift commitments will ensure St. Lawrence students have more of these opportunities.
When we talk about the importance of student internships and studying abroad, we often say they both offer similar benefits: They help us make meaningful connections. They challenge our assumptions. They also give us the first-person perspectives that can make our work in the arts and sciences more influential.
These are some of the reasons the Mahars wanted to support these experiences for St. Lawrence students. In this interview, they said their giving is also rooted in their own trips as undergraduates and their work within the travel industry. Dan is CEO of the global Tauck travel company and Kiki assisted in developing the popular Tauck Bridges family travel programs.
What motivated you to establish the Dan and Kiki Mahar Endowed Internship Fund?
Kiki: We believe real-world work experience is an important piece to a student’s success after college, in a professional role or graduate school. The undergraduate internship experience builds knowledge and expertise, while developing a sense of accountability, responsibility, confidence and maturity. These, too, are valuable traits. They have the potential to make us motivated citizens and more desirable job candidates. A meaningful internship is an important piece to a well-rounded, undergraduate education. We want to support St Lawrence students in pursuing these internship opportunities and help the University to offer the best possible internships.
Dan: We believe experiences of all kinds can be so impactful to the development of our students. Internships and travel can open new insights into the world and even more importantly, provide students new insights into themselves. They will feel a spark—they’ll be inspired. And this will give them confidence and a desire for pursuing the next leg of their journey, whatever that may be. We also hope this will build practical connections and pathways for realizing the positions they want, in the field of their interest, after graduation.
And what prompted you to establish and continue building the Betsy Cogger Rezelman International Travel Endowment Fund?
Kiki: Betsy Rezelman was an exceptional professor of art history and a meaningful mentor. I majored in fine arts, concentrating in art history and Betsy was also my academic advisor. Over the years, she became a personal friend — to both of us. She and her husband attended our wedding in 1992. She was an avid traveler and the leader of my semester abroad in London. Betsy died too young and we were inspired to name this fund after her so she could be remembered at St. Lawrence in a way that highlighted her inspiring personality and her love of travel.
We believe travel can transform people. It helps build an understanding of humanity, diverse cultures and different ways of living. It gives us confidence and an ability to see ourselves in new ways. It also opens our eyes to opportunities and possibilities we might not have recognized otherwise. We both studied abroad as undergrads at St. Lawrence. Those experiences enhanced our college experience immensely.
Dan: Participating in a study abroad program can change the trajectory of a student’s life. Living and studying abroad, meeting new people, immersing ourselves in different cultures will collectively heighten our awareness of the greater world and hopefully inspire our curiosity for lifelong learning. It can also offer new ways for a student to envision themselves and their future goals. We support students who pursue the study abroad programs that will challenge them — and we want as many students as possible to gain the benefits of these programs.
Did The Campaign for Every Laurentian influence the timing of your recent gifts to the University?
Dan: Yes. St Lawrence invested significantly in the campus after the last campaign, which was wonderful and made meaningful improvements to the academic environment at St. Lawrence. We enthusiastically support the significant focus of The Campaign for Every Laurentian. It makes this the perfect time for us to give, because the Power of Connections is a “Big Idea” or a pillar of this Campaign. Internships and studying abroad connect Laurentians. These connections create opportunities — jobs and opportunities of all kinds. That’s the impact, the proof of how important these connections are to students and graduates.
We want to enable new experiences that complement students’ course work and expose them more broadly to the greater world. The St. Lawrence campus and its location foster deep learning in a supportive and highly personalized setting. Elements of this Campaign will provide needed funding to complement the University’s existing strength with new opportunities for students across the U.S. and around the world.
Because you’re both experienced travelers, how would you describe the importance and/or the benefits of travel for undergraduate college students?
Dan: Travel changes us. While traveling, time becomes suspended. That frees the mind to think more deeply about one’s life and possible paths. Travel shapes your dreams, choices and priorities for what you want to achieve with your time.
Kiki: Travel “takes you out of your comfort zone” because there is an element of the unknown whenever you go. This vulnerability allows for incredible discovery! Not just discovery of the unknown world you venture into, but also discovery of yourself, your curiosities, your future endeavors. The thought of being out of one's comfort zone can sometimes hold people back from traveling or exploring the world, but we hope to inspire students to push themselves into that zone through travel and study abroad programs so they can reap all these amazing benefits it offers.
What impact would you like these gifts to have on the lives of St. Lawrence students?
Dan: We’d like to make a difference in their lives, especially for those who may not otherwise have the network for pursuing internships or the chance to travel. Some St. Lawrence students might not have those connections or resources — and we can help.
What would you like recipients of these funds to know about the reasons you made these gifts to St. Lawrence?
Dan: We hope they’ll be “open for growth” and take advantage of these opportunities to pursue new learning opportunities that will complement their coursework and shed new light on the great opportunities that exist everywhere, and, of course, within themselves.
For more information about creating named funds, giving levels, internships, studying abroad, and the Power of Connections, go to and contact Terri Selby, executive director of major and planned gifts: or (315) 229-5542.