Exciting Changes at the MCAN Headquarters

New structure and new faces as we head into our sixth year

Last August I posted a blog about birthdays – MCAN’s fifth birthday as well as the “birth day” of my son Kirby. Kirby has grown a lot since August – he’s more than tripled his birth weight, he crawls everywhere, and has two teeth. MCAN has also grown a lot since August and I’m excited to share some exciting developments from our office in downtown Lansing. In January, MCAN launched a new organizational structure to help streamline our operations and build in more capacity that will enable us to work efficiently and effectively toward Goal 2025.  

As always, MCAN’s strategic approach is guided by our talented and committed 11-person board of directors. We recently welcomed two new board members to replace those who completed their terms. They are: Robert (Bob) Ferrentino, president of Montcalm Community College; and Daniel Mitchell, who serves as an MSU College Advising Corps member in Northern Michigan. I have the pleasure of reporting to the board and they are a consistent source of support to me and the MCAN team.  

MCAN now is organized into four departments, with each department head reporting directly to me.  Three of the four department heads are familiar faces, but check out their brand new titles!


Kirby is a loyal Spartans fan!

 MCAN Staff-Awards-Dinner-2016-2317 800x420

MCAN staff pictured left to right: Connor McLaughlin, Sarah Anthony, Christi Taylor, Jamie Jacobs, Brandy Johnson, Ryan Fewins-Bliss, Bristol Day, and Jacqueline Ruhland.

Capacity Building
This department is led by Jamie Jacobs (Director of Capacity Building). Jamie is tasked with strengthening the abilities of college access professionals and providing them with the tools that they need so that they can be as effective as possible.  Her “buckets” of work include our annual conference, professional development for practitioners, our school counselor postsecondary planning course, and issues related to data, research, and technology. She also will help MCAN explore and execute new opportunities for innovation.  

Community Investment
The Community Investment department is led by Ryan Fewins-Bliss (Deputy Director for Community Investment). This department is by far our largest, which speaks to our deep commitment to Michigan’s community-based college access efforts. Ryan is still our “Chief LCAN Officer” and also oversees our grant-making strategy. Ryan is joined by Christi Taylor, our Director of Statewide Initiatives, who manages our campaigns targeted to high schools like College Application Week and the Reach Higher High School grant program. Ryan and Christi are supported by one of MCAN’s newest teammates, Program Assistant Connor McLaughlin, who is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University. Finally, AdviseMI also lives within the Community Investment department and includes Co-Directors Bristol Day and Jacqueline Ruhland, along with the 40 college advisers (and growing!) they supervise.  

Partnerships and Advocacy
This department will be led by Sarah Anthony (Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy). This will be a major transition for Sarah, who has largely focused her time on the financial and operational management of MCAN during the last several years. She will now focus on managing our advocacy and communication efforts, and building/strengthening partnerships with mission-aligned statewide and national organizations. She will continue to facilitate the Michigan College Access Alliance and Michigan Reach Higher Alliance and serve as a liaison to the Michigan Veterans Education Initiatives and Michigan Promise Zones. She will be an ambassador of Goal 2025 and encourage other organizations across the state to join our movement.  

Operations and Finance
Given our exponential growth over the last year or so, MCAN’s board of directors and I reached the conclusion that we need dedicated, full-time staff to manage MCAN’s internal operations. We are thrilled to announce that we recently hired Ms. Cheryl McPherson as our new Director of Finance and Operations and her first day will be Monday, April 18! Most recently, Cheryl served as Assistant Dean for Finance and Operation at Oakland University’s School of Nursing. She has degrees from Michigan State University and Central Michigan University – which gained the approval of Ryan and Sarah (Fire Up Chips!) as well as Jamie, Christi, Jacque, and Bristol (Go Green!). She brings a wealth of experience in financial management, budgeting, and HR. Cheryl is joined by Operations Assistant Dawn Stemen, who joined MCAN in January.  

As MCAN and Kirby continue to grow, I continually look forward to achieving the next exciting milestone – Kirby is on the verge on saying his first word and Michigan is on the verge of hitting 40 percent degree attainment! I can’t wait to celebrate many more birthdays with BOTH of my growing families in the years to come!  


Brandy Johnson headshot 2013Author: Brandy Johnson, executive director
Posted: April 13, 2016


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