Michigan's College Access Blog

College is a Mind and Body Experience - Part 2

What's the difference between a cognitive and sensory response? In Part 1 we discussed the difference between stress and trauma and the many ways students manage stress. If you read Part 1, you most likely only engaged the cognitive or thinking parts of yourself as you sought to understand the contents of this blog. As you continue reading, shift part of your attention to the physical position of your body, noticing any discomfort or pressure points that are holding you in the current posture. As you continue reading, can you adjust your posture in ways to relieve pressure or discomfort? Next, continue reading and turn your attention to your breathing. Are your breaths full and easy? Finally, notice any physical sensations present in response to reading this blog. Is your brow furled as you think through the content? Do you feel a physical release with any "Aha" moments of understanding?

mindbodyexperienceblogSensory or body-based responses to the regular stresses of college involve paying attention to physical sensations and responding in immediate and simple ways to relieve strain and pressure in the moment. A student who completes the financial aid application will have achieved a significant accomplishment on the journey to college. However, by taking a few extra minutes at key points in the application process to attend to any physical buildup of strain or pressure generated by the process gives students the opportunity to physically adjust their bodies and breathing to release any extra tension, and not store it.

College is ultimately a mind and body experience, and most of the college experience is an exercise of conditioning the mind. Attention to the body, and particularly how stress is felt and stored, is critical to achieve balance and well-being for students. There are many ways for students to respond to the pressures and strains of stress that show up in their bodies. Those working in direct service with students can encourage students to find that balance through quiet activities such as a walk in nature or feeling the rhythm in music or through more physical movement such as running, biking and swimming. By turning the mind's attention to one's physical body, each person will know what activity or action is optimal for them in that moment. All students have the capacity to develop the habit of attending to the physical sensations in their body and breath, and to make adjustments that bring greater physical ease in the moment. Student who exercise this habit regularly, will not only experience greater success at cognitive tasks, but will also enjoy more fully the wide range of opportunities along the college journey. As you help students prepare for the steps to college, consider helping them prepare for the full mind and body experience.

Want to learn more? Watch the recorded webinar, College Is...a Mind and Body Experience from September 23, 2014.

Guest Author: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. Professor of Social Work and Director of the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

Posted: November 20, 2014

College is a Mind and Body Experience - Part 1

Now that Michigan College Application Week is over, students will move to financial aid planning and selecting where they will go to college. This process can be stressful for students, which can adversely impact one's well-being. Stress is a state of strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. If unattended, stress pressures will worsen and eventually compromise a student's abilities in a multitude of ways. For example, stress can impact students in how they think (e.g., memory problems, constant worrying, poor decision-making), how they feel (e.g., overwhelmed, irritable, depressed), how they act (e.g., drastic changes to eating and sleeping schedules, withdrawing, use of substances to cope), and how they experience their bodies (e.g., aches and pains, frequent colds).

If you work directly with students as a high school counselor or college adviser, take a moment to think about your students and how they have experienced stress in the past.

While the steps of college application, financial aid planning and preparing for college enrollment are similar for all students, the pressures associated with each of these steps will result in unequal and higher levels of stress response depending upon a student's individual circumstances. Students living with trauma are more likely to feel heightened levels of stress during any step of the college application. This includes but is not limited to: students who have experienced or currently are experiencing homelessness, are veterans with PTSD, grew up in extreme poverty, are navigating college applications without the guidance of a trusted adult who has known them for many years, and students whose childhood was marked by abuse and neglect and placement in foster care.

The link between stress and trauma is best understood as a continuum of functioning. At one end of the continuum is "healthy and normal" functioning where individuals express normal mood fluctuations and maintain normal levels of activity and routine. At the other end of the continuum is "severe and persistent functional impairment" where a student experiences panic attacks, excessive fatigue, or suicidal thoughts; and, often have a history that includes a clinical mental health diagnosis. While the number of students at the severe end of the stress-trauma continuum is small, the lessons we can learn from them about how students respond to stress are great.


Earlier I stated that stress is a state of strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Trauma, in turn, is the case of people's bodies getting stuck in a physiological stress response. In other words, stress and trauma both are sensory or bodily experiences. While Bessel van der Kolk, noted psychiatrist and researcher in the area of post-traumatic stress, points out the conventional treatment for traumatic stress is "talk therapy," or cognitive approaches, a more direct response to help students process a stress response is a sensory or bodily-based approach.

How do we help students process stress in this way? Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss the difference between a cognitive and sensory response.

Yvonne casual 399x600Guest Author: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. Professor of Social Work and Director of the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

Posted: November 18, 2014

Community Collaboration: DCAN Secures Community Partnership for Attainment Grant

LCAN Spotlight: Detroit College Access Network

You've heard of Goal 2025, but did you know there are now 75 communities across the country working strategically with Lumina Foundation to develop goals and action plans to drive their community toward increased postsecondary attainment? This summer Detroit was selected to join the cities in Lumina Foundation's Community Partnership for Attainment. The Detroit College Access Network is leading the efforts and most recently received access to a $170,000 allocation over a 2.5 year period tied to the achievement of their goals.

LuminaVideoLumina's strategy is designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with postsecondary credentials. The collaborative effort connects participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community's needs and the well-being of its residents. 

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) focuses on serving all high school students in Detroit, with a concerted effort on low-income students, first-generation college going students, African American males, and Latino students. The purpose of DCAN's collaboration is to increase postsecondary attainment among low-income students of color in Detroit high schools by promoting a college-going culture that removes aspirational, academic and financial barriers; by aiding students in the transition from high school to college to ensure that they successfully enroll in high quality postsecondary institutions; and by working with postsecondary institutions to ensure that they persist and graduate.

Lumina's goal for this work is to mobilize all sectors in a community to improve postsecondary attainment. Communities, including Detroit, partner with Lumina and national thought leaders through 2016 to establish attainment goals.

DCAN's goal is to see at least a 5% increase in the local college enrollment rate from 49% to 54% by 2016. It will be accomplished by improving the citywide college access environment for students and counselors by improving and aligning resources for navigating the college-going process. Over the next two years, the number and the level of trainings for counselors advising students on college in the city will also be increased. Due to this and other citywide strategies, students will become more aware of and prepared for the pre-college steps necessary to be on postsecondary pathways starting in the middle school grades.

"It is our intention that Lumina's support will bolster the great work already being done in our Partnership cities, improving results there and showing cities across the country just how transformational education can be for communities' social, economic and civic strength," said Haley Glover, strategy director at Lumina Foundation overseeing this work.

To learn more about the Detroit College Access Network please contact Ashley Johnson at ajohnson(a)excellentschoolsdetroit.org or visit http://moveed.org/partner/detroitcollegenetwork/.

To learn more about Lumina Foundation's Community Partnership for Attainment Grant visit www.luminafoundation.org/grants/community_partnership.html

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

Posted: November 12, 2014

Engaging Elected Officials

Vote-2014Today is Election Day, and as elected officials for Ingham County and Bath Township, we can tell you just how critical it is to engage your local officials early and often. Local College Access Networks are drivers of change, but this happens when the leadership team includes a cross-sector of high-level leaders from the community including your mayor or township trustee or county commissioners.

"But our mayor is just too busy to worry about the LCAN."

We hear this often. Is it hard to get our attention? Sure. Like you, we're wearing many hats and are juggling multiple priorities at once. Is that a reason to ignore us? Absolutely not. Elected officials are the voice of the community. We are in our positions today because we want to improve our communities with a highly educated workforce that will drive business and philanthropy.

Remember, college is a public good: Postsecondary educational opportunity and attainment are critical to a just and equitable society, strong economy and healthy communities. The data doesn't lie. The more you learn, the more likely you will vote and volunteer and be a more engaged citizen in your community. As elected officials, we want more of our community members invested in the community's health and growth. We want more of our citizens using their voice whether at the polls or writing letters and emails.

Are there endless ways the elected official can support the LCAN? Absolutely. They are a recognized face and voice to carry the college access message. They can provide inspiration and encouragement when needed. They can begin to shift the college-going culture in the community. For example, we're starting to see elected officials join our Governor in declaring Michigan College Application Week with a proclamation. Also, don't forget how the LCAN can support the elected official. The LCAN is the college access expert of the community who can provide quick data and talking points. Help them understand the benefits of a highly educated community.

What's next? Well, don't forget to vote! After today, schedule a meeting to meet with any newly elected officials. Introduce them to the LCAN and encourage them to join the leadership team. We like numbers! Show us the data and talk about the realities of college access in our community.

Sarah Anthony headshot 2013Authors:
Sarah Anthony, director of finance for the Michigan College Access Network and Ingham County Commissioner



Ryan Fewins-Bliss headshot 2013Ryan Fewins-Bliss, assistant director of network development for the Michigan College Access Network and Bath Township Trustee.

Posted: November 4, 2014

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