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Q&A: Senior Program Officer Jacquelynn Y. Orr seeks to make a difference within communities


Alaya Freeman

Alaya Freeman

Kresge’s Health Program recently welcomed Jacquelynn Y. Orr as a new senior program officer. Orr, who most recently served as a program officer for Research-Evaluation-Learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will support the team’s work in managing a portfolio of grants that advance Health Program strategies to achieve health equity and promote community health and well-being.

Summer Communications Intern Alaya Freeman asked Jackie a few questions to get to know her and to hear how she will approach her work at the foundation.

Q: What excites you most about being on Kresge’s Health Team?

A: The opportunity to work with an incredible group of people. Working and collaborating at both the national and place-based level with a multitude of people, not just at Kresge, but with organizations, groups and individuals that are making a difference within communities at various levels is really exciting.

Q: What passions do you bring to this work?

A: I am passionate about making sure that community voices are heard and engaged in our work. Part of this includes providing the space to understand the different ways that people may define how they want to be helped. I am also very passionate about ensuring the work is an accurate representation of the communities we serve and ensuring our help, as they see fit, can assist with the implementation of their prioritized work and/or strategies. Overall, I hope communities and Kresge can gain something from what we have offered each other through our partnerships.

Q: How has your background and experience informed and influenced the role you want to play at the foundation?

A: My background and experience have helped me to realize that I cannot project my personal and professional experiences onto someone else, so it is important to make sure that people’s voices are accurately heard. It is also important to ensure that we are lifting up the appropriate people and voices that can help to develop and implement change. I’ve had the opportunity to acquire various analytical skills over time so I hope that I can use those and other skills to be an advocate and connector as we tell our collective story.

Q: What do you see as the most urgent need(s) when it comes to improving the health and well-being of people and communities?

A: Two of the most urgent needs are trust and time. Specifically, time to build more trust with people and communities. Funders, health care organizations, politicians, etc. all need to prioritize their time for their constituents and community. Without trust, people and communities will not share their health experiences or how they believe those areas can be addressed. There are plenty of examples where representatives from various organizations and communities are coming together have made the time to improve health and well-being within communities. However, there is still an urgent need for developing trust as we continue to attempt to address major crises affecting people and communities. Black maternal mortality is a great example where trust is a key component to ensure that Black birthing people can discuss the issue(s) they have and what is needed to improve their well-being and health that are necessary to thrive.

Q: What is a good book that you’ve read recently that you’d recommend?

A: A book by Minda Harts called Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace. It provides some insights about what it takes to be reflective, especially as a person of color in many of these workspaces where the lack of diversity often singles you out in a system that was not designed with us in mind. It provides guidance on how to face some of those situations that you may have experienced and be able to leave that baggage, move on, and heal from those experiences. It’s a book that I think all people of color can relate to and benefit from the tools provided.

Q: What other areas of Kresge’s work are you most interested in learning more about?

A: To be honest, all of them are of interest to me because of the connectivity to health in each area. Being able to communicate about how health is associated with all aspects of our lives is vitally important. So being able to connect these dots and gain a better understanding of how we can continue to help support the other Kresge teams is very interesting to me.