March 4, 2019 - LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) announced the departure of executive director, Brandy Johnson, on Monday, March 4 at its ninth annual conference in Lansing. Johnson will join the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the new policy advisor for postsecondary educational attainment and workforce development.

Ryan Fewins-Bliss will serve as MCAN’s interim executive director. Fewins-Bliss has served as the deputy director of community and partner mobilization for five years.

Under Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Johnson served as Michigan’s college access coordinator and advised Gov. Granholm on postsecondary education policy issues. She established MCAN as a non-profit organization in 2010.

“Founding MCAN and serving as executive director for nine years has been a labor of love both personally and professionally,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of MCAN. “As the first person in my family to pursue a college degree, starting an organization like MCAN helped me to actualize a lifelong passion. I’m thrilled to put my master’s degree from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan to good use, and to focus on a student-centric lens that aligns with Gov. Whitmer’s agenda.”

While under Johnson’s leadership at MCAN, Michigan’s postsecondary attainment rate has increased from 36 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in 2019. Johnson’s leadership has aided in the development and growth of MCAN, in addition to the college access movement nationally. MCAN supports statewide and local efforts to expand education beyond high school in Michigan by developing partnerships with local, state and national organizations in the education sector, offering additional training to school counselors, and working with high schools to implement college initiatives such as Michigan College Month, AdviseMI, College Cash Campaign and College Decision Day. Johnson has been the first and only Executive Director of MCAN.

Specific accomplishments of Johnson’s leadership include:

  • Founding MCAN nine years ago with one employee, and grew the staff to a team of 14. 
  • Establishing a network of nearly 30 Local College Access Networks (LCANs), designed to leverage community partners for collective impact.
  • Launching a school counselor postsecondary planning training course to address the absence of similar training provided in formal master’s degrees. Since 2013, MCAN has trained 527 high school counselors.
  • Creating AdviseMI, a statewide college advising corps program. In its four years, this program has placed more than 131 recent college graduates in communities with low college-going rates to work alongside school counselors and other staff to help students navigate the transition from high school to education beyond high school. 
  • Developing a series of grants to build up LCANs that put college in reach for more Michigan youth. These funds are for planning, implementation, and continuous improvement.
  • Establishing an annual conference to unite college access professionals and practitioners to discuss best practices, results and unique efforts. In 2019, the annual conference sold out with more than 500 attendees, representing the largest statewide college access conference in the nation.

At MCAN’s annual conference, 11 outstanding postsecondary education practitioners and advocates from across the state were recognized. A surprise 11th award was given to Johnson, recognizing her nine dedicated years of service to the Michigan College Access Network. The Board of Directors also renamed the award to the “Brandy Johnson Board of Directors Award.” 

“Brandy has been the force behind Michigan’s college access movement. She has built infrastructure, focused on equity, and modeled collaboration,” said Patrick O’Connor, MCAN Board chairperson. “MCAN looks forward to working with her in this new capacity to build off of this solid foundation. The Board is planning to launch a search for MCAN’s next executive director in the near future.”

In Johnson’s new role, she will be focused on the Governor’s statewide attainment goal of 60 percent by 2030, along with mobilizing support for the Michigan Opportunity Scholarships program and the Michigan Reconnect program.

“I am confident in the direction MCAN is headed, the impact the organization is making on Michigan’s students, and the incredible team who will continue the important work I began by sending a message to Michigan’s youth- regardless of zip codes, all students are college material,” continued Johnson.

Visit the MCAN staff page to learn more about the team dedicated to improving college attainment rates across Michigan.


About Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, MCAN’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color. For the eighth year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased — from 35.7 percent of 25-to-64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 41 percent in 2018. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 45 percent as of 2019. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit


Media Contact: Christopher Tremblay

Email: christopher(a)

Cell: 814-504-5650