Michigan's College Access Blog

My “Drive” for College Access

Christopher Tremblay is the current Director of External Engagement at the Michigan College Access Network.

Prior to joining MCAN in August as the Director of External Engagement, I had been active in the college access movement for eight years.  My first participation was as a leadership team member for Project ACE (Access to College for Everyone), a local college access network that existed in Wayne, Michigan.  Over the years, I had considered college access to be my “professional hobby” since I was an enrollment management professional.  During my affiliation with MCAN, I served as an external evaluator for MCAN grants, published an article about college access marketing, became a member of MCAN, served on the taskforce that launched MCAN’s school counselor training program, served on the implementation committee for the original College Application Week, to name a few.  As you can see, my roots in college access run deep.

As a first-generation college graduate, I am grateful to my mentors who showed me the way through college and into my professional career.  Those mentors include Amy Schwentor, Beth-Gregory Wallis, Marian Hawkins, Donna St. John, Diane Ariza, Pam Liberacki and Stanley Henderson.

In 2014, I was inspired to co-create the Journal of College Access with Dr. Patrick O’Connor.  Since the first issue in 2015, the Journal has published 28 articles that have been downloaded some 9,000+ times!  It has been rewarding to showcase the important work and research happening throughout the United States.  We always are seeking new submissions, so give it some thought.

In honor of my new “drive” for college access in my new role, I felt it was fitting that I had a license plate to showcase my commitment to MCAN and Goal 2025 (60% of adults 25-64 with a postsecondary credential).  Most of you know that I have expressed my professional work with a personalized license plate since I first became “MRWMU” in 1995.  So the trend continues.  (Note:  Brandy Johnson thought I should have gone for “MRMCAN,” but I was able to surprise her when I presented “MCAN 60.”

In January-February, I am thrilled to be teaching a graduate level course on college access and equity for students at WMU, my alma mater (Go Broncos!).  This will give us another opportunity to shape the minds of others interested in this important work. 

I look forward to serving Michigan’s citizens by advocating for change that enables more Michiganders to pursue and earn a postsecondary credential!  #goal2025

Author: Christopher Tremblay, Director of External Engagement, Michigan College Access Network
Posted: Nov. 27, 2018

Alumni Feature: Lindsay Mieden

Lindsay Mieden is a former College Adviser who served at Woodhaven High School. Lindsay currently serves as a school counselor at Gabriel Richard Catholic High School.

“Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”

-Rita Pierson, Educator

TED Talks 2013

 Pursuing and accepting the College Adviser position with AdviseMI was the best decision I’ve ever made. I had no idea at the time, but those two years of service set me up on the journey that I am on today, and I truly do not know where, or who, I would be without it. After graduation with my Bachelor of Arts in degree in psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in April 2015, my future path did not yet feel clear. I knew the general work that I wanted to do—work with youth and make a difference—but I was not sure of how to get there. However, the moment that I read the College Adviser job description, my excitement went through the roof, feeling that I was meant for this job. Knowing that I would be in a position to help students have access to postsecondary education, along with the financial resources for those opportunities, felt like my life calling. Little did I know, my college adviser position would be so much more.

My experience serving Woodhaven High School in Brownstown, Michigan was fulfilling. The staff was extremely supportive, and the students were incredible! Seeing them excited about the college application process and all of the potential opportunities ahead of them was incredible, and I felt honored to be part of their journey.

However, it did not take long before I realized that this work was more than assisting with career assessments, college applications, and financial aid letters. These students had real life challenges that they faced each day. These obstacles in their lives were tough for them to navigate during their high school years, and I knew that if they were not given the tools to overcome them at that point in their lives, their chances of making it through their postsecondary education were slim. It was with this realization that I knew I wanted to become a school counselor, and I enrolled in Central Michigan University’s Clinical and School Counseling program.

I have since graduated with my Master of Arts in counseling and am working as a school counselor at Gabriel Richard Catholic High School in Riverview, Michigan Now, I help my students not only with the college application process but also with their overall development. Whether they face mental health obstacles, academic struggles, or fears about the next chapter of their life, it is my job to help them overcome that. Working with students on developing their mental health has quickly become one of my biggest passions, and that has stemmed from my role as a College Adviser. 

To some, it may seem strange that postsecondary planning and mental health are linked, but I would disagree. It is my belief that everything we do, or not do, in life stems from our mental health: self-confidence, ability to cope, resiliency, and ability to adapt to new situations. I think to myself, “What if every student struggling with depression knew that things would get better? What if every student who was labeled as a behavior issue had help identifying their strengths instead of being told about their weaknesses? What if every student who struggled academically had an adult who believed in them?” High school is such a delicate time in a student’s life, and if each child truly had a champion who never gave up on them, imagine what they could become. I am blessed to not only have a job that allows me to do this, but also to work with a staff who believes in this message as well.

I do not know what the next chapter of my life holds, because I would have never imagined that I would be where I am. The experiences that the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) provided me has set me up on the path that has become my career. I am beyond blessed and privileged to do what I love every day, and I owe that all to MCAN.


Lindsay Mieden, MA, SCL, LLPC
School Counselor (A-K)
Gabriel Richard Catholic High School



Michigan Needs to Commit to “Total Talent”

John Austin is the current Director of the Michigan Economic Center and former President of Michigan State Board of Education. Brandy Johnson is the current Executive Director of the Michigan College Access Network. Both serve as members of the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART).

Over a dozen years ago then-Governor Granholm charged Lt. Governor John Cherry and a coalition of state leaders to develop a plan to help Michigan dramatically increase the number of citizens with a postsecondary credential – an essential starting point for success in the modern economy. The Cherry Commission’s recommendations gave birth to the Michigan College Access Network and saw passage of state legislation to help more Michiganders be prepared for and be able to access and pay for essential higher education. 

As our economy and labor market has continued to change, today it is more important than ever that all Michiganders be equipped with the skills and education beyond high school to be prepared for the jobs of today, and those that will emerge tomorrow. 

We are very excited to share the work of a coalition of Michigan business, military, law enforcement, higher education, education, philanthropic and government leaders: the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART)—convened and facilitated by MCAN—who have laid out a new blueprint and call to action to build Michigan’s talent.

The “Total Talent” report challenges Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, her team, and the Legislature to act with greater urgency to meet Michigan’s talent gap. The report shows that while Michigan has increased its rate of postsecondary credential attainment to almost 44% of the population, those and communities with higher rates are the ones reaping economic gains in the form of job creating and employer attraction.

Today the pace of change in the workplace is accelerating–high-wage/skill jobs growing, middle-skill jobs changing, and low-skill jobs disappearing.  Since 2011, 99% of new jobs have required education past high school. Many workers are seeing jobs automated and facing dislocation—particularly in Michigan. To adapt, all Michiganders need some form of postsecondary credential as a starting point on an evolving career path, and lifelong acquisition of new skills and credentials as the workplace changes.

The report notes that Michigan has shifted the burden of paying for postsecondary education on to the backs of students and families and now has one of the highest shares of higher education costs being borne by students and families–6th highest in the nation. Michigan also has more workers than almost every state already on the job with some college, but no degree (20%) and these workers are at risk of seeing their occupations disappear. 

In recent years we have seen significant progress made by Michigan’s talent preparers —Michigan’s public and independent colleges and universities—to cut costs, get more bang for our taxpayer buck by improving access and creating efficient paths “to and through” postsecondary credential attainment and ensuring learners successfully complete degree and certification programs.

But to meet the needs of Michigan’s employers and equip our citizens with the tools they need to succeed, the report challenges the Governor-elect Whitmer and the Legislature to work more urgently to meet our goal of more than 60% of our citizens earning a degree or postsecondary certificate.

To accomplish this goal—MIHEART’s priority recommendations include significantly increasing state-provided need-based financial aid to make education past high school accessible and affordable for all students; and more aggressive state outreach and financial support for the 20% of Michigan workers already in the labor market with some college and no degree, so they can earn a credential that will allow them to get and keep a good job.

Other recommendations of MIHEART in “Total Talent” are to:

  • Improve career/college awareness and advising at high school and college levels
  • Enhance collaboration between K-12 and higher education institutions to improve alignment and acceptance of credit in rigorous academic areas
  • Improve transfer and credit acceptance between various higher education institutions for seamless learning and credential earning
  • Increase high school student participation in all forms of powerful and cost-saving early postsecondary credit-earning programs (dual enrollment, Early/Middle Colleges, CTE, and AP/IB course taking)
  • Enhance higher education institutions work in institutional completion and success strategies so all learners finish their programs and earn a valuable credential.

You can learn more about MIHEART and the Total Talent agenda at http://www.micollegeaccess.org/advocacy/miheart


Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director, Michigan College Access Network 




Author: John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center, Former President of Michigan State Board of Education





Posted: Nov. 9, 2018

What Service means to me: An Adviser's Reflection

AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college.

Alexa Girouard is a second-year adviser who serves at Belding High School.

Just coming out of college, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA doing College Access and Success and Student Engagement work at Davenport University and with the Challenge Scholars programs with Grand Rapids Public Schools. This position ignited my passion for higher education and the way it impacts students’ lives. My service in VISTA was more about capacity building and indirect service, so I started to gain a hunger for doing service more directly and building stronger connections with students to make an impact. I then moved to serving with MCAN’s AdviseMI program as a College Adviser. Both of these programs have led me to be the passionate, young professional and confident leader I am today. I am so fortunate to do this nonprofit work and serve my incredible students, as well as work alongside so many intelligent, self-less, passionate advisers in my cohort. I am constantly grateful to be surrounded by powerful and empowering people, mentors and colleagues, who continually inspire me. I have learned so much from my students, my fellow advisers, and our phenomenal leadership at MCAN. Although this work is not always easy, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made and my experience means the world to me.

 My current service is so vastly different than my experience with VISTA, and they have both prepared me to advance myself. VISTA assisted me to become a young professional and gain my passion for higher education. AdviseMI has fostered my growth and has given me the opportunity to continue to cultivate these skills and attributes I have gained. I have grown more confident in my abilities, knowledge, leadership skills, and my ability to create relationships with students. At Belding, I have been able to help so many students take down barriers to postsecondary education, decide to pursue college to better themselves and erupt with happiness when I tell them they have the option to go to college when they never thought it was possible.  Being a hub of information and a resource for students and families in my community has been an absolute privilege. I have been able to increase their FAFSA submissions by 20%, held a dual-county college fair at my school, and held an event at our local community college for students and parents to come and learn more about colleges and programs.

 Service has shaped my life, my passion, and my professional and personal growth in very significant and special ways. Being a service member is the most valuable and rewarding position, and being able to help others and their communities come together and excel is just extraordinary. Being an AmeriCorps member means being a part of something much bigger than yourself, and willing to do the grassroots work as a puzzle piece of a larger solution for our communities. My time as a service member has brought me to some of the most amazing rewards of serving others, the most wonderful people and leaders, and facilitated some difficult lessons along the way. Being a service member teaches you about the world around you, and about other people’s challenges, which makes you become a person who searches for solutions. Service work is about entering a community, asking what they need, and doing what you can to advance that community, and in turn, to make the world a better place.

Author: Alexa Girouard, Second-Year AdviseMI Adviser, Belding High School
Posted: Nov. 6, 2018

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