THE INSPIRATION FOR INTERACT
Dr. Pamela Cox-Otto, Ph.D., started Interact Communications in 1996 as a small community college consulting firm, focused on meeting the marketing needs of the community and technical colleges. From that small beginning, Interact has grown to a national company, serving more than 700 two-year colleges and college organizations during its history.
Throughout the years, as Interact gained more clients and additional experience, the company expanded into full research services, a full strategy, and creative team, and has developed full products focused on solving the issues of community colleges.
And if you ask Dr. Cox-Otto what inspired her creation of Interact Communications, you’ll likely see her tear up as she shares her dear, departed mother’s own life-changing community college journey.
Dr. Cox-Otto recounts how her mother, whom she fondly describes as “the heart of our family,” traveled throughout Europe, India, and South America with her young children, often serving as an embassy hostess, while Dr. Cox-Otto’s father served as a construction engineer building dams in third-world countries.
When the family moved into the jungle, closer to her husband’s work site, she became a philanthropist, growing garden food to share and recruiting her nurse friend to visit small villages in need of modern healthcare.
“She was forthright, warm, and a problem solver,” says Dr. Cox-Otto. “She was also a high school dropout, having married my father when she was 15 and never returning to finish school.”
“All of my life, I saw her as somebody who was smart and wise, but she did not see herself that way,” Dr. Cox-Otto remembers. “Finally, when I was a junior in high school in California, she went back to night school at the local community college (Thank you, College of the Redwoods!) to finish her GED.”
And the rest, as they say, is history—a new history written, not just for Dr. Cox-Otto’s mom, who continued on to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, but for Dr. Cox-Otto, her sister, and generations to come.
“It started with my mother and my sister, and it started at a community college. From that time on, everyone in my family has graduated college. Some of us have master’s degrees and others have terminal degrees. But whatever the degree, it is clear the entire trajectory of my family changed when my mother and my sister went to community college.”
Dr. Cox-Otto remains grateful to College of the Redwoods. “They showed my mom that she had what it took. They nurtured her abilities. They helped push back against her fears. That’s why I love two-year schools. Had they not been there, had they not offered the support and opportunity to my family when it was needed, we would not be where we are.”