Growing up in a family valuing education in Dalton, Ga. set UCF College of Education and Human Performance’s Dean Pamela S. Carroll on the path towards success.

She discovered books and writing helped establish bonds with students, and took that process a step further by developing effective relationships beyond the university in her role as the dean.

What is your favorite part about being the dean?

I really enjoy the relationship aspect of being a dean. There are relationships to build, develop, nurture and sustain with students, faculty, staff and other administrators across the university and in the community. I have the opportunity to meet a lot of fascinating people and provide a helpful ear. I don’t solve their problems, but I have an opportunity to provide a different perspective and help people find their own answers.

What is your motivation for learning and education?

I had a sister Peggy who was born with intellectual disabilities who passed away about eight years ago. She didn’t have language or the traditional cognitive abilities, but taught our family so much about how to deal with difference. As a young adolescent, most of us went through a period where it mattered if your hair looked right and your clothes were stylish. For Peggy, none of those things mattered. What mattered was the people who loved her. My dad could walk into the room and she would start giggling and smiling and would duck her head, so my mom or dad could kiss her on the forehead. She just responded to love and that was the lesson. It has been a real blessing for me and my brothers to look for the good in people and try to honor that instead of the deficiencies that all of us have.

What is your vision for personal success?

If I can finish a day or year knowing that I have worked hard, honored my faith and values, and have contributed to improving people’s lives, then I have been successful. When you know that you have spent your time lifting lives, that’s personal success.

How did you get into literacy education? What sparked your interest?

I wasn’t a big reader in junior high and high school. I became an avid reader when I was studying English at Auburn University. I also truly enjoyed all kinds of writing. My professors encouraged me to pursue a career that would use writing and English. I decided that I wanted to make my contribution in English education. Literacy is the study of the students’ thinking, of how the students make sense, articulate, receive and send messages in print or non-print form. Working with them to make sense of how they do that, and how they can be more effective at that, is important to me, especially when so many tools for the public sharing of messages are available today.

What was your favorite part about working with adolescents?

I taught English Language Arts in the eighth, ninth and eleventh grade but primarily eighth grade. Adolescents are innately curious people. If you don’t come across as a person who is going to stifle their curiosity and instead encourage it, then they tend to reveal who they are to you. They want to know about the world. I found that they keep you on your toes every minute. I love to be challenged and they demand a lively presence. We were a good fit. If you’re going to work with young adolescents, then you have to be willing to be alive and in tune with them in order to do a good job.

What’s your top piece of advice for an aspiring educator?

Be confident about your content area and even more important, be open to the people with whom you work. My job as an educator is helping people learn. You won’t help people learn unless they believe you’re on their side. You have to set the stage for them to learn, then let them take chances. You have to support your students and not squelch them. Whether they’re 5 year olds or adults—be open to your students’ energy.

What’s something not many people know about you?

My husband and UCF geology professor, Joe Donoghue, and I love to take vacations outdoors, where we’re hiking in natural parks, white-water rafting or cycling with groups of friends. Our first date was spent taking a run together and our honeymoon was a camping trip in the Cascade Mountains. I write extensive travelogues that I weave into fanciful stories during our adventures.

What do you like to read? What’s your favorite genre? Author?

My favorite genre is modern and Southern literature. The authors of the middle 20th Century are probably my favorite. I enjoy reading fiction by William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I guess that I love Miss Eudora Welty the most, and her book “The Golden Apples” is a favorite.

How do you like to unwind in your personal time?

I love to play in my flower garden. I like anything that blooms. I’m also learning about the tropical flowers that grow here. I’m having some success with hibiscus and bougainvillea. Getting to know the tropical flora is a lot of fun!

How did you spend your summer?

The week after we moved our belongings to Orlando, we headed out of the country! Joe and I are very lucky to have a group of friends whom we have known since our time in Tallahassee, whose idea of vacationing is always active. This year we got together for a little more than a week and went on a cycling trip to Ireland. We traveled about 250 miles across mountain passes and alongside the Irish Sea, and came face-to-face with herds of donkeys and sheep. We stayed at fabulous bed and breakfasts and had delicious dinners in between arduous bike rides between charming towns. Most of the time it was raining and cold, but it was always beautiful. I am a fortunate person, and a thankful one.