In life, we often start out in one career lane and in some cases switch over to several areas, eventually landing in a profession that we least expected.
This happened to Eugenia Orr nearly six years ago when she found herself out of a job and finishing up her doctorate degree. With years of experience in management, Orr had worked in corporate America with an MBA in Urban Planning and Policy, but having built her career as an interior designer and facilitating space management for major clients, she found herself for the first time without a job.
“I was training other junior designers when I went back to school,” she says. “I was going back and got laid off at the same time; it was really rough. I found this program, heard about it, and just loved it. It was the doctorate of Education Degree program at Olivet Nazareth University.”
Orr she started the process in 2009 after attempting it twice earlier. She said, “My dad was sick that year, and I couldn’t do it. The next year, I missed the deadline. So, I didn’t want to miss it the third year.”
Like so many people hit hard by the recession during that time, she was faced with acquiring her Ed.D, care for her father, and seek employment at the same time.
Her focus and tenacity landed her at WVON Radio, where she was hired as the executive assistant for Melody Spann, President of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, in 2013.
Orr didn’t have any previous broadcast working experience and soon started the process of self-reinvention. “I had to prove myself. I was promoted within my first year as chief of staff. It was a part of my writing background,” she says.
During her break between full-time jobs, Orr would put her love and skills of interior design to use by performing work as a freelance writer for quarterly publications – Luxury Home and Canadian Home magazines.
Since then, she’s published a book with a group of other contributors, detailing her expertise on de-cluttering spaces and homes called Clear Free Home Living, which is available online.
Currently, in her role as chief of staff for one of the most recognizable Black operated radio stations, WVON, Orr has applied her niche for organization and structure.
“I’ve never worked in this industry before so I have an outside view of things. It’s different and a breath of fresh air. I’m asking questions from the outside when others are asking questions from the inside,” Orr explained.
“That’s when you have to present new things to people in a different way because this is all they know. Sometimes, we are used to doing things in the same manner.”
A native of Chicago, Orr grew up on the South Side and resides close to the radio station, which is located on east 87th Street. She’s found a common place in understanding the importance of remaining rooted within the community, which is something she feels WVON personifies.
“I live in a building across the street from a building my father lived in when he first moved to Chicago almost 65 years ago. My parents lived around the corner before they bought the house I grew up in. I lived in the suburbs for a couple of years and hated it,” Orr said.
“I don’t believe that we should leave. If we don’t live in Chicago, believe me, some other people are going to take it over and they will take everything that is beautiful here. One day, we’ll be looking in and can’t afford it later.”
Meanwhile, Orr is proud of her transition into the broadcast profession, applying her years of management and organizational skills to the rich history of the radio station. In her previous corporate job, her gender and race was never a roadblock to her success as an executive, but her pride in her ethnicity has built a solid foundation.
When it is all said and done, she winds down and tries to find a level of balance in her professional and personal life. “You find balance in the little things and make sure you take some time,” she says. “Call the people you love and be around them. I can’t always balance it, not at the same time. You have to stop and recharge. I believe in recharging as much as possible.”