By Matthew McGrorty
Few people have such an extensive background as Pamela Pruitt, the new director of Rider’s Multicultural Affairs.
Pruitt’s prior work experience includes positions in media and marketing at places such as Motown Records/Jobete Music Company, CBS Television, Warner Bros. Records, Delta Airlines, ABC Radio Networks, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, CBS/Westwood One, the Wall Street Journal Radio Network, and WIMG/Morris Broadcasting of New Jersey, Inc.
Pruitt began working after school at 16 at a supermarket until she graduated from high school at 17. She credits her extensive assortment of job experiences to her mother’s teachings, and luck.
“I grew up in Chicago, and I was born to a single parent,” Pruitt said. “She was never on welfare, but my mother believed in working. Although I was given a scholarship to Illinois state schools, my mother told me I would quit my job at the supermarket and go downtown to work. She had a job for me in an office at CalNonprofits insurance services, and when the doors opened, I just walked through them.”
Pruitt is also penning a book relating to her survival of the events of Sept. 11. Pruitt was in One World Financial, located beside the second tower, on the day of the attacks. As a result of the healing from the events of Sept. 11, Pruitt had revelations that she intends to write about in her book. It was because of her survival of those horrid events that she decided to give back to the community.
“I came into the community to give back, because as a friend told me, ‘I was in the bonus round, so I should make the best of it,’” she said. “I felt the best way I could give back to life was by having the privilege of living through that experience and then working with young people.”
It was her community-based efforts that led Pruitt to return to school at Thomas Edison State College where she received her bachelor’s in communication in 2010.
Pruitt is the wife of Dr. George A. Pruitt, the president of Thomas Edison State College, and a recent recipient of a 2013 honorary degree from Rider.
In 2012 Pruitt earned her master’s in communication and information studies from Rutgers. During her time at Rutgers, Pruitt took part in the study-abroad program.
“I became interested in how people respect or disrespect one another and are not as civil as they could be,” Pruitt said. “In the process I met people and ended up [at Rider].”
Pruitt began working at Rider in July, taking the reins from Don Brown, who retired last year.
“I love being at Rider,” she said. “It’s a wonderful experience. I’ve never been at a place that has been so warm and welcoming probably in my whole life. I love my office. I love the conversations I have in my office. I meet so many people. I have met people that come to my office or pass by and say, ‘Hey, I just wanted to say hello.’ I love the space for that, and so far this has been my best space.”
Pruitt’s ultimate goal while at Rider is to expand the understanding of diversity issues to include gender, other cultures, sexual orientation, disabilities and religion.
“I don’t think we take enough time to talk to other people and find out what your life is like, what is your culture like, what is your world like,” she said. “You may go to a hotel and be in a room for a disabled person. How many people know disabled people in their lives and try to understand what that may be like? You may never know that until you go to the hotel and see that the tub is different, or the shower is different and you may get a sense that that person might have a little bit more difficulty. What might it be like to be blind or not be able to hear? Sometimes we poke fun at others with differences, or we bully them, and one of my big goals is to make everyone understand one another and to respect the differences and not to find displeasure in them, but pleasure in those differences.”
Ashley Reeves, a junior global studies/Chinese major and a student working in the Multicultural Center, was happy to hear about Pruitt’s new plan.
“I think it’s fantastic.” she said. “When people think about diversity, they only think about color, but I think that this broadening of diversity is good, and what we were probably lacking before.”
Pruitt also recognizes diversity as a chance to educate students on events in the past that might be unfamiliar to them. This year’s theme is social justice issues surrounding sports and entertainment, with Rider obtaining the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Exhibit for four weeks starting Oct. 16 during the Unity Day celebration. Pruitt hopes the exhibit will enlighten students on the struggle for equality in America.
“These things have evolved,” Pruitt said. “Young people today might not know about the trials, tribulations and challenges that people faced in order to make this world more free as it is today, to move around and not have to deal with that — even though we still experience prejudice, racism and all those sorts of things.”
Pruitt is optimistic for the future of diversity in the media.
“There are a lot of issues that are out there that people might consider taboo,” she said. “But I think the more the media addresses these type of things, the more people get to understand better the differences and maybe open up their minds to that. So, it may take time, but I suspect in another five to 10 years we may see more positive interactions and results and outcomes from learning about differences.”