Michigan's College Access Blog

Charting a New and Improved Course

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Above: The Constituent-Sea graphic shows the relationship between a developing LCAN and its constituents.

Below: The Network Navigator graphic represents the relationship between leadership team and staff activities, organizations' individual activities, and collaborative action, as they relate to the LCAN.


Lessons We Have Learned 

In February, Michigan College Access Network proudly introduced the second edition of Charting the Course: A community’s guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact. This updated version of the publication was developed from MCAN’s experience of working to build local college access networks in partnership with more than 50 communities from throughout the state of Michigan and multiple communities from across the country. Since Charting the Course was first published in 2013, MCAN has fine-tuned its recommended LCAN development process. We are eager to share this information with our partners, funders and local networks; following are highlights of the changes. 

Revision of the 10 Steps
The second edition of Charting the Course still contains the 10-step process for building a network. However, the order, descriptions, and names for some of those steps have changed. As MCAN assessed how LCANs were implementing the steps, it became clear that there was some deviation from the recommended process. We discovered that most networks were deviating from the steps in the same way, and realized there must be something to learn from.

The 10 steps are now ordered in a way that is more representative of the network-building process. MCAN also has learned more about best practices for building networks, which caused some significant changes in how we describe each step. Once the changes were made, a better-fitting name for the step was often necessary. With that in mind, the 10 steps now better reflect the process that is described, and each step builds upon the foundation laid by previous steps.

National Examples 
Charting the Course: Second Edition is intended for a national audience. Like the first edition, much of the information draws upon the experience of building LCANs in Michigan. However, the information and resources are useful to communities throughout the country. New to this edition, the samples and templates include documents from organizations based not only in Michigan, but also other states. Our good friends at Lumina Foundation, who funded both the first and second editions, connected MCAN to many collaboratives through their Community Partnership for Attainment grant program. MCAN has been serving as a coach for nine of their 75 grantee communities, and is a technical assistance partner to the entire national cohort.

New and Improved Graphics 
The latest edition of Charting the Course contains new and improved graphics, which help to more effectively illustrate the examples and concepts that are discussed. We think readers will especially enjoy the new and improved K-12 Pipeline graphic, the phases of constituent-sea development, and the Network Navigator graphic. Additionally, the book utilizes a vibrant color scheme and clearly displays the symbols that represent the five conditions of collective impact. These reoccurring colors and symbols help guide readers through the content and make the key themes easier to identify.

We hope you enjoy the second edition of Charting the Course as much as we do. Be sure to download a free copy!


Ryan webAuthor: Ryan Fewins-Bliss
Posted: March 30, 2016

Sixth Annual MCAN Conference Highlights Impact of Higher Education

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College advisers from the AdviseMI, Michigan State University and University of Michigan AmeriCorps programs gather together at the MCAN conference to celebrate AmeriCorps week.

College Changes Everything

Michigan College Access Network hosted its sixth annual conference in Lansing and welcomed more than 450 college access professionals and leaders during the two days. The conference theme, “College Changes Everything,” focused on highlighting personal stories and showcasing the impact postsecondary education makes in communities and personal lives through a pre-conference, 35 breakout sessions, and three keynote speakers.

During the conference, MCAN asked participants to share their personal journeys and stories of how college changed everything; and after some amazing editing at Such Video, unveiled it for everyone to see during Day 2 lunch. For all who participated and shared your stories – thank you. MCAN's work wouldn’t be successful without the passion of individuals like those in this video who personally understand the game-changing impact of a college education.

The 2015 College Access Impact Awards ceremony was so successful, that MCAN decided to make it a permanent part of its annual conference. On the evening of March 8, 2016, Michigan College Access Network honored 22 organizations and individuals whose efforts have gone above and beyond to improve postsecondary attainment. The eight award categories recognized individuals and organizations that have had a tremendous impact on increasing college readiness, participation, and completion in Michigan, particularly among low-income and first-generation students and students of color.

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One of three conference keynote speakers, Dr. Damon F. Arnold shares his personal story about the impact of higher education, and the need to set the bar high for all students.

All of the individuals and organizations recognized from this year’s awards have played a vital role in sparking change statewide and in their communities. This year’s award winners are a fantastic group of individuals and organizations who are on the ground and working to drive change by increasing the number of Michigan residents with postsecondary degrees and certificates in our state, including:

  • The Steward Award – Dr. Patrick O’Connor, associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Schools
    The Steward Award recognizes those who have dramatically contributed to increasing the skills, talent and knowledge of college access professionals in Michigan.

  • The Flagship Award – Launch Manistee
    The Flagship Award recognizes those who develop sustainable college access networks.

  • The Compass Award - Sen. Geoff Hansenand Rep. Tim Kelly
    The Compass Award recognizes relentless legislative advocates for postsecondary attainment.

  • The Beacon Award – 12 Partner Colleges from the AdviseMI program, including: Alma College, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Madonna University, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Michigan-Flint, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.The Beacon Award recognizes those who strengthen success through partnerships.

  • The Cardinal Award – Holton High School
    The Cardinal Award recognizes those who rally communities by promoting campaigns that create a sense of urgency around the postsecondary planning process.

  • The Chief Mate Award – Robert Drake, Jonesville High School counselor
    The Chief Mate Award goes to Robert Drake, the counselor at Jonesville High School, for his commitment to prioritizing college access, building a college-going culture at his high school, and creating a supporting environment to foster students’ postsecondary aspirations.

  • The Board of Directors Award – Lumina Foundation
    The Board of Directors Award goes to Lumina Foundation for their unconditional support of the LCAN concept and commitment to public policy change in Michigan.

  • The Ombudsman Award  Ellen Goedert, Michigan College Advising Corps; Ashley Justice, Michigan State University College Advising Corps; John Lockwood, AdviseMI
    Placing well-trained college advisers in high schools across the state creates strong partnerships with counselors and principals to embed a college-going culture in their building. The Ombudsman Award   honors three college advisers for their on-the-ground efforts in high schools and passion for college access. 

The MCAN staff is appreciative for the skill and professionalism of our presenters, who shared their expertise, resources and talent! We also thank our conference exhibitors and attendees - the college access professionals who dedicate their work to ensuring students reach higher and that Michigan meets Goal 2025.

Did you miss the conference? Check out this conference highlight reel built with Storify.


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of capacity building
Posted: March 16, 2016

Q&A with the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo

A Discussion About Baseline Data Reports

12.13 BaselineReport Data

Michigan College Access Network regularly advises local college access networks about the importance of developing publicly accessible data dashboards or baseline data reports. By establishing and communicating common measures and their baseline data, LCANs are better able to determine priority areas and increase organizational alignment, improving the community’s college access and success system. The transparent communication of shared data also helps members of the LCAN and the community at large to maximize collaboration and impact. 

MCAN frequently receives requests for examples of data dashboards and baseline data reports. The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo – a cradle to career education effort that includes the Kalamazoo College and Career Action Network – has recently published a fantastic example of a baseline data report. MCAN interviewed Amy Slancik, Director of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, to learn more about The Network’s efforts in producing the report. We hope that by sharing this information, LCANs will feel less intimidated by the process of developing their own data dashboards and reports!

Q 1:  How did The Network’s leadership team decide which content to include in its 2015 baseline data report? 

A 1:  As a member of the StriveTogether national partnership, we were encouraged to consider releasing a community baseline report so that we could have a fact-based, metric-driven report to rally the community. We conducted research on other cradle-to-career community baseline reports. We also had many discussions about what we want the report to say about our community’s current reality in terms of educational outcomes.

Q 2:  How does the Kalamazoo College and Career Action Network (CACAN) intend to use the report? 

A 2:  The data in the baseline report indicates significant gaps in college readiness between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students. This data supports CACAN’s decision to design intentional strategies that support low-income students by steering the network in a direction that serves the highest-need students of Kalamazoo County.

Q 3:  How was the report designed? Did the leadership team have initial thoughts on how it should look or did you let a creative team present ideas?  

A 3:  After doing our research on baseline reports released by other communities, we left the design work up to our communications team. The Learning Network’s communication team consists of a writer and a graphic designer. Our data team, including the Upjohn Institute, provided lots of data to be included. Feedback was then gathered from The Learning Network’s Leadership Council.

Q 4:  Approximately how much time was spent in the development of the content and supporting a designer to produce the final report? 

A 4:  It was probably about six months in total.

Q 5:  What was the budget for producing the report? 

A 5:  When staff time, printing and postage are considered, we spent roughly $19,000 to produce the report. The majority of the $19,000 was spent on contract time with our writer and graphic designer. 
Note: MCAN strongly believes that all LCANs should develop a data dashboard or baseline report. However, we realize that $19,000 is a significant expense for many organizations. The report can be as simple as a well-written, publicly accessible Word document, or a professionally designed full-color, print publication, as shared by The Learning Network. The important point is for LCANs to share this valuable data with their communities, and do it in such a way that it receives positive attention!

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Q 6:  How will the report be updated year-to-year? 

A 6:  Each year we will provide a Baseline Report Card that updates the community-level outcomes and highlights the contributing indicators or small changes that contribute to needle-moving results. The Report Card will also highlight gaps and opportunities in the community, and show where the community has room for improvement.

Q 7:  Where is the baseline report available? Can community members easily access it?

A 7:  We share the report regularly via social media outlets and it alsocan be found on our website.The report is also available in print and has been shared both in the community and across the state.

Q 8:  What suggestions do you have for Local College Access Networks as they prepare their first public dashboard or annual baseline data report? 

A 8:  As you can imagine, developing a report this in-depth takes a great deal of time. We really encourage everyone to plan for extra time in the draft refinement process. Be sure to gain buy-in from key stakeholders throughout the process and not just after it is developed. The data being shared in a baseline report may paint a bleak picture for the community. It is important for community partners to share the story together because it is our collective reality. If partners are not bought in from the beginning, it may appear as though they are being blamed for the results. In order to ensure that our students are reaching their full learning potential, it is essential to have the community come together as a whole to solve the problem. We also recommend having a clear purpose for developing the report and a plan for how it will be used in the community.

Additional information about data dashboards, including samples, can be found in MCAN’s latest publication, “Charting the Course Second Edition: A community’s guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact.” MCAN’s own dashboard community report also is available online.


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of capacity building
Posted: March 2, 2016 

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the MCAN Conference

The Michigan College Access Network annual conference is just around the corner and we encourage you to register now! The conference is scheduled for March 8-9 and the theme is “College Changes Everything,” because we know postsecondary education makes a significant impact in our communities and in our personal lives. Need more reasons to register? Check out our top ten reasons below:

#1: Awards

This year, there are seven categories of awards to recognize the great work in Michigan to improve postsecondary attainment. These categories include: creating college access talent, developing sustainable networks, advocating for attainment, strengthening success through partnerships, rallying communities to impact, providing comprehensive programming and supporting students, counselors and schools.

#2 Flexible package options and expansion to two days

The MCAN conference has been expanded to two days and includes flexible package options. An attendee can choose a package with the pre-conference, conference and awards dinner or just conference and the awards dinner. There’s also an option for just the awards dinner.

#3 Breakout sessions!

The conference boasts 35 breakout sessions between five session blocks, providing attendees with a great variety. The breakout session tracks include:

  • LCAN development
  • School-level interventions
  • Strengthening school counseling and college advising
  • K-12 and higher education partnerships
  • Closing the gap: working with a lens for equity
  • College affordability
  • Collaborative strategic planning: strengthening partnerships between college advisers and site supervisors
  • LCAN coordinators only: network facilitation
  • Promise Zone coordinators only: coordinators convening
  • Reach Higher grantees only: reach higher high school workshop
  • United for change: the role of United Way in their LCAN
  • Reaching for opportunity: regional policy planning workshop (invite only)
#4 College Changes Everything

The theme, “College Changes Everything,” speaks to us all and we want to hear how college changed everything for you. Personal stories can be the strongest driver of that message to motivate our attendees as they work to ensure all students have access to and succeed in college. Network with fellow conference attendees and hear how college changed everything for your college access and success colleagues.

#5 Pre-conference opportunities

This year’s pre-conference includes five workshops to choose from:

#6 Affordability

Though it’s hard to put a price tag on the real value of our annual conference, our conference packages are extremely affordable thanks to our generous sponsors. Our two-day conference package is just $175 and includes a pre-conference session, reception, awards dinner, five breakout session blocks, and all meals over the course of the event.

#7 Solid Keynotes

Keynote speakers this year are Dr. Damon F. Arnold who is a consultant, author and motivational speaker; Dr. James T. Minor who was appointed by the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education; and John Bebow who is the president and CEO of the Center for Michigan. Our speakers will share their personal journeys and share insights on the current college-going culture in our state and country.

#8 Networking opportunity

Mingle with 400 of your closest friends—all united with the same passion to create a college-going culture and reach our goal of increasing college attainment in Michigan to 60 percent by 2025.

#9 Explore Lansing

Our conference takes place in downtown Lansing, where you can explore restaurants, shops and even experience a bit of nature along the River Walk Trail. The capital city boasts fun places to explore like the Lansing City Market, museums, the Capitol and a short drive to shopping areas like Old Town, downtown East Lansing and Eastwood Towne Center.

#10 Making it easy and fun with a mobile app

It’s easy to lose printed programs, so download this mobile app to have the conference details at your finger tips now and during the conference.

Registration closes February 29. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity!


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of capacity building
Posted: February 16, 2016

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