Heller alumna Barbara Ferrer, PhD’94, has played important roles in both health and education in Massachusetts, and now she has the opportunity to make an impact on the national and international level as chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. I talked with her at the foundation’s offices in Battle Creek, Mich. Let’s start off with the basics: Tell me about the Kellogg Foundation.
and with our operation units. I’m usually on the road about two weeks each month visiting our community partners because we’re not an operating foundation — what we offer is access to critical information, a network of people committed to improving the lives of children, and resources to move forward collective actions that build racial equity and create more equitable opportunities for all children.
BARBARA FERRER: The Kellogg Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. We’re focused on improving the lives of all children by working in partnership with our grantees across the world. In particular, we center our efforts on six places: Michigan, New Mexico, Mississippi and New Orleans are our domestic sites; Haiti, and Chiapas and the Yucatán in Mexico are our international sites. We also have a large national portfolio in the United States, so you see our partnerships showing up in just about every state.
We’re working in collaboration with people in our communities. As a foundation, we have a deep belief in the inherent capacity of people to know what is best and to make the changes they need to guarantee that children have access to essential resources and opportunities. We apply a racial equity lens in our work to ensure that all children can thrive; in particular, we support efforts that promote racial equity and racial healing so that children of color and their families have what is needed for their optimal development. Our grantees take various actions to improve outcomes for children, including changing policies, service delivery systems and practices. We support efforts to replace narratives based on perceptions and stereotypes so that everyone can share and understand the authentic stories of the people who live, work and play in our communities. You’re the foundation’s first chief strategy officer. What do you do?
I’m just coming back from spending a week in the highlands of Chiapas, where we visited with organizations working together with indigenous communities who are often heavily discriminated against and lack opportunities to chart their own future. We’ve been very intentional about supporting those efforts that allow community members to form working councils to debate the path and vision forward for their communities, with a particular focus on making sure children can thrive. I’m so proud of the opportunities that I’ve had to learn from others and to help other people learn from each other. That’s at the heart and soul of this work. We’re about transformative change. Tell me about your Heller experience and how it led you down this career path.
BF: I support all our programming efforts, both here in the U.S. and internationally. I am based in Battle Creek, where I work with talented colleagues to ensure that our grant making is well integrated across programming teams
BF: I was part of a small group of students that was supported with funds from the Pew Foundation. We came to Heller to study a broad range of health issues as part of a program that allowed us to work closely with some of our colleagues at Boston University. We greatly benefited from both the rigorous academic opportunities offered at
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