Michigan College Access Network 2020 Annual Report

2010 It started with an idea.

Founding the Michigan College Access Network.

Ten years ago, we didn’t know what MCAN would become. We didn’t know we would go on to launch dozens of LCANs; play a role in numerous pieces of legislation; and, most importantly, form strong internal and external networks of hard-working individuals united by a common goal.

"I don’t think anyone else was nearly as methodical as Brandy and the team when founding the organization. Today, the best college access network in the country is a label MCAN deserves."

— Chuck Wilbur, affiliated consultant at Public Policy Associates working with the Michigan Promise Zones Association, and former MCAN board member

But we saw a gap that needed to be filled. And we knew that education holds the power to change lives.

Addressing a need

MCAN was founded in 2010 to address a gap between secondary and postsecondary education, and support residents in achieving postsecondary education. Our founder and first executive director, Brandy Johnson, formed MCAN to fill a void.

“I was working for Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration between 2008 - 2010. When I had an opportunity to write a proposal for a federal college access grant, I saw that there wasn't anything that existed with a statewide focus that was focused on systematically improving the rate of postsecondary education,” Brandy says. “It became clear that there was a huge gap in the state. I learned that Michigan was the only state without a state agency devoted to higher education. We needed people specifically dedicated to this cause; a team who would wake up every morning focused on helping students make the transition from secondary to postsecondary education.” And from that idea, came a movement.

Getting started

First, Brandy had to decide how, exactly, she would get the ball rolling. “I was thinking about putting forth a recommendation for legislation relating to establishing statewide infrastructure for this,” she says. “I remember Dan DeGrow, a founding MCAN board member and chair, leaned over to me and said ‘The only way this is going to come to life is if you run it.’ And that is precisely what I did. I took a risk, established it as a 501(c)(3), and it was the best decision I ever made.”

“As an original board member, my first impression of MCAN was that it was a very passionate organization aimed at increasing the percentage of Michigan residents with postsecondary training. They still do a great job continuing to make this passion the first impression to anyone they meet.”

— Bart Daig, president of Baker College and MCAN board member

Next, she had to assemble a team. Enter: Sarah Anthony, current state representative for Michigan’s 68th House District; Lisa King, current director of the American College Application Campaign; and Jamie Jacobs, MCAN’s current deputy director.

“I started at MCAN as an intern in grad school. I emailed Brandy and we had coffee in 2010 at Biggby in downtown Lansing, where we ended up talking for two hours,” Jamie says. “We were drawing and dreaming up the concept of it: a network that could help all people in Michigan achieve postsecondary education. Walking out, Brandy said, ‘I guess we should do this then. Do you want to work for free?’ Of course, I did. And the rest was history.”

A supportive culture

"MCAN was founded on equity. I saw MCAN calling out and naming equity, quite frankly, before it was cool."

— Maddy Day, consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and MCAN board chair

The early days played a foundational role in forming the hard-working, passionate internal culture MCAN maintains today. “When I started at MCAN, I was in my mid-20s, had just started grad school, and didn't have family in Lansing, so I literally poured my life into starting this nonprofit,” Brandy says. “I joke that MCAN was my first baby, but it's not really a joke. It was as important to me as a human child. I can honestly say that, when I was at MCAN, I was always just a little sad on Fridays because I wouldn't see my team or have work for two days. That's when you know it really isn't a job, it's truly a passion.”

Top Accomplishments

  • Established MCAN
  • Committed to 60% by 2025 (Lumina Foundation’s Big Goal)
  • Launched 41 LCANs