FORT COLLINS — When it comes to telling the story about how education provides a pathway out of poverty and to success, few come as close to Pamela Jackson’s story.
Jackson, BizWest’s Women of Distinction award winner in the education category, is the associate vice president of communications for Colorado State University.
A consummate communicator as described by her co-workers, Jackson can perhaps best tell the story about her success.
“Education for me was a path out of poverty and it helped break a cycle of generational poverty. There was a lot of uncertainty in my life as I was growing up. My parents struggled financially to keep food on the table, our utilities were frequently shut off and for a long period of time I didn’t know where I would be staying from one month to the next. We lost our house to foreclosure when I was in elementary school, leading my parents to drag my two brothers, sister and me from one rental property to another. It was hard to focus on school and learning during this time.
“But throughout my childhood, my mother made one thing repeatedly clear: I would graduate high school and go to college. She expected nothing less.
“Education was an option in my life because of my mother’s love and fierce determination. She wanted better for me and she knew that a college degree would change a person’s life — she knew it could change my life.”
Jackson got her degree from Colorado State, spent a decade in television as a writer and producer, then returned to school for her masters degree and finally a Ph.D. in economics.
“I will never forget the way my mother looked at me after I was hooded in my Ph.D. graduation ceremony. … it was the look in her eyes, the tone of her voice, that meant so much. …We both knew this was a profound victory that changed who she was, who I was and who our family was.”
“She is the real woman of distinction in this story,” Jackson said.
When she teaches, Jackson tries to pay special attention to those first-generation students and advocates for their success. “It was one of the values with which I was raised,” she said.
Her coworkers, former professors and academic leaders describe her as hardworking and effective in crafting the right message for the right audience.
“She knows the intricacies of communications, and she assisted us time and time again to craft appropriate messages to faculty, students, parents, alumni, staff — whatever the audience,” Rick Miranda, provost and executive vice president at CSU wrote in a letter of recommendation.
“She received accolades from her students as a favorite teacher and mentor,” wrote coworkers.
And, in the words of a professor and associate dean, “Pam is a role-model for professional women in higher education.”