Manship School Grad Gains Unique STEM & Public Affairs Internship Experience at ExxonMobil

Alumna Sarah Catherine LaBorde’s first day on-site as a public and government affairs intern at the main gates of ExxonMobil Beaumont.

Manship School 2020 alumna Sarah Catherine LaBorde is the epitome of Tiger spirit. She served as an ambassador for LSU and the Manship School, studied abroad (not once, but twice!), was an LSU Stamps Scholar for the LSU Ogden Honors College and was even crowned LSU’s 2019 Homecoming Queen. But what’s even more impressive is LaBorde’s passion to make a difference in the world. Her love for telling stories and connecting with people are what brought her to study public relations at LSU.

“As soon as I stepped foot at LSU, it felt like home,” LaBorde said. “It immediately made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. Manship was the icing on the cake of everything that is LSU.”

Just before she graduated in May, LaBorde learned about a unique opportunity when double Manship School alumna (B.A. ‘92 and MMC ’98) Stephanie Cargile visited LaBorde’s class. Cargile, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge’s public and government affairs manager, was recruiting students to apply for the communications and public affairs internship at ExxonMobil, an opportunity LaBorde did not want to pass up. 

Although she didn’t have any experience working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) communications, LaBorde took a leap of faith, applied for the internship and was ultimately selected as one of only three public and government affairs interns to manage projects for ExxonMobil’s Gulf Coast facilities and national emergency preparedness projects in summer 2020. She is the first LSU graduate to be selected via corporate recruiting for the Houston-based internship, which she completed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 2020 ExxonMobil public and government affairs intern cohort at the ExxonMobil Houston Campus (Left to right: Javier Lewis, Sarah Catherine LaBorde, Kathryn Hillis)

At ExxonMobil, LaBorde was exposed to the broad functions of public and government affairs through her work supporting all its North American refining and chemical sites. She collaborated on social media strategies, helped with rebranding and marketing initiatives and brainstormed creative real estate solutions. And her work varied. One day, for instance, LaBorde joined a 6 a.m. call with partners in Singapore to strategize global response efforts. Another day, she sat down with subject-matter experts to create a virtual tour of ExxonMobil’s petrochemical sites. LaBorde said that being a non-STEM person in a STEM field gave her a competitive advantage to make ExxonMobil’s communications more relatable. 

“[ExxonMobil] is a global company, so they are looking for not just engineering people; it needs support from people [in the mass communication field] to support its large global organization,” LaBorde said. “[ExxonMobil] recruits the best of the best, and being able to learn from the industry’s most talented is incredible. It’s inspiring for someone like me starting out in her career to be working with them.”

What helped LaBorde stand out from other interns were her strong writing skills and experience in key strategic communications, which she credits to the Manship School and numerous internships over the years. Cargile said ExxonMobil’s leadership team highly regarded LaBorde’s strong work ethic, keen intuition and poise. 

“The LSU Manship School experience definitely positioned her to stand out as one of the best in the nation,” Cargile said. 

LaBorde ultimately plans to pursue a career in public affairs and industrial communications, focusing in corporate philanthropy and community outreach. But for now, she’s planning on going back to school to earn an MBA to expand her skills on the business side of the industry. No matter where life takes her, LaBorde is grateful for all the opportunities that LSU and the Manship School have given her.

Manship School 2020 alumna Sarah Catherine LaBorde

“My four years at LSU were absolutely incredible,” LaBorde said. “I got so much out of it because I put so much in. I never wanted to regret something that I didn’t do. Be bold and never be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Who knows? You might find a new passion. You never know what an opportunity might have in store for you or where it might lead you.”

For more information about ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, visit www.exxonmobilbr.com or follow its social media pages below.

Written by Amie Martinez

LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center

On the Fast Track to Law School

Jennifer Baker
Political Communication student Jennifer Baker is the second Manship School student to be on the fast track to law school through the 3+3 Pre-Law Program.

Jennifer Baker, who is studying political communication at the Manship School, is on the fast track to law school. In fact, she will be attending LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center at the start of her fourth year at LSU in Fall 2020. As part of the Manship School’s 3+3 Pre-Law Program, Baker is the second Manship School student in the program’s history to be earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a law degree in six years – saving her time and money.

“I had always been interested in law, government and the political process all throughout high school, but never thought law school was an option for me,” Baker said. “At the Manship School, I knew that I could develop those interests and find my future career.”

The New Orleans native chose LSU for its big college experience, in-state benefits and, most importantly, its highly specialized political communication program. Coincidentally, Baker’s first semester at LSU in 2017 was the same year the Manship School and LSU Law Center launched the 3+3 Pre-Law Program for undergraduate mass communication students interested in attending law school. Although Baker did not start LSU in the 3+3 Pre-Law Program, she was always open to the idea of attending law school and scheduled her classes to align with the program.

“I had always asked questions about the 3+3 Program because I was very curious about it,” said Baker. “For me, it was an up-and-down decision for two years. Law school is a big decision, and I wanted to make sure it was the right one.”

Baker believed the Manship School’s small class sizes and integrated courses in media and politics would further cultivate her interest in politics and help her to decide if law school was right for her. As she began taking more courses focused on media law and political communication, Baker’s decision to attend law school was affirmed and, ultimately, led her to join the program in her sophomore year. Baker thanks Assistant Professor Will Mari, Ph.D., who taught her media law, for helping her discover an unexpected interest in intellectual property law that she plans to study further at the LSU Law Center.

“The way that Dr. Mari was teaching the class, whether he realized it or not, made me understand that this was really want I wanted to do,” said Baker. “That was the class that I left and thought, ‘Wow, this is really awesome!’ ”

LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
Baker will be attending LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Fall 2020.

Baker also credits adjunct instructor and Manship School doctoral alumna Robyn Stiles, Ph.D., for providing her the valuable skill of understanding how knowledge in political research and coding could help in the legal process.

“[Her class] was something that I was able to leave from and know that the skills I learned in class could benefit me in my legal career, especially in legal research,” said Baker. “Both of those classes were very beneficial to me.”

Baker encourages anyone interested in the possibility of going to law school to not be intimidated by it and, instead, reach out to advisers and faculty to learn more and see if it is the right path for them.

“In general, I believe there’s a stigma about law school that it’s difficult and unachievable, and I believed that narrative for a very long time,” said Baker. “I finally realized that it is something that’s feasible and achievable, and the 3+3 Program provides the support system to help you get there. The program also works with you to ensure that you will still graduate on time if you decide to not attend law school or if you don’t gain admission to the Law Center. As a Manship student, it is an easy process and one that I am thankful to have partaken in.”

The 3+3 Pre-Law Program is open to all mass communication students, no matter their chosen concentration. Students are still required to complete coursework for one of the Manship School’s four concentrations. Learn more about the 3+3 Pre-Law program.

Written by Amie Martinez

Manship Student Runs Own PR Business

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Pryce Bahnsen

Some people may know Pryce Bahnsen as a senior studying public relations at the Manship School. What they may not know is that also she runs her own PR business.

When choosing what college to go to, Pryce chose LSU for its big college atmosphere and great communications program at the Manship School. She wanted to know her professors and have a multitude of opportunities outside the classroom.

As a freshman, Pryce was searching through the internship database on the Manship School’s website for a job. She stumbled across a listing to be a personal public relations assistant to the late Holly Clegg, a Baton Rouge cookbook author and chef. Pryce applied for the job and, to her surprise, got it. As a female entrepreneur, Holly inspired Pryce from the start of her internship. She loved how Holly was just one person, a female that could run her own business.

After thoroughly enjoying working for Holly, Pryce got in touch with a local social media influencer and helped her run her business. Pryce realized this was something she could do full-time as a student.

Since then, Pryce has launched her own public relations business that has represented 12 clients and counting. She helps her clients with digital marketing, branding, website design, blogging and more. Her contracts with each company are unique, but Pryce mainly runs each business’s social media, websites, newsletters and more. What’s even more impressive is that she does this as a full-time student, graduating a year early.

Pryce says one of her biggest mentors encouraging her to start her own business was Manship School public relations instructor Doug Draper.

“One of the first things he told me was just, ‘Why don’t you let it grow?’” Pryce said. “After that, I went full-force into my business.” Pryce also was able to repay Draper by representing him and designing his website.

“She worked more effectively than many experienced business consultants that I’ve encountered in my long career in corporate communications with Fortune 500 companies,” Draper said.  “She listened to my vision, provided clear counseling that would help me achieve it, and followed through on all the tasks needed to make it better than I imagined. Due to Pryce’s work, I’m proud to tell people to check out my website.”

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Pryce thanks the Manship School for giving her the confidence and foundation for her future as a business owner and communicator. “All of the classes I have taken at the Manship School have been realistic. A lot of times when I’m working on things for clients, different pieces of knowledge that I’ve learned in my classes will just pop up in my head,” Pryce said.

Pryce enjoys working remotely and on her own time. She is a reminder to all students on just how much you can accomplish by being self-motivated. Upon graduating in May 2020, Pryce will return to her home state where she will pursue a master’s degree in advertising at the University of Texas in Austin. She will continue to build her brand and book of clients in hopes to one day open her own in-house public relations and advertising firm.

Written by Gabie deBruler 

Get the Nat: Manship Students Live Out Their Dream Working The National Championship Game

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Lauren Cochran on the set of ESPN

One month ago, on Jan. 13, 2020, LSU Football prevailed for the first time since 2007 for the College Football National Championship title. Several Manship School students had the opportunity to work the game and witness history watching the greatest football team of all time.

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Lauren Cochran celebrates the National Championship

Junior Lauren Cochran had the unique opportunity to work for ESPN for the week of the championship. It all began when Lauren got an email from a Production Coordinator at ESPN saying that they had reached out to the Manship School, and received her contact information from them. Lauren was offered a phone interview later with the Production Coordinator from ESPN.

“The interview was super easy and fun. After talking to them for 30 minutes, I was offered the job working for ESPN on the spot,” Lauren said.

For the week leading up to the Championship game, Lauren worked for ESPN as a production assistant, running errands and making graphics that would later air on the network. Given that Lauren’s background is as a reporter for TigerTV, that week was a whole new experience for her. “It was so cool to see and be a part of a national broadcast and have the opportunity to do the behind the scenes for that,” Lauren said.

Lauren’s favorite part of working the National Championship game was getting to see her own school take home the title.

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Zachary Nunez celebrates with confetti

Zachary Nunez, a senior broadcast journalism major, also worked the National Championship game for TigerTV. Zachary’s favorite part of working the game was being able to live out his dream of being a sports broadcaster since he was young. “It’s an experience I had dreamed of since I was in sixth grade when I went to career day at school in a suit and tie with printed out articles from ESPN that morning,” said Zachary.  “To be able to talk about the National Championship that LSU won in the city I was born in—It really was a dream come true.”

Both Lauren and Zachary mentioned being able to meet many of the people they look up to in sports reporting. “Honestly, being able to say that I worked for ESPN is such a dream. This means so much for me and my future,” Lauren said.

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Zachary interviews Ja’marr Chase

Lauren and Zachary thank the Manship School for leading them to this opportunity and teaching them how to write and communicate in covering one of the greatest football teams of all time.

“Covering the Natty was an amazing experience, and it’s one I will cherish for the rest of my life because it’s an opportunity I may never have again,” Zachary said.

Written by Gabie DeBruler

Political Communication Student Gains Experience in Mayor’s Office

Alyssa Panepinto
Manship student Alyssa Panepinto

When she’s not in class or studying, Manship School senior Alyssa Panepinto spends her time working on the communications team for East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. The political communication major from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, writes speeches, puts together media alerts for press conferences, takes photos and makes videos, attends events on days she’s in the office, and records the Mayor’s speeches for Facebook live.

“I think this experience helps because I get to use what I’m learning in class,” Panepinto said. “It’s also helpful because I’m getting more practice, so my grades in class are better too.”

Her professor, Bob Mann, connected her with the Mayor’s communications director after Panepinto returned from the Media & Politics in Europe program that Mann leads alongside for Manship School professional-in-residence and LSU Student Media director Bob Ritter.

“Bob [Mann] became my mentor on the Media & Politics in Europe trip, and now my friends and I from the trip go to his office every week during office hours and just chat with him, because he has a lot of advice and wisdom about the field because he’s worked in it so long,” Panepinto said.

Though Panepinto initially chose to attend LSU because of its reputation as a top school, it’s the family atmosphere that reassured her the Manship School was the right place for her.

“Here at the Manship School, it feels more welcoming. You know everyone and you make connections with your professors too. I feel like professors here at the Manship School care about you and how you do after graduation and are always helping you to find jobs and internships. There is a really good support system here at Manship,” Panepinto said. “If you’re at all considering Manship – I’d tell you to just go for it!”