Reflections from NCAN Conference Attendees

Last month, the National College Access Network (NCAN) held its annual conference in Detroit, Michigan. This year’s conference was the largest ever, drawing over 1,100 college access professionals from across the country to the Motor City. The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) was proud to partner with NCAN to ensure this year’s conference was a success. Below are a few reflections from Michigan conference attendees:

Attending the National College Access Network conference in Detroit in September was a wonderful experience.  The ability to network with others from our own state as well as nationally was a highlight of the conference as were the sessions.  The positivity and “can do” attitude that was evident throughout the conference was invigorating and reinforcing of the work that we do. We are currently prioritizing and exploring a summer program; the session on “Creating a Summer Transition Program” provided me and my LCAN with practical information that we can adapt to our area.  Attending NCAN gave me the opportunity to gain great new information!

Mary Ann Behm, LMSW
Program Coordinator
Launch Manistee


As someone who is relatively new to the college access world, the NCAN Conference provided a welcoming environment which enabled me to network with folks who are invested in assisting students reach their post-secondary aspirations. I appreciated the opportunity to hear from many about the best practices, tools, and resources used to increase efficiencies while assisting students reduce the non-academic barriers as they navigate the college-going process. In the short time I have spent serving as a co-coordinator for the MSU College Advising Corps, I have been moved by the long-standing impact college advisers have had on the students they serve. I was further motivated and inspired when walking into the plenary sessions to find such a large network of individuals working towards the same goal. Although we still have progress to make to meet GOAL 2025, through this dedicated and energetic network, the possibilities are limitless.

Trish Caldwell
Program Coordinator
MSU College Advising Corps


This year, through the efforts of the amazing people at the Michigan College Access Network, I was given the opportunity to attend the National College Access Network Conference in Detroit. It was eye-opening to see the work that is being done all across the country to increase equity and access for all students, and to get a chance to learn more about the programs and opportunities that exist. The best part of the conference, for me, was in the conversations that I had with others at the conference - attendees and presenters alike.  I left the conference with a deeper appreciation of the vision and work that MCAN is doing in our state, and a renewed energy for the tasks at hand. As the only school counselor in a district with total student enrollment of over 1100 students, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, isolated and alone in the important work that needs to be done. But, attending the conference reminded me that there are so many smart, creative, talented and passionate people out there doing the work. I couldn't be more proud, or more humbled, to be a part of such a phenomenal movement that is working hard every day to make the world better, smarter, more equitable, and more free. 

Anissa Emery, M.A., Counseling
Oscoda Area High School


When you think of Detroit, most of us think of Motown or the well deserved nickname the “Motor-City”. However, after the National College Access Network Conference that was held there in September, Detroit will be known for a different type of engine! Detroit was the backdrop for a gathering of educators and committed college access professionals focused on driving postsecondary attainment for all! The NCAN conference personally gave me a chance to interact with others who are just as passionate about driving education forward for first generation college students, and those in underserved communities. The sessions offered were not only powerful and thought provoking but offered real time solutions and data, from, ‘African American Males and College Retention: Strategies for closing the Gap’’ to ‘Building a Data Bridge between High Schools and Colleges’. This was truly a must-attend event and I look forward to next year!

Jerry Price
Berrien County College Access Network


The NCAN Conference was amazing, filled with information I am taking back to my students! I chose heavy topics purposefully, such as session regarding working with undocumented students, how race impacts college access, interventions for college students that have high impact on success, and the success of Promise Zones in Michigan.  My heart was heavy at times, but each session I walked away with tangible resources and contact information of others involved in the work.  I work with students in grades 6-13 (Early College students) in Branch County as a career development counselor.  That includes helping students create and update EDPs, so it quickly becomes college advising as well.  I love helping students create their post-secondary plan and I am taking back several ideas to implement immediately from the NCAN Conference.

Jennifer Searls
Career Development Coordinator
Branch ISD


This was my first time attending an NCAN event, and I was extremely grateful to MCAN for providing me with scholarship funds to help with the cost of the event.  I was pleasantly overwhelmed at the energy and enthusiasm all the participants displayed towards helping students be successful in post-secondary education.  It was refreshing to meet NCAN members from all across the country, and hear about innovative programs.  The speakers were terrific and highly motivational.  I was particularly impressed with Jaime Casap from Google and his ideas for helping students think about problems they would like to solve instead of just careers they want to have and Michael Middleton from the University of Missouri discussing racial equity solutions at his campus.  I have pages and pages of notes and ideas, especially involving the use of data to evaluate programs.   I have already begun talking with students about thinking of post-secondary options as problems to solve.  I'm excited to start teaching lessons and specifically tailoring assignments in that area.  I have also started speaking more intelligently with parents about FAFSA!

Kim Twarowski
Counselor/System-Wide Counseling Department Chair
Shelby Junior High- Utica Community Schools


Author: Sarah Anthony, Director for Partnerships and Advocacy

Posted: Oct. 13, 2016


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