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