When the time came to think about his college major, Lucas Torregrossa, SOC/BA ’25, took stock. He reflected about what interested him and why.
“I've always thought about myself as a very extroverted people person,” Torregrossa explains. “When it came to deciding what I wanted to study, I knew STEM was not the path for me. I wanted to look for something that allowed me to be creative and showcase my personality.”
This process of self-examination led Torregrossa to public relations—and American University. He knew he liked collaborating with others and expressing big ideas. Most of all, he wanted a place where learning was channeled through real-world experiences.
AU’s School of Communication (SOC) was that place.
With its emphasis on experiential learning, SOC prepares students like Torregrossa with the tools to accelerate their careers. The PR & Strategic Communication program leverages professional networks and uses the DC market to teach students how to think tactically—how to target audiences, how to tailor messaging, how to advocate in a changing landscape of new media.
These tactical areas have been embedded in Torregrossa’s AU education journey. Nearing the end of his sophomore year, he’s enjoyed developing skills that will set him apart when he begins his career search. He has built relationships with faculty who have gone above and beyond to nurture his interests, sharing resources with him even after the semester ends. Some of Torregrossa’s favorite classes so far have included demo PR agencies where students strategize for different scenarios and clients that parallel real-life contexts.
Torregrossa also values SOC’s focus on internships. He believes that students interested in PR benefit in particular ways from hands-on working experiences.
PR is very creative,” says Torregrossa. “And unless you seek that experiential learning through internships, you won't know how you work in PR—what style of writing you'll have and how you'll approach situations.”
Gaining industry experience has helped Torregrossa figure out his personal strengths and identify his goals as a changemaker. His current marketing internship with AU Dining Services builds upon a background in the restaurant industry. Looking to the future, Torregrossa detects a potential niche for him in dining advertising or non-profit media relations. He is also eager to learn about international PR strategies during his study abroad semester next year in Copenhagen.
Being an SOC student has felt especially prescient for Torregrossa in his time at AU. Ongoing debates about misinformation have heightened the role of ethics in journalism and PR. “In today's political landscape, people are more divided than ever, and it is causing people to lose trust in the media,” he explains.
Similarly, the PR field is grappling with concurrent calls for greater corporate responsibility and criticisms of “washing,” where companies capitalize on social causes for marketing purposes, such as with environmental sustainability (“greenwashing”) or LGBTQIA+ allyship (“rainbow-washing”).
For Torregrossa, he believes PR has an obligation to promote good corporate citizenship and can be most effective within companies. “Internally, I think PR strategists and everyone—they're trying to hold companies accountable and make them aware of the decisions that they're making.”
Torregrossa looks forward to tackling such thorny issues, motivated by the rigor of SOC and prepared by the PR experts he learns from each semester. As a scholarship recipient, he also feels energized by AU as a place where he can pursue his path and learn by doing
“I've had an awesome time here. I love it here. I really can't imagine going to college anywhere else,” Torregrossa explains. “I had a change in financial circumstances coming into this year that would have made it really hard to stay enrolled if I didn't receive more funding. So, the scholarship let me stay right here exactly where I want to be.”
With opportunities ahead for his junior and senior years, Torregrossa is going to keep thriving at AU. And when he graduates in 2025, he knows he’ll be ready for a career that fuses creativity and strategy, finding new ways to communicate ideas with resonance and impact in a changing media climate.
AU is committed to ensuring that financial challenges don’t prevent students from pursuing their paths to purpose. With a $25 million goal and university match, the Elevate Scholarship Initiative—a vital component of the Change Can’t Wait Campaign—helps students remain at AU and achieve their goals. To learn more and support, visit the Elevate Scholarship Initiative webpage.