Who We Are


Our Mission

To increase college readiness, participation, and completion in Michigan, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college-going students, and students of color.

Our Vision and Values

College is postsecondary education
MCAN uses the term "college" to refer to the attainment of valuable postsecondary credentials beyond high school, including professional/technical certificates and academic degrees.

College is a necessity
Postsecondary education is a prerequisite to success in a knowledge-based economy. Everyone must pursue and complete a postsecondary credential or degree beyond high school.

College is for everyone
The postsecondary education attainment rates among low-income students and students of color are significantly lower than those of other students. MCAN is committed to closing these gaps.

College is a public good
Postsecondary educational opportunity and attainment are critical to a just and equitable society, strong economy, and healthy communities.

Our Big Goal

Increase the percentage of Michigan residents with degrees or postsecondary certificates to 60 percent by the year 2025.



Brandy Johnson
Executive Director
Email: Brandy(a)micollegeaccess.org

Before joining MCAN as its founding executive director in 2010, Brandy served in the Governor's Office as college access coordinator. In this capacity, she coordinated the state's college access and success agenda and advised Governor Granholm on postsecondary education policy issues. Brandy hails from Phoenix, Arizona and attained a Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a concentration in public policy advocacy from Arizona State University. Upon graduation, she served as a Teach for America corps member and taught third grade in a low-income neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brandy relocated to Michigan in 2007 and received a Master's degree in public policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. More recently, Brandy was named the 2013 Michigan Champion for Children by the Michigan Association of School Administrators and in 2014 she received the National College Access Network's Executive Leader of Excellence Award. Follow @MCANBrandy on Twitter!                                                                                         

Ryan Fewins-Bliss
Deputy Director of Community and Partner Mobilization
Email: Ryan(a)micollegeaccess.org

Ryan Fewins-Bliss serves as the deputy director for community and partner mobilization, having joined the staff in March 2013 after several years of consulting with MCAN. Ryan hails from northern Michigan and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Central Michigan University in integrative public relations, and educational administration and community leadership respectively. Prior to joining MCAN, Ryan served local, state and national nonprofits and educational institutions through his consultancy, Fewins-Bliss Consulting. He has also worked for the Jackson College Access Center, Michigan Campus Compact and Saginaw Valley State University. Ryan proudly served as a locally-elected Township Trustee in Michigan's Bath Charter Township for nearly 5 years. 

Shavonna Green

Operations Assistant
Email: Shavonna(a)micollegeaccess.org

Shavonna is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. During her time at Michigan State she has worked as a research assistant, resident assistant, and currently serves as the president of the Michigan State Chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers. In these roles, Shavonna strives to build an inclusive living and learning environment for students on campus. Prior to joining MCAN, Shavonna interned under State Representative Jewell Jones and served as a student assistant at the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Emily Halling
Program Supervisor, AdviseMI West Michigan
Email: Emily(a)micollegeaccess.org

Emily serves as a program supervisor of AdviseMI. In her role, she will work to enhance the training and professional development of college advisers across the state in an effort to ensure high school students are college and career ready. Halling graduated with a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Michigan - Flint in 2013. She continued her education at the University of Michigan to earn her master's degree in social work. Prior to joining MCAN, Halling worked in various capacities for the Ginsberg Center, Alternatives for Girls, the Daughter Project, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint. 

Jamie Jacobs
Senior Director of High School Innovation
Email: Jamie(a)micollegeaccess.org

Jamie Jacobs serves as the director of High School Innovations for the Michigan College Access Network.  She holds a master’s degree in student affairs administration at Michigan State University where she also completed her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Jamie is interested in examining college access and success from both the local community/K-12 system and higher education perspectives; particularly focused on first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color. She is involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Lansing and spends much of her spare time training for her next triathlon.

Karla Perez Garza      
Program Supervisor, AdviseMI East Michigan
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Karla joins the AdviseMI team as program supervisor for east Michigan. She graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Marketing and Management from West Shore Community College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Ferris State University. Before joining MCAN, Karla served as program coordinator for the Center for Latin@ Studies at Ferris State University. Additionally, her experiences with Promise Partners Mentorship Collaborative and her time with Promesa Summer Success Program has prepared her for supporting our advisers.

Jacqueline Ruhland
Assistant Director, AdviseMI
Email: Jacqueline(a)micollegeaccess.org

Jacqueline serves as the assistant director of AdviseMI for the Michigan College Access Network. Prior to joining MCAN, she worked for Olivet College as the transfer student recruitment specialist in the Office of Admissions. Jacque attained a bachelor’s degree in social relations and policy from James Madison College at Michigan State University. Upon graduation, she served as a college adviser for the Michigan State University College Advising Corps and found a passion for higher education and college access. She graduated from Oakland University in 2014 with a master’s degree in public administration.

Jahshua Smith                                                                                   
Program Supervisor, AdviseMI Metro Detroit 
Email: Jahshua(a)micollegeaccess.org
Jahshua serves as a program supervisor of AdviseMI for Metro Detroit. In his role, he works to enhance the training and professional development of college advisers in Metro Detroit in an effort to ensure high school students are college and career ready. Prior to joining MCAN, he worked as a behavior treatment specialist, supervisor and residential counselor for Highfields Inc., while also serving as program director for All of the Above Creative in Lansing. Smith has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Michigan State University. 

Melissa Steward 
Director, AdviseMI
Email: Melissa(a)micollegeaccess.org 

Melissa serves as program director of AdviseMI for the Michigan College Access Network. She is a proud graduate of Central Michigan University, where she holds a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and public communication. Melissa has a love for national service, and served both as a VISTA and VISTA Leader for Michigan Campus Compact, before going on to manage the statewide Michigan Nonprofit Association Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA Program. Melissa came to MCAN from Michigan Campus Compact, where she most recently served as the associate director, focusing on her passion for college access and student success.  

Christopher Tremblay 
Director of External Engagement
Email: Christopher(a)micollegeaccess.org

Dr. Christopher W. Tremblay serves as the Director of External Engagement for the  Michigan College Access Network. Tremblay has been a leader in the higher education community for 20 years, working on the college campuses of Western  Michigan University, Gannon University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the  University of Wisconsin-Superior, and Michigan State University. His college access involvement began with serving on the board of a Local College Access Network in Wayne, Michigan. Throughout his affiliation with MCAN, he has facilitated school counselor postsecondary training, trained College Advising Corps members, served on the MCAN College Application Week committee, and has evaluated MCAN grant applications. In 2014, Tremblay partnered with MCAN Board Member Patrick O’Connor to launch the Journal of College Access.  In that time, they have published five issues featuring 38 papers that have been downloaded worldwide more than 8,200 times. Tremblay earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from Western Michigan University and a doctor of education degree in educational leadership from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is a proud first generation college graduate.

Emma Walter
Strategy Assistant, External Engagement 
Email: Emma(a)micollegeaccess.org 

Emma serves as the strategy assistant for Michigan College Access Network. Previously, she worked as an executive assistant for Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York City. Emma graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in public policy and a minor in philosophy and law. During her college career, Emma interned under State Senator Rebekah Warren, along with various other nonprofit entities.


Vicky Wright  White female headshot outside
Director of Operations
Email: Vicky(a)micollegeaccess.org

Vicky joined the Michigan College Access Network in February 2017 and serves as Director of Operations. She holds a bachelor's degree from Aquinas College, a master's degree in Higher Education and Administration from the University of Akron, and master's degree in Positive Organizational Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University. Prior to joining MCAN, she worked in Higher Education at various institutions, including Grand Valley State University, Siena Heights University, and Albion College, supporting first year and underrepresented students and their transition to college.  

Lisa Sommer King
Consultant, Lisa King Consulting, LLC
Email: Lisa(a)micollegeaccess.org

Lisa Sommer King currently consults with the Michigan College Access Network after serving the organization for three years as the assistant director. In her new role, she manages MCAN's communication and branding strategies and directs the daily needs of the Michigan College Access Portal. Her consultancy helps support MCAN's communication and branding strategies and coordinates the annual conference. Lisa has extensive experience in public relations, brand management, event management and advocacy. She holds a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University where she studied integrative public relations and public affairs. Lisa is a member of the Public Relation Society of America, a founder of the CMU Volunteer Center Alumni chapter, and is a member of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network board of directors. Learn more about Lisa King Consulting at www.lkingconsulting.com.

 Board of Directors 

Sharlonda Buckman

Senior Executive Director for Family and Community Engagement
Detroit Public Schools Community District
Email: sharlonda.buckman(a)detroitk12.org

Sharlonda Buckman is senior executive director for family and community engagement for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. She was born and raised in Detroit and earned her master's degree in community economic development from Southern New Hampshire University. Sharlonda serves on the board of directors for Michigan College Access Network and University YES East Academy. She has received several awards for her leadership and service including the Judge Wade McCree Jr. Friend of Children Award, Spirit of Detroit, Citizen of the Week and others from youth serving agencies for her personal and professional accomplishments.

Vice Chairperson
Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D

Associate Dean of College Counseling
Cranbrook Schools
Email: poconnor(a)cranbrook.edu

Patrick O'Connor works in the College Counseling Department at Cranbrook and on the Political Science Faculty at Oakland Community College. A native Detroiter, he is a past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and a past president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling. He teaches a comprehensive class in college admission counseling, is co-founder of the Journal of College Access, and is the author of the highly acclaimed college guide, College is Yours.


Robert Ferrentino, Ph.D

Montcalm Community College
Email: bobf(a)montcalm.edu

Robert C. Ferrentino is President of Montcalm Community College, a position he assumed in July of 2009. He previously served Muskegon Community College for more than 13 years, in the positions of Dean of Occupational Programs, and most recently, Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Ferrentino serves on the board of directors for Michigan Education Trust and is part of the West Michigan Works! workforce development board. He also is Chairman of the Montcalm County Habitat for Humanity board of directors, and has volunteered for many other organizations and committees. Dr. Ferrentino earned a bachelor's degree in marketing and a master's degree in business administration from Northern Illinois University. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Catherine M. McNamara, CPA

Assurance Partner
Email: crozanski(a)bdo.com

Cathy is an assurance partner for BDO USA, LLP in Troy, Michigan with more than 20 years of experience in public accounting and industry. She has extensive experience serving both public and privately held companies, as well as hand-on experience as an industry CPA. She is also a subcommittee member for BDO's IFRS taskforce and she participates in developing and teaching internal and external Continuing Education courses. She is a member of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Cathy is a graduate of the Leadership Detroit program (Class of XXXII) and currently serves as a board member and the past-chair for Common Ground, an Oakland County crisis agency. She also is a treasurer for Loyola High School in Detroit.



Greg Handel

Vice President, Education and Talent Programs
Detroit Regional Chamber
Email: ghandel(a)detroitchamber.org

Greg Handel has worked at the Chamber for 21 years and has been responsible for the Changer's K-12 Education and Workforce Development programs and policy for the past seventeen years. In this capacity, Greg has helped develop and advocate policy related to Detroit Public School governance, state-wide education funding and school choice. He also takes the lead in planning the education and workforce sessions for the Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference every year and plays a similar role with the Leadership Detroit Education Session. Greg's other responsibilities include the Detroit Compact Scholarship program, which provides full college scholarships to over 150 Detroit Public School graduates every year. He is currently involved in convening the Detroit Region's entry in the CEO's for Cities Talent Dividend Competition and other workforce projects at the Chamber. Greg also serves as the Chamber's liaison to numerous other committees and projects devoted to improving education and workforce development throughout the region.

Scott Menzel, Ph.D
Washtenaw Intermediate School District
Email: smenzel(a)washtenawisd.org 

Scott Menzel has been the Superintendent of Washtenaw Intermediate School District since 2011. Prior to serving in this role he was superintendent of the Livingston Educational Service Agency for four years and in Whitmore Lake for five years. He is driven by a commitment to equity, inclusion, and social justice. Prior to serving as superintendent, Dr. Menzel served as the executive director of South Central Michigan Works. Dr. Menzel is currently the editor of Perspectives: A Journal of Research and Practice About Educational Service Agencies. He chaired the MAISA Early Childhood Committee from 2009-2016 and served on the MASA/MAISA government relations and policy committee for several years. He has received numerous honors for his work, including the National African American Parent Involvement Day Spirit Award, the MASA Regional Superintendent of the Year Award, the Leadership Award from Brown Chapel AME Brotherhood Banquet, The Ann Arbor News’ Executive of the Year Award, and the White House YMCA Champion for Change Award. Dr. Menzel holds a Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Social Policy from The American University in Washington, D.C. and a doctorate from Eastern Michigan University in Educational Leadership.

Daniel Mitchell

College Adviser
MSU College Advising Corp
Email: mitchdan10(a)gmail.com

Daniel Mitchell is serving his second year as an adviser in Alanson and Pellston Public Schools in northern Michigan. After the corps, he hopes to attend graduate school to eventually become a college professor. Daniel graduated from the Michigan State University Honors College in 2014 with degrees in Molecular Genetics and Anthropology. While on campus, he was a research assistant for four years, a resident assistant for two years, and heavily involved in student government. When Daniel was seven-years-old, he wanted to be the president of Harvard. While his exact career goals have changed slightly, he has only become more passionate about higher education. 

George Ross, Ph.D

Central Michigan University
Email: president(a)cmich.edu 

Dr. Ross became the 14th president of Central Michigan University on March 1, 2010. Dr. Ross' leadership of one of the nation's 100 largest public universities and the fourth largest in Michigan follows 24 years of higher education leadership and management guided by his strong belief in the transformative power of higher education. He is dedicated to student success and academic excellence with a commitment to transparency. His focus on student success is reflected in Dr. Ross' continued engagement in both traditional and nontraditional student teaching and learning. As a nationally recognized leader in higher education, Dr. Ross has presented seminars, workshops and lectures in the areas of higher education leadership, budget, finance and administration to a number of universities and national organizations including the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education at Bryn Mawr College.

Amy Smitter

Chief Operating Officer
Habitat for Humanity Michigan
Email: asmitter(a)habitatmichigan.org

Amy Smitter serves as Chief Operating Officer for Habitat for Humanity Michigan. Prior to this role, Amy served as the Director of Institutional Development for Campus Compact and served for ten years as the Executive Director of Michigan Campus Compact where she raised funds, advocated on behalf of higher education and service, and built programs, services and partnerships for member higher education institutions. During her tenure, the organizations grew in capacity, staff, services and support. Amy worked at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WA in student affairs. Amy holds a Master's Degree in Student Personnel Administration from Ball State University and a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University. Before working in higher education, she worked for the volunteer centers in Calhoun County, Michigan, and other nonprofits.


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