By Brittany Herrmann
Graduating is a strenuous experience regardless of age or status. For UCF’s 2020 graduates, the stressors are amplified. With COVID-19 sweeping the nation, businesses closing and laying off employees, and organizations requiring a knowledge of new technologies, moving into the job market can be a terror rather than a joy. Luckily, some graduates slid into their careers with ease. For example, when I met with Pamela “Pam” Gores, she entered the Zoom room with a scenic Minecraft landscape for a virtual background. “Yeah, my work has us use virtual backgrounds, and I figured I would have fun with it,” she cheerfully told me. Already, I get the sense that her career is exciting, and I am amazed that she moved forward in the world after graduation despite the current pandemic sweeping the nation.
Pam was one of the Fall 2020 virtual graduates; she received a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric with a minor in Creative Writing. When she was a UCF student, she was deeply involved in numerous writing communities and organizations on campus. After graduation, she quickly found herself working with Full Sail University and doing freelance writing for The Direct, an online publication dedicated to nerd culture of all kinds. As a fellow student in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, I was amazed by her ability to move forward in the current climate, so I reached out to her for an interview about her time at UCF and how it influenced her future. Being a recent graduate, she was excited to reminisce about her time at UCF, and I was eager to learn about her journey.
When Pam started at UCF, she knew she wanted to join the Department of Writing and Rhetoric (DWR) program. As a transfer from Palm Beach Gardens Community College, she brought in her general education credits and she was ready to dive into the DWR program. However, her transfer experience was anything but smooth. “I already felt like a fish out of water being a transfer student,” she added about her start at UCF. “Especially when you go into upper division, because upper division is when everyone starts to get to know each other, especially in Writing and Rhetoric. It’s such a small program anyways, everyone gets to know each other at some point, so I was already like ‘What’s happening?’” Starting any new experience is intimidating, especially when it feels like you are behind everyone else. Luckily, Pam did not feel like “a fish out of water” for long. Although the small department size seemed off-putting at first, Pam found it was beneficial, since the DWR faculty fostered a collaborative learning environment. “People got to know each other, and you actually got to have relationships with other students and with the professors,” she added. Once she got her sea-legs, it was easy for Pam to find her community.
The professors in the DWR were particularly helpful in developing that sense of community. As she worked her way through the courses and organizations at UCF, professors went out of their way to help Pam integrate into the department. Each one fostered Pam’s love for writing and editing through their own experiences. From the initial meeting at orientation and an internship on Convergence/Rhetoric with Dr. Marcy Galbreath, to the Writing and Rhetoric Foundations course and an Editor-in-Chief position with Imprint, the DWR faculty provided Pam comfort through the difficult transition. Pam told me how frequently she met and spoke with Professor Weaver, even after her time at Imprint. “I would always go to her office in the Writing Center and tell her what was going on in my life… she was always there for me and once again, made me feel like I was part of a larger department of Writing and Rhetoric family.”
Many of these relationships were fostered in classes, too. Pam was encouraged to enter the editing field at UCF because of Professor Adele Richardson’s Professional Editing course. “I knew I wanted to get involved as soon as possible because I took Professional Editing that first semester and that’s when I knew I wanted to edit. I wanted to start getting editing experience, and [Imprint] was kind of the first thing I came across where I was like, ‘I can get into this.’” Pam was inspired to continue branching out through the support of the DWR faculty, and she found herself in various writing communities across campus.
Other students in UCF’s writing community were vital to Pam’s growth as well. The first publication she joined at UCF was Her Campus, a student-run online publication with a mission of empowering college women. Her Campus developed Pam’s editing skills, as well as providing her with a larger community focused on writing. “Everyone in there felt like a friend, the entire time I was in it, from start to end. That was kind of where I started to feel like I belonged.”
The most important part of any community is being there for each other when the going gets tough. Pam revealed to me that when she was struggling with life and school, her professors and peers were behind her, supporting her every step of the way. She explained that when she was first promoted to editor for Her Campus, she was going through a tough time. She wanted to do the best she could right away, and she worried that she disappointed the team. However, her peers stood by her. “That first week, the Editor-in-Chief at the time sent me a very nice message at the end of the week, saying, ‘I know what you were going through this week, but you absolutely killed it.’ I knew from the start when we asked you that you were gonna be a great addition to this team, and I’m so happy you’re with us.’ It really warmed my heart,” she added with a smile. The experience was the motivation she needed to continue down the editing path, and those encouragements drew her towards more writing organizations.
Once Pam started getting involved, she was non-stop. For the entirety of her two years at UCF, Pam worked with numerous writing organizations, including Her Campus, Imprint, Cypress Dome, Convergence/Rhetoric, and Strike Magazine. Pam climbed the ranks of each, trying different positions and gaining new experiences. These experiences were vital to Pam’s growth after graduation as well.
When she was hired for her current freelance position with The Direct, the team was impressed with her experience at Her Campus. Similarly, Full Sail University was awed by her Imprint editorial skills and Strike Magazine print publishing skills. These skills could not have been cultivated in any other environment, because the continued support from UCF faculty and friends was a big factor in Pam’s pursuit of a career after graduation. Pam told me how incredibly grateful she is for everything UCF’s writing community gave her. “Even outside of my field, I know a lot of students do not get jobs right off the bat following graduation. Especially in the market and the world we’re in now, which arguably makes everything worse. It’s tough, so I am super fortunate to have what I have, and I realize that.” Her classes, her teachers, her peers, and her experiences were all major motivators, and Pam stressed their importance in her life.
Pam was quick to let me know how valuable UCF’s resources and organizations are and how she had to embrace these opportunities before they slipped away. “I wanted to make the most of it, and I had all this opportunity, and I’m a person where it’s like, if the opportunity is there, then why not take it? Cause otherwise, what am I doing? And I just wanted to set myself up for success so I could get a job and keep moving forward in life.” Pam kept that vow, and continued moving forward, despite the roadblocks in her way. She noted how being a first-generation student, she was going into the experience blind, and there were pressures on her to take advantage of what her parents didn’t have. She had to work for her own scholarships to pay her way through college, but the experience paid off. With a little gumption and a passion for the subject, Pam took control of her life.
After talking with Pam, I was inspired by her relentless pursuit of opportunities at UCF. Her writing community was more than just skills for the job market (though they certainly helped build her resume.) The bonds Pam made at UCF followed her further into the future. And, as Pam proved, it is common to be afraid to take that first step forward, to put yourself out there and ask to be taught. But once you embrace the community that UCF is offering, you’ll find yourself supported every step of the way. We’re making connections to new friends and advisors from our classes, finding new experiences and gaining new skills, and exploring what it means to be a UCF student during a time of national grief – all ways to connect with our community and study what we love. And the most important thing to take from our time at UCF? Well, as Pam puts it, “Just have fun doing it.”