Michigan's College Access Blog

Maritime Training: A Compass and North Star to Guide our Work

Local College Access Networks  (LCANs) are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation and completion rates within their community. Each year, individuals working in an LCAN attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous, three-day comprehensive training in order to strengthen their college access strategy. 

Mark Litt serves as the LCAN Coordinator for the Wayne County College Access Network and attended Advanced Maritime Academy.

1. What was your biggest ah-ha moment?

The fact that during the “Great Recession” in the U.S., the huge masses of good people who lost their jobs were almost all workers in the “high school or less” educational category. Employment for workers with college degrees or certificates remained fairly steady and even increased toward the end of those dismal economic years. In my opinion, no other single fact so clearly highlights the critical importance of college access work and the need to achieve our goal of 60% college attainment by 2025!

2. How does your own background and experience inform you about the value of the Maritime 101 training?

After working 10 years implementing change processes in K-16 education, I can truly say that the MCAN model and staff are a breath of fresh air. Historically, when I’ve started a new project, I have either been handed several struggling legacy programs, or given no guidance at all and tasked to create all of my own programming from scratch.  In contrast, the MCAN model is a comprehensive, research-based, data-driven process that comes with great support. In addition, the MCAN staff has been a pleasure to work with and learn from. As individuals, I found them to be brilliant and committed—with a touch of humility, a good sense of humor, and a lot of fun to work with.

3. What is the one thing you are excited to implement that you learned?

Actually, I am eager to implement the complete MCAN collective impact model.  While each of its individual components provides value, the only way to reap its full benefit is to implement the model in its entirety. The asset map and data analysis are the foundational elements that really drive all of the other components. I am excited to guide our leadership team into taking a fresh pass at our county’s college enrollment and attainment data, and use that analysis to refocus the other foundational elements of our Organizational Plan (i.e. Common Agenda and Data Dashboard.) This will lay the framework for a new, high quality implementation of MCAN’s entire model in Wayne County over the next few years—a new foundation for success!


Author: Mark Litt, Wayne County College Access Network College Access Coordinator
Date Posted: Sept. 24, 2018 

Navigating Challenges and Sharing Insight at the Maritime Academy

Local College Access Networks (LCANs) are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation and completion rates within their community. Each year, they attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous three-day comprehensive training in order to strengthen their college access strategy.

Melissa Miller serves as the LCAN Coordinator for the WE CAN! Newaygo County and attended Advanced Maritime.

Seeking to impact large-scale social challenges necessitates a different type of thinking and contribution from key stakeholders in order to shift mindsets, change hearts and grow cultures aimed to achieve more for those impacted. Collective impact is different because it encompasses a type of synergy around a shared vision and process that rises above collaborative action. However, beginning this endeavor of collective impact is complex work. We as LCAN Coordinators so eagerly want to solve these intricate issues of today and tomorrow efficiently, effectively and sustainably. Yet the truth is this work is multi-faceted, ambiguous, takes time but in the end is completely worth it. If a silver bullet existed to solve every community’s educational and economic needs, then we would not continue to hear the weighted concerns of caring families, or every sector ranging from private, public and non-profit. The fact is, higher education access and attainment impacts all of us. 

Thankfully, organizations like the Michigan College Access Network strive to develop and strengthen local strategies to impact the Big Goal of educational attainment. Through the development of local college access networks, MCAN is committing to growing collective impact in local communities across Michigan. Serving as an LCAN Coordinator for WE CAN! Newaygo County, I have had the privilege to learn and appreciate the complexity of collective impact and feel the growing pains of progress as well as witness the triumphs of collective action. It is easy, as a new coordinator, to feel overwhelmed by the answers you do not have or isolated by the challenges you face as you rally around community stakeholders. However, it is imperative to remember to take a deep breath and realize that collective impact is not about you having to have all the answers. Collective action on system changes and opportunities takes time to understand, cultivate, and grow. Remember that you are a key part of the system that is coming together intentionally to ignite and push the educational movement in your community for a reason. Everyone has a part to contribute and as a new LCAN Coordinator, your role is to help those around you stay focused on the process and the goals of the network.

That is the beauty of the support garnered from MCAN. They intimately understand the challenges faced by LCAN Coordinators striving to have system-level changes in their communities and they step up to walk alongside you to ensure you feel supported. The Maritime Academy is a strong example of that intentional support that continues to prove the value of shared time together with colleagues. MCAN brings in subject experts to grow your understanding of collective impact and cultivate a culture of learning. During the three-day training, MCAN staff can’t help but share their authentic care and enthusiasm about your growth and development as a partner in the college access movement. By attending the Advanced Maritime Academy, it became clear to me that interacting with other LCAN colleagues offered a space to listen to one another, engage in constructive problem solving and provided an opportunity to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Even though every community revolves around a localized strategy, LCAN colleagues are able to provide wise insights on lessons learned from their communities, share applicable resources and examples to aid forward movement, and serve as a helpful sounding board for navigating both challenges and opportunities. For these reasons, I am thankful to have participated in the Advanced Maritime Academy because I truly believe that being a part of this larger movement and group of strong leaders has helped me to better serve Newaygo County.


Author: Melissa Miller, WE CAN! Newaygo County Student Advancement Consultant
Posted: Sept. 18, 2018


My Experience at Maritime Academy

Local College Access Networks (LCANs) are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business, and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation, and completion rates within their community. Each year, they attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous three day comprehensive training, in order to strengthen their college access strategy.

Ann Konarski serves as the LCAN Coordinator for the Lapeer County Access Network and attended Advanced Maritime.

Advanced Maritime allowed me time to really immerse myself in the nuances of Collective Impact. So often, in our daily network routines, we look at the big picture and the next immediate move. The Academy lets us stop to really take every idea word-for-word and recognize the small picture, without the time constraints of our network tasks.  I love that I have time to really connect with my colleagues, learn who they are, what they’re doing in their own network while also looking at the minutia of best practices. Sometimes it’s all in the details!

Here in Lapeer County, we are focusing on Leadership Team development, engagement, and sustainability. Our group spent the entire Maritime Academy concentrating on the benchmarks including, where we currently are and where we want to head.  The exactness of language and plethora of examples really identified to me the path we need to walk with all our network partners and leaders.

As with my initial Maritime Academy, I left feeling terrifically energized and ready to tackle anything.  This training really puts me “in the zone.” It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s power-packed with great information. The intensity of three full days is such a great jump start to the next chapter our network is working toward.  Just when I feel inadequacies in my coordinating efforts, I learn and feel and see how great our network is really doing.  This is enhanced because of the care and passion of MCAN leaders and all my LCAN peers.

Thanks so much for allowing all of us to be who we are, in our individual geographic locations, and yet make us feel and know we are part of this big picture. This entire group of people cares so greatly about their students, community, and the state.  It’s impressive to witness the drive and passion associated with these networks and coordinated efforts and initiatives.  It is teamwork at its finest. Lapeer County is working hard and is very appreciative!


Author: Ann Konarski, Lapeer County CAN! Coordinator
Posted: Sept. 10, 2018


College Adviser to Admissions Counselor

Dan Mitchell is a current board member for the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and recently completed his service as a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser in Alanson and Pellston Public Schools in northern Michigan. Currently, he is an Admission Counselor at Northern Michigan University. 

1. Tell us about your experience as a college adviser.  What was the biggest lesson you learned through this experience?

When I went to Michigan State University as an 18-year-old, I assumed that every other student there came from a background nearly identical to mine. Even though my experiences with student government and serving as a Resident Assistant broadened my horizons and introduced me to diverse people, I still maintained the idea that every other student’s college-going process was just like mine. It wasn’t until I started my work at   as a college adviser that I realized how aloof I was in that sense. Through my formal training and through talking to teachers and staff members at the schools, I quickly developed a new framework of what college is, how certain barriers to college exist for different people, and that college can open doors not just for individuals, but for families, communities, and even states. What I’ve learned as a college adviser is that everyone’s trajectory to and through college looks different. Working in the field of higher education now, I know it will make me a better counselor and educator to see each student’s unique set of experiences as a strength.

2. What is your advice for incoming future advisers?

For incoming advisers, my biggest advice is to remember the importance of the personal connections you make with students, high school staff, community members, and even college representatives. I know college access groups need to pay attention to informative data and numbers: Goal 2025 and “moving the needle” are branded into my brain. However, it is important to remember that behind every dataset or individual percentile is a student, their family and their future. The statistics and the stories need to go hand in hand. A high FAFSA completion rate looks good to donors and can earn an adviser a nice plaque, but it also means that more families will have less of a financial burden when pursuing higher education. Personal connections are also important when it comes to delivering information to students, which is why I tried to incorporate fun, memorable, and interactive components to all of my student presentations. I want my students to have the image of my face photo-shopped on Iron Man’s body stuck in their brain forever as a reminder that when they go to college, they need to assemble a College Success Team, just like Tony Stark had the Avengers. Personal connections matter and I am so grateful to be working in an Admissions Office where personal attention to every prospective student is a core value.

3. Tell us how your experiences have shaped your choice to stay in the college access field?

I have always loved school and education. I was the kid that cried on the last day of school for years. When I was seven, I said that I wanted to be the president of Harvard. I have joked that I want to be a student the rest of my life, but that does not pay the bills, so my goal is to stay in higher education working with college students in whatever capacity I can be helpful and impactful. I enjoy being an educator: teaching biology labs at Northern Michigan University is exciting and rewarding, but I see my role as an Admissions Counselor as an educational role, as well. The best part of my job is that I get to help students and their families realize what’s possible. There are more opportunities available to you in college than at any other time in your life. In both my College Adviser and Admissions Counselor roles, it is important that I help people take action toward those possibilities, while trying to remove stress and obstacles.

MCAN features people and partners in the community who are doing exceptional work in the college access field. If you would like to be considered for a spotlight feature or you would like to recommend someone to us, please contact Emma Walter, MCAN's strategy assistant for external engagement, by sending an email to Emma(a)micollegeaccess.org. 


Author: Dan Mitchell, Northern Michigan University Admissions Counselor, MCAN Board Member
Posted: Sept. 5, 2018

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