Aspiring PR mavens in the making

ASU Public Relations Lab challenges students to think critically and beyond graduation

woman working on laptop in classroom

2016 PR News Student of the Year Caitlin Bohrer works in the PR Lab.


There are common phrases students hear throughout public relations careers. Aside from stressing the importance of accuracy and integrity, students are encouraged to secure internships, network with practitioners and build their portfolio. Each element works together to jumpstart their career even before they walk across the commencement stage.

The Public Relations Lab at the Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication provides students the environment to refine their skills and the opportunity to connect with and learn from other public relations professionals.

The Lab’s “teaching hospital” approach is intended to enhance a student’s marketable skills before graduation. Students work out of a state-of-the-art newsroom which operates like a PR agency and are led by Fran Matera, a veteran journalist and public relations educator and professional.

“The Cronkite PR Lab is designed as an intensive learning environment and operates as an agency with student teams who work on behalf of their clients,” Matera said.

Clients range from Fortune 500 companies to startups — reflecting organizations with international to local reach — including Intel, Honeywell, and NASA.

The semester-long course includes producing communication campaigns and strategies for clients under the guidance of faculty. Students refine their writing, research and presentation skills, allowing for a seamless transition into the working world, according to Matera.

students giving presentation

From left to right: Cronkite School students Kaylee Stock, Tyler Prime and Sierra Ciaramella give a presentation in the PR Lab.

 Part of finding success is connecting with inspiring mentors. Scott Pansky, co-founder of the award-winning global public relations firm Allison and Partners, has paved a road for Cronkite students to connect with mentors.

Pansky founded The Enid R. Pansky Mentorship Series exclusively at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication specifically for the Public Relations Lab. The series honors the entrepreneurial spirit of his mother and her role as mentor to many and creates an opportunity for a PR Lab student to spend quality time with an individual they wish to emulate.

Each spring the PR Lab Mentorship Lecture takes place and the Aspire Award is given to a selected aspiring public relations student. Previous mentors include John James Nicoletti, vice president of internal communications at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. His protégé, Tayllor Lillestol, is now a public affairs coordinator for The Walt Disney Company.

“John’s support and encouragement have helped so much, both in my adjustment to the professional world and in moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone,” Lillestol said. “Now, almost two years after I started at Disney, John and I still meet on a regular basis. I know I can always turn to him for guidance — and luckily, he’s right down the hall.”

This year’s Aspire Award recipient, and 2016 PR News Student of the Year, is Caitlin Bohrer. Bohrer is a senior team leader in the PR Lab and currently working as a public relations intern at LaneTerralever, a Phoenix advertising agency. Joining her is her mentor Corey duBrowa, Starbucks senior vice president of global communications and international public affairs.

“This is amazing,” Bohrer said. “He’s had a very successful career, working for successful companies and now heading communications for Starbucks. I’m just really excited to talk to him and learn from his insight, how he’s built his career and how he’s learned to overcome different obstacles.”

duBrowa has over 20 years of experience, serving as an expert communicator for several high impact brands, including Nike and Microsoft. Today, he leads the development and execution of communication strategies for Starbucks, translating passion and expertise from his role on diverse teams.

Bohrer admires Starbucks for the brand experience they create and their social responsibility. Both of these fall in line with her future plans to apply her knowledge and serve the greater good, like a true Sun Devil.

“I hope to be able to work for a company or an agency where I am able to create that culture and brand experience,” she said. “Aside from coffee, it’s the corporate social responsibility of highlighting people who are doing great things for their community.”

duBrowa is scheduled to visit with Bohrer prior to the PR Mentorship Lecture in April. Bohrer plans to seek duBrowa’s personal and professional guidance well into the future.

Through the generous support of Pansky, mentors like Nicoletti and duBrowa have found a place at ASU to share their knowledge with those students who strive for their maximum potential in the communications field.

Pansky, although not an ASU alum, is committed to the ASU PR Lab based on its people and program content.

“The Aspire Award has truly become the highlight of our family’s donation over the past five years,” Pansky said. “ASU’s award-winning PR Lab is one of the strongest in the nation. We are so very proud that we can help bring inspirational public relations leaders such as Corey to campus so they can share their stories and advice for entering the communications arena.”

The PR Mentorship Lecture is free and open to the public.

What: Enid R. Pansky PR Mentorship Lecture
When: 7–8 p.m. April 10
Where: Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, First Amendment Forum, Downtown Phoenix campus
555 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Visit ASU Events for location information.

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