Faculty Spotlight: Patria Lawton, EdD

Communications Studies instructor earns her Doctorate of Education

Patria Lawton, EdD, serves as faculty in the Communication Studies department at Inver Hills Community College. Pat started teaching full-time at Inver Hills in 2011. Her favorite Communication Studies courses to teach are Public Speaking and Interpersonal Communication.

Pat Lawton, EdD

Pat earned her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University Moorhead in August 2021. Her dissertation is titled, “Elevating the Voices of Community College Faculty: A Phenomenological Study of Community College Work.”

“Earning my Doctorate of Education feels extra special given that it was done primarily during a very turbulent time in which we all faced a global pandemic,” Pat related. “It is also special because, as an educator, earning my doctorate reminded me of what it is like to be on the student side of a classroom again.”

Pat added that her research focused on community college faculty. “I felt really privileged to get to dive into the work lives of so many of my colleagues from around the Minnesota State system,” she said, “and hear firsthand about the great work that they are doing as well as some of the challenges they face.”

Teaching philosophy

“My main job as an educator is to cultivate classroom communities in which students are safe to grapple with the material and build relationships with one another. Learning should be fun, and one way to ensure that is to make it applicable to the student’s real-life experiences.”
Pat Lawton, EdD
Communication Studies Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Pat earned her M.B.A. from Augsburg College in 2008. She also has an M.A. in Communication from Bethel University, having graduated with honors in 2006. She earned her B.A. in Communication Studies from Gustavus Adolphus in 2004.

Before coming to Inver Hills, Pat taught communication at Normandale Community College for two years. Before that, she worked as senior marketing and communications coordinator at Minnesota Wire. She has also done consulting work for a Small Business Administration (SBA) subcontractor for the past nine years.

More about Pat…

Originally from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, Pat graduated from Mahtomedi High School, Class of 2000. Pat has been married nine years to her husband, Jeff, who works in finance. Pat and Jeff have one son, Miles, who is 6 years old.

In her free time, Pat enjoys traveling, reading, attending sporting events, the theater, and concerts. Her new year’s resolution for 2021 is reading 52 novels—and she’s right on schedule to accomplish that exemplary feat.

Pat, Jeff, and Miles reside in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.

Pat Lawton gallery

Pat Lawton Q & A

What are your core convictions regarding communication studies?

Communication is the cornerstone of a democratic society. To participate in a functioning democratic society, we need to be able to communicate our ideas and positions to each other clearly and effectively, and that takes thoughtful choices by the communicator. On the other side, we also need to be able to listen to others communicate their ideas and respond appropriately.

What advice would you give students seeking to improve their communication skills?

Talk less, listen more.

What is the greatest challenge to communicating effectively in the age of social media?

Thinking that we have the ability to multitask. We don’t. Instead, we task switch, which means that we really only have the ability to do one thing at a time cognitively well. When we are with other people and in conversation, the minute that phone gets picked up, the attention is broken.

There is a study that was conducted in 2010 by Hyman, et al., that found that people who were walking while using their cell phone were less likely to notice a unicycling clown riding by than those who were not on their phones. Imagine missing that!

To really get into a flow with people, we need to be able to have connection, which can’t truly happen when we are attempting to check phones, scroll through social media, etc. We are missing unicycling clowns, and we are missing connection!

Three words that describe you as a communication studies educator:

What is your strongest takeaway from writing your dissertation?

My dissertation explored the lived experiences of community college faculty in the Minnesota State system. What was most inspiring to me was that even when faced with a multitude of challenges, the faculty members that I was able to talk with when conducting my research all shared a passion for their work, and cared deeply about their students. That was really affirming and made me really appreciate the people who work directly with our students each day to help them achieve their goals and dreams.

What developments do you see over the next 50 years that could enhance or even revolutionize the field of communication studies?

We are living in these developments every day. It is exciting to think about how technology has fundamentally and permanently altered the way in which we communicate with one another. The pandemic really accelerated this.

In some ways, we are more connected than ever before, but we also have people who are the loneliest they have ever been. Technology will continue to influence communication in so many ways, and call me a purist, but I really think there is no substitution for a face-to-face conversation and connection.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My dad. His greatest joy in life was connecting with other people and from a very young age, I saw that the relationships he formed enriched his life in so many ways. He was also a believer in the power of education, which obviously ended up influencing my career choice. My dad also believed that common sense could solve most problems, and I subscribe heavily to that philosophy.

One word that best describes your experience as a communication studies educator:


Pat Lawton 12 Answers

  1. Favorite physical activity: Going for long walks
  2. Place you would most like to visit: The beaches of Thailand
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Riding a camel and camping in the Sahara Desert
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Start a foundation that awards college scholarships to underrepresented students 2) Buy a house with a big library on a lake 3) Travel more
  5. Best book you’ve read lately: This is a fun question because my new year’s resolution for this year is to read 52 novels. I’m on-track to do it! Kristin Hannah’s book, The Four Winds, was heartbreaking, beautiful, and well-written.
  6. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: Paris 1920s
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: For my family to be safe and happy
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Pileated woodpecker
  9. Dream occupation: Elementary school librarian
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Banksy
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Patience
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: A lack of empathy
Learn more about the Communication Studies department and the Communication Studies Transfer Pathway A.A. at Inver Hills by contacting:

Shiloh Gideon-Sjostrom
Communication Faculty

Admissions Team
College Center

More about the Transfer Pathway A.A. in Communication Studies

The 60-credit Transfer Pathway Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program offers you the powerful opportunity to complete an associate degree and transfer with junior-year status to designated communication studies baccalaureate degree programs at six Minnesota State universities.

As a student in this A.A. degree program, you will complete the Communication Pathway curriculum (12 credits), additional general education coursework (28 credits), health and physical Education courses (2 credits), and general electives (18 credits) to bring your credit total to 60.

Program Planning Guide

Transfer Information

With this transfer pathway, you will be able to transfer with junior-year status to the following baccalaureate programs at Minnesota State universities:

Metropolitan State University: Professional Communication B.A.
Minnesota State University Mankato: Communication and Media
Minnesota State University Moorhead: Communication Studies B.A.
Southwest Minnesota State University
>Communication Studies B.A.
>Communication Studies, Public Relations Emphasis B.A.
St. Cloud State University
>Communication Studies B.A.
>Communication Studies Interdepartmental B.S.
>Communication Studies Supplementary B.A.
Winona State University: Communication Studies (General, Leadership & Advocacy or Organizational) B.A.

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