Lauren Hitt (C’13) to Speak at 2023 Communication Major Graduation

Now communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Hitt began her political communications career while still an undergraduate Comm major.

By Julie Sloane

The Annenberg School for Communication is pleased to announce that political communications director Lauren Hitt (C’13) will be the featured alumni speaker at its commencement ceremony for undergraduate Communication majors on Sunday, May 14. 

Hitt has held leadership positions in communications for some of the most high profile politicians in the country. She began her career while still an undergraduate, working on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign. She went on to work for three years as the Communications Director for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and is now in her most high-profile role yet as the Communications Director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

As a Communication major, Hitt found a passion for political communication while taking Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s introductory course on the subject. It opened her eyes to a field that seemed both strategic and creative.

“I still remember chatting about how a Saturday Night Live performance affected attitudes in the 2008 presidential race,” she says.

Hitt then set out to take all the political communication courses she could, including Media and Politics with Diana Mutz, Communication and the Presidency with David Eisenhower, and Contemporary Politics, Policy, and Journalism from Al Hunt.

She joined the Communication and Public Service (ComPS) program and completed a thesis, advised by Eisenhower and Dean John L. Jackson, Jr. on why the messaging campaign behind the Massachusetts state health insurance rollout under then-Governor Mitt Romney was more successful than the national campaign to introduce the Affordable Care Act under President Obama. 

Eisenhower was impressed with the thesis, and also recalls an strong paper Hitt wrote in class on Jimmy Carter’s political and spiritual legacies — one that was ahead of its time in analyzing the direction of Democratic party philosophy.

“Lauren's work at Annenberg foreshadowed the extraordinary work she has done since — work that reflects the ideals of the University of Pennsylvania and of the Annenberg School,” says Eisenhower.

After graduating from Penn in 2013, she worked on several campaigns, including for New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, before agreeing to stay on as Kenney’s Communications Director, a job she held from 2015 until 2018. In that time, Philadelphia hosted the 2016 Democratic National Convention and became the first major U.S. city to pass a soda tax to benefit public schools. 

In January of 2018, she left to help elect Democrats in the 2018 midterms and beyond. Hitt was Communications Director for Randy Bryce’s Wisconsin congressional campaign, communications advisor to actress Cynthia Nixon’s run to become New York State governor, Communications Director for the presidential campaign of former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Rapid Response Director for the presidential campaign of former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

When the Communications Director role for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was posted in early 2020, Hitt lobbied hard to get the job, particularly compelled by Ocasio-Cortez’s willingness to take a strong stand on progressive issues.

In her current role, Hitt directs communications strategy for Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional office and campaign, serves as her chief spokesperson, monitors and responds to digital disinformation, and oversees the representative’s social media accounts, among other things.

Dean John L. Jackson, Jr. taught Hitt in two different classes, including in her first year of college.

“From that very first class, her seriousness of purpose and her thoughtful approach to the concepts we were grappling with always stood out,” he says. “She was a truly outstanding student, the kind that professors don't forget, and I am not surprised in any way by all the professional success she has had mobilizing her comm expertise since graduating.” 

Hunt agrees, calling Hitt a “terrific student.”

“It seems that every time I look anew, she’s in another important campaign or job,” says Hunt, “culminating now as the brilliant communications chief for AOC.” 

Hitt describes the invitation to speak as “a very kind honor.” 

“My commencement speaker [Emily Kramer-Golinkoff (C’07)] told a story about how she quit her first job after college less than a week in, realizing she was in the wrong place,” Hitt recalls. “I ended up doing just about the same thing, and I will always remember that!”

Hitt is no stranger to speechwriting. Though she doesn’t write many for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, she was heavily involved in speechwriting for Mayor Jim Kenney, drafting speeches like his inaugural address and budget addresses.

How does this feel different?

“I don’t expect this one will be reported anywhere,” she laughs. 

The Communication Major Commencement Ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 14, 2023 at  10:30am in the Zellerbach Auditorium of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.