Michigan's College Access Blog

2015 College Access Impact Awards: Honoring Those Who Reach for the Goal!

Program Spotlight

The theme of Michigan College Access Network’s 2015 conference focused on Goal 2025, and having a “Decade to Deliver,” which refers to increasing the number of Michigan residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Conference participants were asked to share their own commitments to achieving this goal, and social media was abuzz with inspiring tweets and posts; some of which can be viewed on Storify.

              FosteringSuccess                       Lansing Community College picmonkeyed

                                        Goal 2025 "Commitments," from left to right:
                                     Fostering Sucess and Lansing Community College

In keeping with the conference theme, the inaugural College Access Impact Awards Ceremony, held on Sunday, April 12 in Lansing, honored six recipients for their leadership in the field of college access, and commitment to reaching Goal 2025. Following are brief descriptions of the influential professionals and organizations that received these awards.

The Steward Award: Creating College Access TalentMICAN-Inaugual-Awards-0354 copy 2 Honoree: Western Michigan University
Through its efforts, WMU has dramatically contributed to increasing the skills, talent and knowledge of college access professionals in Michigan. MCAN selected WMU based on several factors including:

  • Leadership in supporting/facilitating MCAN's counselor professional development course;
  • First institution in Michigan implementing the new counselor postsecondary planning training course for Masters students; and
  • Launch of the Journal of College Access.

The Cardinal Award: Rallying Communities to Impact

2015 Honoree: Ashley Johnson, Detroit College Access Network

Johnson has advanced the college-going culture of her community while moving the needle on critical postsecondary metrics. MCAN selected her based on several factors including:

  • Talent in focusing energy on coordinating services rather than providing direct service;
  • Number of schools within the LCAN utilizing campaigns; and
  • Steady increase in participation of schools involved in campaigns.

The Beacon Award: Strengthening Success through Partnerships
2015 Honoree: The Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation has continually endeavored to unite programs, activities and/or operations in support of postsecondary attainment. MCAN selected The Kresge Foundation based on several factors including:

  • Philosophical support for MCAN’s mission and activities;
  • Financial support for MCAN’s mission and activities; and
  • Thought-partnership for MCAN’s staff and board.

The Flagship Award: Developing Sustainable Networks

2015 Honoree: Destination Education
Destination Education has provided leadership in the creation of effective alliances focused on postsecondary attainment. MCAN selected Destination Education based on several factors including:

  • Commitment to Collective Impact;
  • Strong leadership team; and
  • Use of disaggregated data to make change.

The Compass Award: Advocating for Attainment

2015 Honoree: Governor Rick Snyder
Gov. Snyder has launched and/or championed bold proposals that focus on increasing Michigan’s postsecondary attainment rate. MCAN selected Governor Snyder based on several factors including:

  • Increased financial support for higher education institutions;
  • Vocal philosophical commitment to increasing postsecondary attainment; and
  • Strong and increasing support for MCAN in the state budget.

The Board of Directors Award

2015 Honoree: State Superintendent Michael P. Flanagan

MCAN’s Board of Directors saw fit to create a sixth award that will be presented when the occasion arises, but may not always be a consistent offering. The Board of Directors Award was given to Supt. Flanagan in honor of his impending retirement, and for being particularly supportive of MCAN’s mission and the Big Goal – 60 percent by 2025.

Have you shared YOUR commitment to Goal 2025? Conference participants shared their commitments in our photo booth, but the sharing shouldn’t stop. Post your commitment on Twitter or Facebook using hashtag #Goal2025.


 Author: Brandy Johnson, executive director, Michigan College Access NetworkBrandyCommitment2015 1

Posted: April 15, 2015

Achieving the Dream, Part 2

Increasing Student Attendance Rates from Start to Finish

The Start to Finish Program was started in fall 2012 on the campus of Lake Michigan College. The program was created to increase overall success and graduation rates among Promise Zone students.  After researching data and surveying faculty, attendance was identified as a key indicator of success. The initial Promise Zone cohort from 2011 had an attendance rate of 63 percent, compared to an average overall rate of over 80 percent for the college. We decided to implement an aggressive attendance strategy for this cohort. Our program is layered with various services, but attendance monitoring has definitely been one of the most effective.

Life coach-TiaraWeb

Life coach-RoyWeb

Courtney-life coach picWeb

  Life coaches and students
Lake Michigan College Start to Finish Program

Our life coaches work hard to establish a solid rapport with each student as soon as they show up on campus. This makes it a lot easier to have conversations in regards to attendance. The I.T. department provides our office with a daily report of the previous day’s attendance. The office assistant reviews the attendance every day and contacts each student who has missed at least one class, to inquire about the reason and offer assistance if needed. After two absences, the life coach intervenes. We initially thought contacting a student after each absence was excessive, so decided to contact them after two classes were missed. This was often times too late for several reasons:

  • Quite a few students had a hard time digging themselves out of the hole created by just two absences;
  • For each day they are not in class, students could be missing out on valuable participation points;
  • Some instructors even decrease letter grades after a set number of absences; and
  • It can take a couple days to communicate with students because contact information changed quite often. 

Because the repercussions of two absences can multiply quickly, contact after every absence gave us a better chance of addressing the issue before it was too late. The most common reasons for absences are usually transportation, work conflicts and personal issues. Classroom fear also is significant, as several students missed class because they didn’t complete assignments or understand what was being discussed during class.  In each situation, life coaches work closely with the students to guide them through the problem solving process, provide resources, reiterate the importance of attendance, and provide encouragement.

As a result, we were able to increase our attendance consistently each year, which resulted in significant gains in grade-point averages, completion rates and retention. This past fall semester, our students completed the semester with an 84 percent attendance rate; less than one point below the college average. Perhaps the most surprising result of our aggressive attendance monitoring is the reaction we received from students. Most students said they appreciated the contact because it was nice to know someone was concerned. Other students exclaimed, “I make sure I go to every class so you all won’t call me every day.”  Either way, it works!

Guest Author: Louis Thomas, Lake Michigan College

Posted: April 8, 2015

Achieving the Dream

Program Spotlight

We all know that community college is a great postsecondary option for many students. In fact, nearly one half of all students AchievingDreamseeking higher education choose to attend a community college. Unfortunately, only 52 percent of Michigan students successfully complete a degree, earn a certificate, or transfer to another institution within six years.

Achieving the Dream is a national initiative leading the most comprehensive, evidence-based reform movement in history, for community college student success in higher education. Through the Achieving the Dream College Completion Innovation Fund, the Michigan College Access Network, in partnership with The Kresge Foundation, has supported several Michigan colleges in their quest to improve student outcomes. These grants have assisted colleges in creating, expanding and sustaining research-based interventions that help more students, particularly low-income students and students of color, persist through degree completion. 

This year, MCAN awarded funding to Bay College, Jackson College and Lake Michigan College. Each of these colleges has developed unique and innovative programs to promote student success and improve student outcomes.  Over the next few weeks, we will showcase these institutions and how each is working to make a college degree a reality for students in Michigan. Watch our blog to learn more!

Sarah Anthony headshot 2013Author: Sarah Anthony, director of finance and strategic partnerships, Michigan College Access Network

Posted: April 1, 2015

Reasons You Can't Afford to Miss the 2015 MCAN Conference: A Top 10 List

The 5th annual Michigan College Access Network Conference is right around the corner! MCAN’s conference provides high energy presenters, engaging breakout sessions, top-notch networking opportunities, innovative strategy sharing, and more. If you haven’t already heard, new to the conference this year is a pre-conference and an awards dinner. The pre-conference sessions will allow for a deeper dive into a few high demand content areas, and the awards dinner will recognize five outstanding college access advocates from across the state for their dedication to the field along with a celebration of our achievements as a state throughout the past five years. You will surely be bummed if you miss the conference this year!

It can often be tough to decide whether it is worth the time to leave your office and attend a conference. We all seem to have more to do and less time to do it in, and attending a conference may feel like it is putting you behind at the office. I would argue that attending a conference on a topic of interest can often provide the necessary fuels to re-energize your workplace and bring new ideas and innovative practices to your work. As we search for more sunshine and warmer weather here in Michigan, we could all use extra motivation the MCAN conference is sure to provide!

Take advice from the pros and check out the list below of things to consider and keep in mind as you decide whether or not to attend the 2015 MCAN Conference. Check out more about the MCAN Conference, the events, the speakers, and the topics and consider joining us on April 12 and 13.

MCAN's Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Miss the 2015 Conference

10. Get out of the office! - Who doesn’t want to get out of the office from time to time? Living only in a digital cave has its perks, but getting out of the office can be good for you, your co-workers, loved ones, and yes, for your work.

9. Minimized Distractions - Whether attending a session and learning or talking with other attendees or presenters, it’s very difficult to multi-task. In contrast, webinar attendees can email, skype, instant message, and take phone calls which fragments thinking and hinders meaningful productivity.

8. Face to Face Always Trumps Digital Encounters - Good, better, best. It is good to connect over email, it is better to connect on the phone, but the best way to connect is face to face, and always will be. People are not avatars.

7. Meet Industry Leaders - If you aren’t a leader in your office, one way to become one is to meet those around you who are. At events, leaders are often encouraged to be available to attendees to chat and answer questions. Pull out your camera and take a photo with them, ask them some questions, learn a few things.

6. Learn Current Strategies That Are Working - At events, people tend to loosen up and will often share some of their best practices, like innovative strategies that are working, or have bombed. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn what is tried and true.

5. Being Around Like-Minded People is Inspirational - This is self explanatory, and especially true in the education space, we are unique group of people. We all need inspiration from time to time.

4. Make Connections for Others – It’s easy to meet someone at a conference who has a unique interest that’s similar to someone with whom you are already connected. It’s often hard to make those connections meaningful digitally, but in person these connections can be game changers. Making connections is not only helpful for the connected, but is also fun for the facilitator.

3. Build Your Rolodex - It’s important to build a rolodex, an active rolodex with a purpose. This can be the most valuable asset in any work setting. The networking opportunities from a conference can sometimes be the most beneficial part of the gathering.

2. Opportunity for Partnerships - This is huge. Meeting like-minded people not only inspires (point 5), but it creates an opportunity to build partnerships and opportunities for collaboration.

1. The Best Ideas Come When You Least Expect It - The human mind is an amazing organ. It is always working, even though we may not be “working.” Some of the best strategic ideas can come when you are in the shower, mowing the lawn, or running errands. Events provide a sort of down time that can till the soil of brilliance.


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of professional development for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: March 26, 2015

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