Michigan College Access Network 2020 Annual Report

2011 Young, scrappy, and hungry.

Making our name known in Lansing and beyond.

After getting itself off the ground, MCAN began learning how to fly. Our team immediately got to work developing campaigns, initiatives, and programs to make a direct impact on Michigan students as soon as possible in 2011. Working alongside a transitional landscape in Michigan politics, with the inauguration of Gov. Rick Snyder in January following Gov. Granholm’s time in office, we got to work establishing our reputation across the state.

To start, we supported promise zone development in Baldwin, Benton Harbor, and Pontiac. These promise zones are universal place-based scholarship programs aimed at raising educational attainment levels and promoting economic development in key locations.

“MCAN is a scrappy organization, meaning they do what they do very effectively. I take a lot of joy in finding cool people who know what they’re talking about and do it in a humane, smart, inspirational way, and that’s what MCAN is.”

— Haley Glover, strategy director at Lumina Foundation

Crunching the numbers

MCAN also kept up the momentum in 2011 by leveraging the power of data. (And, if you know MCAN, you know this data-driven reputation is still going strong today.) We helped nearly 200 Michigan high schools find their verified college-enrollment rates of recent graduates through a contract with National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). Through this program, high schools could use data to create goals for increased college participation over time. We also helped persuade two institutions to join NSC so that student enrollment and completion data would appear in high school reports, ensuring that all of Michigan’s private and public schools are sharing data.

“In the grand scheme of things, it takes a while to make an impact. But each life MCAN changes, especially for students of lower socioeconomic status, has a long-term generational impact on social mobility.”

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

Reaching the public

During our first full year, we also released KnowHow2GO Michigan, a multi-year, public awareness campaign encouraging eighth- through 10th-grade students to pursue postsecondary education. The campaign included television, radio and outdoor public service advertisements that emphasized the preparation necessary to attend college, in order to reach this target audience early on in the process and plant the seeds of a college-going mindset.

In November 2011, to expand this mindset into the academic culture of schools, MCAN began Michigan College Application Week in 38 Michigan high schools. MCAN helped coordinate resources and volunteers that allowed almost every graduating senior to complete at least one college application during the school week.

Defining our environment

Beyond our work itself, this time was monumental in shaping MCAN’s internal organizational culture. By 2011, MCAN started developing its dedicated internal team, with five full-time staff members and 13 board members. Operating like a startup, this group was able to move quickly and swiftly — a fast-paced culture that carries on at MCAN today.

“Back in those days, we had a fun, light, come-as-you-are attitude that we still have today,” says Deputy Director Jamie Jacobs, who was one of the original full-time MCAN staffers in 2011. “MCAN wants you as you. We still follow this collaborative mindset, knowing that we've got hundreds of thousands of students who need our help now, so we can’t wait.”

Maintaining a nimble, scrappy internal culture through the years is no simple feat. “Even today, as we evolve as an organization, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how expanding our team impacts our culture, moving from a startup to an organization with 20+ staff members,” says Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss. “All along the way, there’s been a lot of strategy, and a lot of smart people involved.”

Top Accomplishments

  • Held our inaugural conference
  • Piloted Michigan’s first College Application Week with 38 high schools
  • Supported the creation of Baldwin, Benton Harbor, and Pontiac Promise Zones
  • Launched 43 LCANs
  • Began the Michigan KnowHow2GO Michigan campaign
  • Helped attract National College Advising Corps to University of Michigan and Michigan State University

“For a long time, MCAN felt like a startup. Back in the early years, we were not only building the plane while we flew it, but conceptualizing the plane itself and doing something that had never been done before. I don’t know if I would consider MCAN similar to a startup anymore, having taken on so many accomplishments over 10 years, but we're still entrepreneurial and innovative. It’s a real team feel.”

— Ryan Fewins-Bliss, executive director at MCAN.