By Emma-Camille Lomax
Seven years ago, Rider University added a new addition to the family. She was very established, having held several leadership positions across the Mercer County area and corporate America. She is a Sept.11 survivor. She is a Grammy award-winning songwriter. She worked with young adults to help lead them to success. She is the director of Multicultural Affairs at Rider. She is Pamela Pruitt.
Raised in South Side, Chicago, Illinois, Pruitt had to overcome many obstacles very early in her life.
“I was given every chance to fail in my upbringing,” she said.
Pruitt explained how she was not wanted by her mother before she was even born.
“She did everything she could to work me out of her but I came anyway, so I’m meant to be here,” Pruitt said. She was successful academically as she was offered three full-ride scholarships to any state college. However, she had to turn them down to work with her single mother because “welfare wasn’t an option.”
Pruitt managed to get her bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College in 2010. Then, she earned her master’s from Rutgers in 2012. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. In 2011, she even studied abroad at Wroxton College of Fairleigh Dickinson in Oxfordshire, England.
Before she went to college, Pruitt first stepped into the business world. She and her mother both worked for Wallace Brown, the first of many bosses who would help Pruitt reach her potential.
Brown showed Pruitt the ropes of business, which she said included “how to maneuver, how to be savvy, how to dress, and how to be around people and have conversations with them,” all of which she still uses today.
His guidance helped her move up in his business — she started as a receptionist and eventually moved up to become an executive assistant.
As a product of corporate America, Pruitt has worked for many big-name corporations including Motown Records, CBS Television, Delta Air Lines and Warner Bros. Records, just to name a few.
Because of her work in business, she has traveled all over the world. Among all the places she has traveled to, she said New Jersey is her favorite.
“I love its proximity to New York and Philadelphia,” Pruitt said. She came to New Jersey 22 years ago to marry her husband.
Pruitt referred to this time of her life as her “bonus round.”
She took on this perspective of life after the events that took place on 9/11. Pruitt was in New York that day. She recalled escaping with bloody, bruised feet, “but at least I had feet.”
Pruitt is currently in the process of writing a book that will go further in-depth on her experiences that day. A friend called her the day after 9/11 and told her, “Kid, you’re in the bonus round. So make the best of it.”
Since then, she has done just that. With her extensive background and communication skills, Pruitt was able to “make the best of it” specifically with her work with young people.
At WIMG/Morris Broadcasting, she found herself getting more involved with students. As she worked with the Trenton Education Public Foundation as chairperson, she often saw herself and her struggles in those students.
“I found kids that were me. Many of the students I encountered were given every chance to fail,” Pruitt explained.
She drew the parallel between students who grew up in urban cities and her work. All the guidance her bosses in corporate America gave her was bestowed upon her and used to guide students to success.
She continued to use that gift of guidance when she arrived at Rider University seven years ago.
As the current Executive Director of the Center of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), Pruitt gave Rider students, specifically minorities, countless opportunities to express themselves and be heard.
Some of the programs provided to students under the CDI include Multicultural Student Leadership Institution (MSLI), SPECTRUM mentoring, and its newest program Peer-2-Peer mentoring. These programs put students in leadership positions and provide them advice that will lead them to success whether it was in the form of workshops, training or casual conversations.
Through her work at the CDI, it is evident that all of what Brown taught Pruitt is still instilled in her today, including how she dresses in a business fashion-forward.
Though she dresses professionally, her looks are still very fun as she incorporates bold colors or patterns like the zebra print worn in this interview. With her statement accessories, such as a large beaded necklace or a two-toned teardrop-shaped pair of earrings, Pruitt’s outfits are never an eyesore when she is seen across campus.
Pruitt even used her background in music to help promote diversity throughout Rider.
Pruitt dabbled in songwriting for a bit as she wrote songs for big names like Smokey Robinson and the Supremes under the name Pamela Moffett. This skill led her to participate in a Grammy award-winning album, Ne-Yo’s “Because of You.” With that being said, Pruitt used her connections to her Motown family to put together an event for homecoming weekend, “Motown comes to Rider.”
When asked which of her achievements she was the proudest of she answered passionately, “The Center of Diversity and Inclusion.” Those who work with Pruitt noted the impactful change they have seen her make.
“Dr. Pruitt has pushed for diversity on campus and always looks to promote diversity and inclusion — not just for students of color, but faculty members as well, by educating the Rider community about the importance of diversity on a college campus,” said peer leader for MSLI and sophomore political science major Karla Lopez.
Pruitt emphasized that students have a support system at home and that they need the same support on campus, which she provides through the center.
“I see Rider as a tapestry,” Pruitt explained. “In a tapestry, it is a picture, it is blended. There are no definitions of colored threads. My goal for Rider is to see the beautiful tapestry that we are and not see the threads that comprise it.”
Pruitt continued to sew those threads she saw seven years ago into a beautiful image of diversity and representation of all students, which will continue to be seen for years to come.
Published in the 11/11/20 issue of The Rider News