Student of the Year 2019: Jaren Kirkland
Whether it be in an empowerment organization for Black men on campus, or visiting disputed territories in the Middle East, the experiences and extracurricular involvement of Public Health senior Jaren Kirkland while at the University of Michigan have left an impact on people all across the globe. During his time at school, Kirkland was no stranger to hard work and recognized the importance of helping others.
From Brownstown, Kirkland was elected president of Omega Psi Phi, one of the predominantly-African American cultural-based fraternities on campus. He also is the vice chairman of Here Earning a Destiny through Honesty, Eagerness, and Determination of Self (HEADS), a group for Black men on campus that works to “destroy all negative myths, assumptions, and stereotypes that assault the character of (Black) people,” according to the organization’s description on Maize Pages.
Kirkland ended up joining HEADS because of the authentic people in the organization and the sense of community he felt from the group.
“I went to the first meeting, and I saw the genuineness of the space and how everybody really enjoyed being there and being themselves,” Kirkland said. “That made me come back and then after a while, I was like, I enjoy this space that was created for me in order to feel welcome on campus, so I wanted to give back and be a part of the team that could provide that space for incoming freshmen and underclassmen.”
Some of Kirkland’s most memorable experiences while at the University were his two summers spent in Ann Arbor doing internships. The summer after his freshman year, he interned with the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, a health care policy organization focused on changing the conversation from fee-for-service payment systems to more value-based system, according to Kirkland.
“I really liked summers in Ann Arbor,” Kirkland said. “It’s not as many people on campus, so campus isn’t congested, and the weather’s nice, and the few friends that are still here, you get to spend a lot of time with them. So, I appreciate those times.”
Junior year, Kirkland interned in Chicago for Mercer, a consulting firm specializing in helping clients advance the health of their workers.
Over Winter Break of 2018, Kirkland went with Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus, to disputed territory among Israel and Palestine. He gained knowledge on the political conflict from both sides, and visited many holy sites as well.
“I learned that you have to hear both sides of the story, and that for that situation, there’s no easy solution, because everybody wants their way,” Kirkland said. “So, I’ve learned to be more open on different people’s perspectives and experiences, and I learned a lot about the area.”
After college, Kirkland plans on moving to Washington, D.C., to work for the Advisory Board Company as a research analyst. The company specializes in health care benchmarking data.
Though he plans to work in the health care industry at the moment, in the long run, he hopes to be a venture capitalist and help fund innovation throughout society.
“I see the influence venture capitalists have as they fund the future,” Kirkland. “Obviously, not everything is a hit — there are some misses — but I think venture capitalists influence the way that society goes, and I definitely want to be a part of that, especially as technology is taking over.”
Kirkland is grateful to be nominated for Student of the Year and described how he never expects any award or recognition when doing the work he does.
“I’m definitely humbled,” Kirkland said. “I never expected it; I definitely don’t do anything for nominations or awards, but it’s good to be seen and good to be appreciated. So, to the person who nominated me, and to The Michigan Daily, thank you for selecting me.”