Faculty + Staff

International Institute staffer an always-positive influence

Pamela Johnson

Pamela Johnson has been a member of the Bruin family since 1980.

Faculty and staff at the UCLA International Institute know they can always count on a warm smile and a hug when they run into Pamela Johnson in the hallway. And as a personnel and payroll specialist at the institute, helping out comes naturally to her, whether it’s deciphering pesky human-resources details of timesheets and student workers, or giving directions to someone’s office.

A native Californian — she was born and raised in the South Bay city of Gardena — Johnson has been working at UCLA since 1980.

“When I started working here, the first thing that stood out was the fact that everyone I came in contact with made you feel part of their work family,” she says, “which made such an impression on me. Every day, I was excited to come to work. Seriously, it’s not that we didn’t experience setbacks, but we learned together!”

In 2010, during the university belt-tightening that followed the country’s 2008 financial crash, Johnson had the unfortunate experience of being laid off from a managerial position at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, where she worked as a manager for both the department of art and the department of design media arts. But their loss has been very much the International Institute’s gain.

Pam’s easy smile and warm, outgoing presence are a constant as she assists new and rehired staff and academic apprentices with paperwork and benefits orientation, processes payroll and manages leaves of absence, among her many responsibilities. Asked what she likes most about her work at the institute, she responds, “The staff. When you genuinely love people, you pull out all the stops to make them feel comfortable.” She adds, “I love meeting new people and learning about new and different cultures.”

Outside of work, Johnson enjoys listening to good music — she gets to jazz festivals throughout the Los Angeles area — and spectator sports, from football games to “attending as many Clippers games as possible.” And then there's cooking, working out and traveling, especially to favorite destinations like Palm Springs, San Diego and New Orleans.

Johnson is also a longtime "Star Trek" fan.

“I am a Trekkie from the late ’60s, when Captain Kirk flew around the galaxy,” she says. “So the 'Star Wars Saga' is my favorite movie series of all time.”

What's Johnson's personal philosophy? Stay positive, she advises.

"Nothing stays the same," she says. "We have to embrace change for the good always!”

This story is adapted from the original published by the UCLA International Institute.

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