Arkansas State University-Newport’s new vice chancellor for student affairs, Jacqueline Faulkner Orr, grew up knowing she wanted to be a high school English teacher, but little did she know that when she got to college, she would find herself in a whole new world.
While her married name is Orr, Jacqueline uses her maiden name, Faulkner, professionally.
“I always said I wanted to be a teacher,” Faulkner said. “I always knew I wanted to be an educator, but at the time, I didn’t realize there was this whole other world called higher education.”
Faulkner grew up in Senatobia, Miss., and graduated from Independence High School in Coldwater, Miss.
She then went on to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., where she majored in English with a minor in education because she planned to someday teach high school English.
While at Jackson State, she started working part time in the college’s admissions office.
“I got involved in student leadership and ultimately became the first female student-body president of Jackson State University,” Faulkner said.
Working in the admissions office showed Faulkner what she was meant to do. She started her work in higher education while a student and soon realized she wanted to make a career out of it.
After all those years of telling her parents she was set on being a high school English teacher, she found it hard to tell them that her plans had changed.
She graduated from college in 1997. Her plan was to be a substitute teacher for a year until she started her graduate program, but her “temporary” teaching job with a second-grade class at East Tate Elementary School in Coldwater, Miss., took a strange turn.
“The rookie teacher who had taken on this class skipped out after the second day, so my sub position became a one-year appointment,” Faulkner said.
After teaching for a year, Faulkner started furthering her education. She pursued a Master of Science in leadership and policy studies, with a concentration in higher and adult education, at the University of Memphis. She took a position as a graduate research assistant at the university while she completed her master’s degree.
Graduating in 1999, she went on to become the director of student housing at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis for two years.
Faulkner then made her way to Arkansas for a little more than a year to work as a TRiO counselor for Mid-South Community College in West Memphis.
The Federal TRiO program is designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
Faulkner then returned to the University of Memphis, where she took another job and began working on a doctorate.
“I started out as an academic retention counselor; then the university got a TRiO grant,” she said. “I was responsible for all of the grassroots efforts of starting [the TRiO] program and directed it for three years until my prior supervisor retired, and the university recruited me to direct the Center for Academic Retention.”
The Center for Academic Retention at the University of Memphis, with a team of two people, soon became a 15-person team responsible for retention efforts across the campus.
“Previously, we had just worked with at-risk students, but I was able to institute an early-alert program,” Faulkner said. “I actually started and [wrote] curriculum for a student-success course that taught students tools and resources that could help them be successful and graduate.”
While she was working at the University of Memphis, Faulkner also completed the course work for a Doctor of Education, with a concentration in higher and adult education.
“I’ve completed all of my course work except for my dissertation,” she said.
She went on to become assistant vice president of retention management at Kentucky State University in Frankfurt, Ky., a position she held for a year and a half.
“I was responsible for universitywide retention efforts,” Faulkner said.
She has found a passion for helping students through her years working in higher education.
“I love having the ability to make a difference,” she said.
She’s a first-generation college student and said it was amazing to see the transitions she went through as a graduate.
“It was amazing to see the transitions that not only happened for me personally but for my entire family as a result of my ability to graduate college,” Faulkner said. “Not only did I position myself to be a great example to my siblings, nieces and nephews; we have since had others [in my family] who have graduated, so I became that example.”
While working in higher education as a student, Faulkner said she met people who encouraged her to be the best student she could be.
“These individuals saw something within me and wanted to pull it out, and I just believe that is something I’m supposed to do with my life. It’s amazing to [see] former students from all the previous institutions I’ve worked at doing great things,” she said.
Faulkner enjoys interacting with students and being a part of their growth and development at a university.
“There’s nothing like changing lives,” she said.
Her first day as vice chancellor of student affairs was Feb. 3, and she said she has big plans for her future at ASU-Newport.
“We want to identify opportunities for students to develop under our leadership and our guidance,” Faulkner said. “I believe that there are things that are taught in the classroom that will help a student have a knowledge base of their field, but I think that what happens in the type of professional that they become are those things that happen outside the classroom. I think that’s what student affairs is for.”
Faulkner said she and the other members of the student affairs team have a goal to help students develop as professionals and ultimately become successful.
“You can tell a student their content, but you can’t teach them professionalism. You can’t teach them how to interview well. You can’t teach them in the classroom that punctuality is important to professionalism. Those are things that student affairs should develop in a student,” she said.
Faulkner, her husband and their child moved to Newport from Frankfort, Ky., and she is excited to be in a small community again.
“I’m looking forward to learning the town. I grew up in Senatobia, Miss., which is probably the size of Newport, and ironically, [it is] also a college town,” she said. “I love the small-town community atmosphere. I love knowing my neighbors.”