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MCAN Compass Award recipient named acting director of MiLEAP

Michelle Richard

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer officially launched the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential, or MiLEAP, and announced Michelle Richard as the new department’s acting director. MiLEAP, which was established by executive order in July, is tasked with improving outcomes for Michiganders from preschool through postsecondary education and into the workforce. The new department will consolidate several early learning, higher education, and education partnership responsibilities from other state departments.

Last month, MCAN recognized Richard with a Compass Award, which honors policymakers and advocates who help create innovative legislation that reduces barriers to postsecondary education and brings Michigan closer to our Sixty by 30 attainment goal. When Richard was recognized at MCAN’s annual conference, she discussed her role in Michigan’s college access efforts.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by MCAN, the state’s leader for expanding college access and success. The governor has made unprecedented investments in scholarships, from Michigan Reconnect to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, helping put more students on an affordable path to success,” Richard said. “We all play critical roles in expanding opportunities and outcomes for Michigan students, and I’m proud to work alongside a broad coalition of leaders that are committed to helping more people earn their degree or certificate so that they can make it in Michigan.”

According to the Governor’s Office, Richard started as acting director Dec. 1, transitioning from her role as the Governor’s senior education advisor. In the executive office, Richard worked on successive bipartisan school aid budgets, making record investments in students, staff, and schools, and supported the implementation and expansion of programs to lower the cost of postsecondary education. Richard’s resume includes stints at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity — where she helped launch the Office of Sixty by 30 and Michigan Reconnect — Public Sector Consultants, and in the classroom as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher.

“When MCAN considered possible recipients for our Compass Award, we knew Michelle was a deserving honoree,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “Her efforts as part of the governor’s team have been key to MCAN’s collaborations across the state. Her work in the Office of Sixty by 30, to lead and implement Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect, was demonstrative of the Compass Award’s intent to recognize someone who champions bold, equity-driven ideas that focus on increasing Michigan’s postsecondary attainment rate. Michelle is a strong leader who can build strategic alignment between MCAN, MiLEAP and all those working to support college access and success in Michigan. We have long respected Michelle as a partner and colleague in this important work, and we look forward to continuing that collaboration in her new capacity.”

Michelle Richard to serve as acting director of newly launched Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential.