Michigan's College Access Blog

NCAN Takeaway: The Critical Role of High-Level Leaders in the College Access Movement

We frequently stress the importance of cross-sector, high level leaders being at the table when talking about making needle-moving progress toward college attainment. In fact, it is the premise of Collective Impact, the framework we live by at MCAN. So it was refreshing to hear this idea reinforced in many of the plenary sessions at the National College Access Network annual conference, which MCAN staff attended last month in my home state of Arizona.

The conference kicked off with an address from the Honorable Greg Stanton, mayor of Phoenix. He spoke of the need for increasing college attainment in Arizona and, more impressively, cited key metrics around the state's college attainment including the percentage of adults who currently have a college degree and the percentage of jobs in Arizona that will require a college degree by 2020. These are metrics that MCAN embeds in our messaging, but it was inspiring to see Phoenix's mayor, whose day-to-day job encompasses so much more than just education, plugged into his city and state's educational attainment data and, more importantly, was committed to improving this data. Further, he discussed the significant gaps in college attainment for Hispanic adults (who make up nearly 30% of Arizona's population) and his commitment to aligning systems to help close these gaps.

Having a high-level elected official engaged in the college access conversations happening in the community is a game-changer. Also a game-changer, according to Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, is this same intentional buy-in from high-level leaders in the world of K-12: high school principals. Busteed argues that principal leadership is critical to student success. High schools with talented principals are 2.6x more likely to have above average teacher engagement scores, meaning the students these teachers interact with are also more likely to be engaged in school and thus enter and succeed in college. Our close relationship to high school principals in Michigan has allowed us to see this leadership in action: we know that principals who are excited about college can drive change and progress in their schools.

We hope you continue to engage your leaders as you move forward with the school year!

Brandy Johnson headshot 2013Author: Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: October 7, 2014

Mobilizing the Network as an LCAN Coordinator

LCAN Spotlight: Wexford-Missaukee College Access Network

MHowellWe're often celebrating the great work of an LCAN and its leadership team, but it's important we shine some light on the LCAN coordinator role. LCANs require a dedicated staff person with a specific skillset in order to coordinate the multiple stakeholders, organizations and resources within the network. In this LCAN Spotlight, we meet Meghan Howell, Wexford-Missaukee College Access Network (WMCAN) coordinator, to learn more about her experience mobilizing the network.

LCAN coordinators need to have a 15,000 foot view of the community and a larger understanding of all the moving pieces and parts that impact college access. One of the more difficult job expectations can be facilitation of the work. Many coordinators find there's a balancing act of how to guide the leadership team and the action teams in an appropriate direction while giving the teams space and time to build trust and relationships.

"In such a collaborative community, at times I feel like an imposter trying to tell very seasoned community leaders and professionals how to coordinate our work," said Howell. "In our early states, they felt the work was already coordinated, and while much of it is, there is always room for improving and doing more."

The creation of the common agenda has helped reinforce Meghan's role and the need for larger collaboration among partners. The leadership team meets quarterly to review their goals and objectives, and Meghan uses the common agenda to guide the conversation. Often the team discusses ideas or suggestions from the community and each suggestion is vetted through the common agenda to determine if the suggestion falls within a current priority area.

The same is true with the WMCAN action teams. Thanks to their action plans, it's hard to get off track or slow down because goals and action steps are so neatly laid out.

Wex-Miss CAN LogoMany LCAN coordinators find they spend much of their time facilitating meetings or providing presentations about the local efforts, the college access movement and working toward Goal 2025.

"This position really requires you to interact with a wide range of people. You need the ability to easily navigate relationships and other's agendas," said Howell. "I give many presentations and have to be able to get up in front of groups in the community with confidence to ensure they have confidence in me."

To learn more about the Wexford Missaukee College Access Network visit their website here or find them on Facebook.

Lisa King headshot 2013Author: Lisa King, public relations consultant for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: October 1, 2014

Planning Grant Success: Make a Plan before You Plan

LCAN Spotlight: Clinton County

MCAN supports the creation and development of local college access networks (LCANs) through grants, technical assistance and professional devleopment. Often it is a Planning Grant that kicks off the strategic planning process to organize and initiate a community-based local college access network. Clinton County was recently awarded a Planning Grant and this spotlight highlights their pre-planning grant process.

Often one organization will initially start the conversation and facilitate the grant writing process until a more formal structure and leadership team is in place. This was also true in Clinton County, with initial conversations spurred by the Clinton County RESA.

Before formal invitations were sent to convene community leaders with MCAN staff to discuss if an LCAN should be formed, individual invitations were sent to build awareness and provide a brief explanation of the intent of the formal community meeting. This also provided a safe space for leaders to respond on an individual level before committing to a larger gathering. Invitations were sent to leaders from all sectors in the community including Superintendents of every district in Clinton County, CEO and Director-level leaders from economic development, city and county offices, local business, higher education, philanthropy and nonprofits.

It is not uncommon for a community to invite MCAN to the initial introductory meeting to provide background information about the Michigan College Access Netwrok and guidance of what it means to be an LCAN. We typically come armed with local data and are able to share what we have learned from other LCANs across the state.

After reviewing local data, the community leaders were easily convinced applying for a Planning Grant was the best thing to do. The Clinton County RESA came prepared to the first meeting with letters of commitment that each organization signed before leaving. This helped keep the group on task so time was not lost trying to track down letters of commitment for weeks and sometimes months after the initial meeting.

Throughout the grant-writing process, the team wasn't shy reaching out to MCAN staff for assistance in determining timelines, budgets and relevant data to include.

"MCAN was a huge support during the grant writing process," said Denise Palmer, Clinton County LCAN coordinator and Clinton County RESA instructional services assistant. "We submitted a draft of our grant in advance for them to proof and offer suggestions and guidance. Our leaders had many questions about the data we should be submitting and MCAN was instrumental in helping to provide the data resources we needed."

Clinton County leaders first met in April 2014 and submitted their final grant application to MCAN in July 2014. With the right leaders in place all committed to building a college access network, the grant writing process can move quickly and easily.

Charting the Course cover for web

"It's vital that the community leaders are at the initial meeting or presentation to ask questions among their peers and address any concerns up front," said Denise Palmer. "If someone was unable to attend, we quickly followed up and provided all meeting materials to ensure that leader was up to speed and ready to engage so our network wouldn't lose momentum in the grant writing process."

If your community is considering applying for a Planning Grant, reach out to MCAN for support and consider contacting other LCANs in your region. To learn more about the available MCAN grants, visit www.micollegeaccess.org/lcan/grants. You may also download our LCAN implementation guidebook, Charting the Course: A community's guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact.

Lisa King headshot 2013Author: Lisa King, public relations consultant for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: September 18, 2014

Getting Grit: EduGuide equips school and college groups to narrow achievement gaps

Why do some students succeed at reaching and completing college while their peers fall away? Researchers have found that deeper noncognitive factors help explain the difference. 

Take "grit," for instance. Similar to persistence, it's the technical term for the ability to focus on long-term goals and to overcome obstacles along the way. Sounds a lot like the definition of what it takes for first generation students to graduate from college doesn't it?

Dr. Angela Duckworth won the MacArthur Genius Award for her work in studying grit and creating a psychometric assessment to measure it. Researchers found that a student's girl level is actually a better predictor of their success than their IQ. 

EduGuide reviewed the research and strategies to leverage it in an MCAN webinar this week. You can find a webinar video and related free resources here. EduGuide is helping schools, colleges and groups implement an evidence-based online program to build grit and other core learning skills with support from Michigan GEAR UP and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Interested in participating? Schedule a tour to get more details.

BryanTaylorphotoAuthor: Bryan Taylor is the president of EduGuide, a nonprofit that specializes in research driven tools to coach individuals to take measurage steps toward success.

Posted: September 11, 2014

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