Spotlight on Rys Shultz

Rys Shultz has been the Administrative Coordinator for the Center for African Studies at Pitt for over a year, where he has helped navigate several large grants, expand the role of social media, and plan events and seminars. Rys was program assistant in the Center for African Studies’ study abroad in Senegal program from May 1 to May 31, 2024.

What brought you to Pitt? How did you end up in your current role?

Before entering my current administrative role at Pitt, I had been working various customer service/public-facing jobs for 10 years. I graduated from Pitt in 2019 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in Anthropology and Gender Studies and was initially trying to get into research positions until going to graduate school. The pandemic changed all of my plans, so I continued to work frontline jobs and look for new opportunities. Eventually, I spoke with a career counselor who encouraged me to apply for administrative jobs at universities, thinking I would be great in these roles. This really built my confidence in branching into this field of work and it turns out, she was correct! As soon as I saw this role in the Center for African Studies, I knew it would be a great fit for me. I have always been passionate about learning about new people and cultures and none of my previous education taught me much about Africa. I was excited for the opportunity to build my skills and continue my education at the same time. I have learned so much since starting this role and it’s an honor to help others learn about Africa, too!

What does a typical day in the office (in person or remote) look like for you?

I’m sure many people in administration are familiar with a never-ending checklist! My days vary a lot, which is one thing I love about this job. I handle a significant number of Concur (financial) reports, so every day usually involves at least some time on Concur. If it’s a Monday, I’ll spend a few hours putting together the newsletter and making sure the loose ends in my email are taken care of (answering questions, scheduling meetings, etc.). The rest of the week depends on what’s going on and the time of year.

In the summer, my focus will shift to writing our annual report, grant reporting, and planning our Celebrate Africa event in the Fall. During the academic year, I help with student events, budgeting visitors, making itineraries, supporting outreach, running marketing/communications, etc. A “typical” day is a day where I juggle various duties and support my team! I’d say one of my favorite things to do is attend events being hosted by us, UCIS Centers, or other groups at Pitt so I can stay involved in the community and build relationships with my colleagues.

What’s the accomplishment at Pitt that you’re proudest of?

Besides having a BPhil from Pitt, I’m proud of having been invited to speak on a panel for medical students during my time here. I was one of three panelists who spoke on LGBT+ experiences with healthcare providers during one of their community educator sessions. I was also featured on the Let’s Talk Social Innovation Podcast where I got to talk about intersectionality and trans visibility! I’m also proud of the work I do here in general. A significant accomplishment was helping to write the most recent UISFL grant we were awarded! I’m excited about the connections I help make and the work I do to support the mission of the Center for African Studies. It’s truly an honor to put my labor towards things I believe in! I also take a lot of pride in being a well-liked and respected member of UCIS. I feel very welcome and valued when other Centers ask me to help out.

What would you say is the most exciting project you’re working on now?

I’m very excited about being part of the new study abroad experience we’re running in Senegal this Summer! This is a four-week program where students can learn traditional medicine or French, as well as immerse themselves in Senegalese culture. It's an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about Africa as the Center's Administrator and get plenty of photographs to show people what the program is all about. We are also bringing back Celebrate Africa this year in September which is a very popular and exciting event! I’m also hoping we can screen more African movies throughout the year, which is a project I am particularly interested in starting.

Favorite thing about UCIS and working here?

The people, for sure. I love being surrounded by others who care about learning about different cultures and experiences. Coffee & Convo is always so fun. I really thrive in diverse environments and it feels like UCIS wants to nurture and celebrate a diverse and equitable world. I also find so much joy in my work and contributions being acknowledged because I’ve never experienced that before. I love that I get to learn, meet incredible scholars, and contribute my thoughts and experiences to this space.