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Aspiring PR mavens in the making

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

April 3, 2017

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. woman working on laptop in classroom 2016 PR News Student of the Year Caitlin Bohrer works in the PR Lab. Download Full Image

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.

ASU religious studies professor named Association for Asian Studies president-elect

April 4, 2017

Professor of religious studies Anne Feldhaus has begun her position as president-elect of the Association for Asian Studies and is looking forward to connecting with scholars across the world as an advocate for the academic study of Asia. She is the first Arizona State University faculty member to be elected to the association's highest office. 

“[This appointment] is an honor for ASU,” Feldhaus said. “It is a recognition of ASU’s strengths in contributing to scholarship in Asian studies.” Professor of religious studies Anne Feldhaus. Download Full Image

An expert on Hindu traditions in India, Feldhaus looks forward to working with scholars of other parts of Asia. “It’s a chance for me to really be engaged with people who work on different parts of the world that I know less well than India,” Feldhaus said. “I am excited to get to learn from meetings and travels in my new role.”

As an academic organization, the association has approximately 7,000 members across the world. Its annual conference in North American draws 3000 experts on East, South, and Southeast Asia, and it also holds a conference in a different country of Asia each year. The organization strives to broaden the disciplinary and geographical interests of its members. 

“It’s about opening up our awareness of the world,” Feldhaus said. “It makes the world of scholarship and teaching better.” 

Feldhaus is a distinguished Foundation Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. She has been the recipient of Fulbright-Hays, Guggenheim, and Alexander von Humboldt fellowships as well as collaborative grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

During her presidency, Feldhaus will travel to give talks at regional conferences to engage with scholars who don’t have the funding to travel to larger conferences. She hopes that through her roles as vice president in 2017-2018 and president in 2018-2019, she will connect social science and humanities researchers and bring together scholars from different parts of the world. 

“A large portion of my role will be fighting for funding to get Americans to understand other parts of the world on a high academic level,” she said. “It will definitely include a certain amount of advocacy.”

In addition to advocacy, Feldhaus will speak about her own research and its significance to teachers and scholars who don’t know about the large region of India she studies. Her work focuses on the Marathi-language region of western India. 

Connecting with scholars from across the world will also aid Feldhaus with her teaching in the classroom on the Tempe campus. She aims to instruct her students on topics from all over the world without ever leaving the classroom. 

“In my ‘Religions of the World’ class, I try using a lot of short video clips, and I found a textbook that had interviews with practitioners of the religion and a lot of visuals,” Feldhaus said. “Some of my colleagues use music to try to bring people into the feeling of a place.” 

In addition to teaching about contemporary cultures, Feldhaus’s classes look into the history of religious traditions.

“Combining the sense of culture with a time reference of someone very far way gives students a sense of life issues and decisions. Whether to engage in the world or withdraw from it, which is a big thing in Hindu culture. Whether their duty to society is more important than their duty to their family. If you can relate really ancient struggles like this to modern human problems, the students can get a sense of what it was like to be someone in those distant places and times."

Erica May

Communications specialist, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies