Dr. Sharon Docter is a triple threat with her Ph.D in Communication Theory and Research, her J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and her unique last name, “Docter.” From her experience as an attorney to her life as a communications professor here at Cal Lutheran, Dr. Docter provides students with advice about college, law school, and life. Her style of teaching, from my personal experience as a student in her Freedom of Communication class, makes her students think critically and forces them to think beyond the obvious, knee-jerk answer. Elected twice as Professor of the Year, she will inspire you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and embrace your individuality. Photo courtesy of California Lutheran University
Her Campus Cal Lutheran: What made you want to become a communications professor?
Dr. Sharon Docter: When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant for a class much like the First Amendment class that I teach here at CLU. Then when I graduated, I had the opportunity to teach the course, since the professor who usually taught the class was on sabbatical. I fell in love with teaching. After having this experience, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a Communication professor.
HCCLU: What were some of your previous jobs before teaching at Cal Lutheran?
SD: I worked as an attorney. I also have a teaching credential to teach English in Secondary Schools and worked as a tutor. During college I worked as a Camp Director.
HCCLU: As an attorney, do you have any advice for students hoping to go into law as a career?
SD: Figure out why you want a legal education and write about it. If you can distinguish yourself by doing something different, that will definitely help with your law school applications. For example, law schools might be more interested in a Biology major than a Political Science major because the Biology major may bring something different to the classroom. Once you are in law school, work every summer for a law firm to figure out what type of law you are interested in.
HCCLU: What are you passionate about?
SD: I am passionate about teaching. I love what I do. I love helping students learn and think and grow.
HCCLU: Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
SD: I guess my favorite quote comes from my dad. He would always say, “Be a little different.” I like that. I think that it is important to accept and embrace our differences.
HCCLU: If you could change one thing about the world, what?
SD: I guess the thing I would like to change about the world is the climate of hate against certain segments of society that I see growing. This is very concerning to me.
HCCLU: Any advice or life lessons for college students?
SD: Work hard – and try something different. If you are a science major, take a music or painting class. If you are an artist, try taking a science to social science class. When we do things we are afraid of, then this is a great opportunity for growth.
HCCLU: What’s your favorite part about working at Cal Lutheran?
SD: Definitely the students! They are wonderful and I enjoy getting to know them.
HCCLU: Why did you decide to research the way social factors influence the design of new communication technology?
SD: We think of technology as a neutral application of scientific principles. But this certainly isn’t always the case. Social factors have big influences on what technologies get developed and adopted and I find this very interesting!
HCCLU: What do you hope to do as a professor for your students? What do you hope to teach?
SD: I hope that I can teach my students how to think. Honestly, I know that some of the content that I teach my students will be forgotten by them. I hope that I can teach them how to think, how to engage in deep, critical analysis. If I can teach them this, then it will stick with them throughout their lifetime.