Caroline Sawyer pushes educational values into action

Faculty Spotlight

Caroline Sawyer pushes educational values into action

Andrea Martinez, Assistant Copy Editor


Self-professed “true Texas girl,” Professor Caroline Sawyer doesn’t respond to email complaints on Sunday; she says she’s too busy watching football.

The Dallas Cowboys and Baylor Bears fan fused her love for sports and communication in her path to become a professor at CSUSM. She’s learned just how powerful mass communication can be in both positive and negative ways.

While working on her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and Advertising at Baylor University, Sawyer also managed the women’s basketball team, which gave her a full ride. She then received her master’s degree in Corporate Communications and Sports Broadcasting from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where she taught after earning her degree.

Teaching most of Austin Peay’s undergrad Sports Broadcasting courses and overseeing student productions within that focus gave Sawyer the opportunity to take students to various conferences. For example, she was able to take students to the Information Display and Entertainment Association. Her students submitted their productions and won two emmys.

“I really enjoyed doing that and getting to engage with students in a very different capacity outside of the classroom – getting to watch them take what they learned, to kind of put it into action and grow from it,” said Sawyer.

While Sawyer enjoyed teaching at Austin Peay, she faced the challenge of balancing her job and her doctorate program at the University of Memphis.

“My last year of teaching at Austin Peay, I started taking classes at Memphis. I would drive three hours, go to class for six hours and drive back three hours in one day. I had one day a week I could go.”

After one year of commuting 400 miles round-trip on a weekly basis, Sawyer had enough.

She said she realized she couldn’t keep up with the grind, so she left Austin Peay to pursue her doctorate full-time at Memphis, where she also taught Sports Management and Communications courses.

Sawyer is now on track to receive her doctorate in December when she finishes her dissertation focusing on the experiences of women who play Fantasy Football.

She not only studies it, she plays it, too. New England Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, headlines her own Fantasy Football roster.

Sawyer moved to San Diego two years ago while working on her dissertation. She soon began teaching at CSUSM, where her favorite course is “COMM 430: Power, Discourse and Social Identity.”

“The class focuses on understanding how discourse is used to stereotype, to isolate, to alienate groups and to create their social identity out of language which then yields power over them,” said Sawyer.

Before moving to San Diego, Sawyer studied abroad in London under the communication program at the University of Memphis, where she was influenced by the Special Olympics’ “Ban the R-word” campaign. It’s the positive messages of that campaign, Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls” project and the #AskHerMore effort that exemplify the values she said she wants to instill in her students’ lives.

“While the large structure media institutions are not going away, there’s been a lot of power handed into the hands of individuals that are at the bottom,” said Sawyer. “Because it’s so powerful, it can be used to do something good.”