Financial Analyst, Broward Cultural Division
The Road Winds from Michigan to Broward
by: Samantha Rojas
A conversation with Susan Schultz can easily veer off into a multitude of directions.
She and her partner, Mark, are building a boat. They’ve met with marine architects and a designer once a week for the past two years.
Schultz herself loves to travel – and takes advantage of any opportunity to do so. She went to Hong Kong on a business trip in 2012. Two years earlier, a family wedding took her to Marrakesh, Morocco.
Her longstanding interests in international culture and diversity serve her well in her position as financial analyst for the Broward Cultural Division, where she assesses grant applications from more than 575 not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations. Many of these applicants are dedicated to expanding, teaching and sharing the cultures of nations halfway around the globe with residents and visitors to their new home in Broward County.
| "So here I am…the English, Social Studies and Special Education Major, doing Math!" |
“I try to make payments to the artists and organizations a smooth operation and answer any other questions that they have regarding contract management – making it easier to work with us,” she says in explaining her role.
Her efforts to inform and educate grant applicants about what can sometimes be a daunting process come naturally to her. Schultz has been predisposed to education in one form or another throughout her career – and before.
“In high school (in Grosse Pointe, Mich.) there was a little special education school across the parking lot, and I would go over there and volunteer with severely challenged children. That is where I started – and I liked it,” she says.
She followed this line of interest into a degree in special education from Michigan State University and a master’s at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. Following college, while she was raising her family, she worked as a substitute teacher for high school-age students in a Federal program set up for Lebanese immigrants displaced from the war in the mid-‘80s.
| Marrakesh May 2010 |
“Dearborn has the highest Middle Eastern population outside of the Middle East,” Schultz explains. Many of her students hadn’t been to school since kindergarten or second grade because of the war and the schools being closed in their homeland. Because they spoke in a completely different language, and since many had no concept of how to be in school, the experience was fascinating for Schultz.
“It was interesting for the American teachers. I kept going back as a substitute teacher because I was drawn to the differences in culture and learning and passionate about teaching these youths,” Schultz says. “There were fewer girls, who added to my cultural exposure, because as teachers we would connect with young girls who were in arranged marriages or a lot of social situations that are different to the U.S.”
From prayers at noon in a special room, or learning how to make tabouli or teaching how to acclimate the girls within the system so as to not provoke the different cultures, Schultz found she was drawn to educating herself about how to respect their culture and adapt to it. She also learned that sometimes one doesn’t have to travel far to learn about a culture that that is so different.
Schultz continued into many education and curriculum-based management positions, which ultimately brought her from Michigan to Florida in the 1980s. “When I first moved to Florida, I worked with at-risk programs from Vero Beach to Key West and gained a lot of satisfaction as I watched the programs develop and be successful.” She recalls. “I was working for software companies at the time and introducing computer-assisted instruction to the teachers in the programs. The students completed their graduation requirements and testing using the computer curriculum and testing modules”
| Hong Kong Harbor, May 2012 |
Ultimately, a friend told her about a job opening in the Cultural Division – and she applied. “She thought my education background would be a good fit,” Schultz says. While she appreciated the arts, she really didn’t expect to stay at the Division for a long time. But nine years later the relationship is going strong.
“I liked it, so here I am…the English, social studies and special education major, doing math,” Schultz says. “It’s a great place to work with lots of exciting new activities going on all of the time – and the staff really is like family.”
As of 2010, 32 percent of Broward County residents were foreign born. This year, as the County gets ready to celebrate its Centennial, the focus is to commemorate 100 years with bold, innovative art and performance projects that attract visitors and bring Broward residents together using arts, sports and recreation venues, natural attractions and incredible diversity to creatively bridge, bond and build their communities.
Diversity bridges, bonds and builds communities. From her roots in the heartland of America, Susan Schultz brings a natural propensity towards different cultures to a government agency that enhances the community’s cultural environment through the development of arts and culture.
The Broward Cultural Division is Broward County’s local arts agency, designated by the State of Florida with a mission to enhance the community’s cultural environment through the development of the arts. It’s a lofty mission nestled in a hub of the Broward County government administration. In this swiftly developing business community - home to millions of annual tourists, regular “snow birds,” and a growing population of residents - there lies a unique backdrop of sand, sea, and miles of environmentally-friendly, lush natural swampland, as well as a strategically-central location in the South Florida region. Today, the Division consists of 21 individuals, each independently and uniquely passionate about the concept and application of arts and culture into the daily life of a developing community with a unique predisposition.