Public Health staff take more than a few seats at the Pitt Staff Council table

You’d be hard pressed to find a staff member at Pitt who hasn’t heard of Pitt Day at Kennywood Park, the annual staff-centered celebration organized by the University of Pittsburgh Staff Council. With more than 2,000 staff in attendance, it’s not an easy feat to pull off. Still, somewhat lesser known is the council’s many decades of persistent advocacy to improve staff welfare in terms of salary, medical benefits and leave policies.

Formed in 1970 on a concept of shared governance among staff and the Pitt community, the council is well-represented by School of Public Health staff. Like all of the volunteer members of the Pitt Staff Council, these people freely give of their time and talents to address philosophical and operational issues that affect staff wellbeing across the University.

“I am learning so much and meeting so many high-level administrators who are excited and committed to making Pitt a better place,” says Caitlin McCullough, web content manager at the School of Public Health, who was nominated and then elected as staff council parliamentarian for the 2023-25 term. (In addition to parliamentarian, other officers include president, vice president, vice president of finance, and vice president of public relations.)

When McCullough joined the council as a member in 2016, she was required to serve on one of their five standing committees – Staff Life, External Relations, Staff Relations, Operations, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“It was interesting to see what else was going on at the University and to learn something new,” she says of her decision to join the Operations committee. In her role as parliamentarian, she serves as the officer liaison to the committee, whose purpose, among others, is to review and evaluate Staff Council bylaws, and address related questions as they arise.   

Last year, McCullough and Lindsay Rodzwicz, staff council president, participated in the University provost search. Sitting on the University Senate as staff council officers, they reviewed applications and took part in candidate interviews.

“They [the staff council] are very passionate people and really want to enhance the staff experience at Pitt,” says Marcie Johnson, director of special projects in the school’s Dean’s Office. Johnson, who started her career at Pitt in 2014 by serving as administrator of the then-Pitt Staff Association Council, credits the position with jump-starting her love for higher education.

It might have been serendipity when Scott Szypulski, now a grant administrator in the school’s Department of Human Genetics, met Johnson in a bowling league after she started her council job. Encouraging Szypulski to get involved, he joined the council in 2015 as a member of the External Relations committee, where Johnson is currently a member.

“I worked on Pitt Day at Kennywood, staff scholarship committees to offset the cost of books and supplies, and the Frish Professional Development Award,” says Szypulski, who served as the council’s vice president of public relations from 2023-2024. (The Frish award covers expenses up to $1,000 for staff members’ professional development goals.)

“What really drew me in and kept me there over the years was working with good people who enjoy what they are doing,” he says.

Two things Szypulski is particularly pleased the council accomplished during his tenure was paid parental leave in 2016 and a permanent volunteer policy in 2022, which allots University staff one paid day off per month for volunteer work.

For McCullough, the Employee Emergency Fund, enacted in 2023, is particularly noteworthy because it provides financial support of up to $1,500 for employees facing immediate and substantial financial needs.

“It’s important that staff at our school know who the staff council members are and that they have a line to the greater group,” says McCullough. “Academia can be an overwhelming environment and it’s crucial for staff to have a voice and that we keep moving things forward.”

In addition to McCullough, Johnson and Szypulski, other members of staff council from the School of Public health include Kristin Amos-Abanyie, undergraduate academic advisor, who serves on the External Relations committee, Monica Costlow, project manager in the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM), who serves on the Operations committee and served as vice president of finance from 2011-2013,  Christine McClure, HPM senior research scientist, who serves on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee, and Erin Schuetz, student services specialist in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, who serves as a member and past co-chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. Schuetz, a member since 2019, also is past chair of the Frisch Professional Development Award committee and served on both the Staff Life and External Relations committees. 

To become involved, access the Pitt Staff Council events calendar, follow them on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.