Programming a Sense of Community

Program assistant Pam Spencer keeps the Department of Computer Science on track

Pam Spencer, left, helps organize events hosted by the Duke Department of Computer Science. In this photo, Spencer sets up breakfast for North Carolina teachers attending an
Pam Spencer, left, helps organize events hosted by the Duke Department of Computer Science. In this photo, Spencer sets up breakfast for North Carolina teachers attending an "Adventures in Alice" workshop this summer, which helps integrate the programming language Alice into middle and high schools. Photo by April Dudash

Name: Pam SpencerPosition: Events, house and program assistant; Duke Department of Computer ScienceYears at Duke: 7What I do at Duke: Any event that goes on here in the department – I’m the food orderer, coordinator and I work with a team on room logistics for it. From start to finish, anything that has to do with an event, my team members and I make sure it all comes together. Anything in the building that breaks, everybody reports that to me so I’m able to get that fixed, and I’m the liaison between maintenance and the housekeeping staff. The program assistant part means that I am the assistant to the associate chair, Richard Lucic, and I also support many other faculty members here in the department.

If I had $5 million, I would: Get a transition home. Outside of the department, I work with a nonprofit organization called Wings, Workers in God’s Service, and we visit the prison at NCCIW (North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women), and we also visited a youth detention center in Chatham. So with five million dollars, I would start a transition home for the youth that come out and don’t have anywhere else to go.My first ever job: Working at Publix grocery store in the deli. If someone wanted to start a conversation with me they should ask me about: My girls. I have two daughters. Ask about them, that’s how you start me talking. When I’m not at work, I like to: Hang out with family and plan other events. That’s relaxing to me. In the end, you’re tired, but in the middle of it, that’s what drives me. That’s my passion. (She helps organize the Halloween Carnival, Teacher Appreciation Week and African American Heritage Day at her daughter’s school). The best advice I ever received: From my parents. First impressions are the best. Good, strong eye contact and a good, strong handshake will take you a long way. Being 15 minutes early is on time, and on time is late. What I love about Duke: It’s just so diverse and there’s something for everybody, not just when it comes to work, but for learning. They let you take courses to learn different things that may not pertain to your job. There’s also the way they care about our health and the flu shots and things like that and the health fairs that they have. That’s what I really love about Duke, the community feel. If I could have one superpower, it would be: I used to think about that all the time. I used to want to be Tabitha (the daughter of Samantha from the TV show Bewitched). I just want to twinkle my nose and get where I’m going, past traffic. A pet peeve: If I order food from a vendor and they’re late, because that’s not good for my clients. If the food is late, that means I’m late. An interesting/memorable day at work for me: When we get new students here in the department. It’s just very exciting every time they come in, just getting to know them, getting them acclimated to their new surroundings, getting them acclimated to departmental do’s and don’ts. (Spencer’s No. 1 rule is if the departmental event is not directly for you, you can’t be first in line for the free food.)