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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) is excited to welcome Aaron T. Kinzel, who was appointed to the board of directors this fall. Kinzel is a faculty member in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. His teaching and research areas of expertise are education, corrections and public policy. He is also a consultant who has worked nationally on criminal justice reform and completed contracts with numerous organizations, including the U.S. Department of Justice. He has worked with thousands of incarcerated/formerly incarcerated individuals and visited over 100 correctional facilities in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

Kinzel's childhood was surrounded by poverty and crime, with many of his family members having justice system involvement. Kinzel himself spent nearly a decade incarcerated as a teenager, and he found redemption through prison educational programs while preparing for his release back into society. He is an example of how education can transform lives, and he is passionate about humanizing correctional populations. Aaron has advocated fiercely with the Vera Institute of Justice, and others, to restore federal Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated students, which was passed into law and begins in the summer of 2023.

“Diversity of perspectives makes our organization stronger, and Aaron’s experiences in higher education and as a formerly incarcerated person will bring vital insights to our collective work to meet the state’s Sixty by 30 goal,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “Aaron is a fierce advocate for educational equity, and we are proud to have him in the fight to ensure all students — especially low-income students, first-generation college-going students and students of color — have the opportunity to go to college.”

“I am excited to join the MCAN board to help further diversity, equity and inclusion strategies to recruit more people from marginalized communities into postsecondary education,” Kinzel said. “I am particularly interested in expanding educational opportunities for incarcerated students in the Michigan Department of Corrections. I found redemption through access to college while I was in prison, and my life is an example of the kind of success that can help improve public safety in our communities. I also want to ensure that institutions of higher education give equal access to students with criminal records upon release, as many of them continue to discriminate against this population and deny admission to justice-impacted students.”

To learn more about MCAN’s board of directors, visit micollegeaccess.org/board.