Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Last year was a time of transitions and transformations.

It seems quaint to write this letter in 2020 and refer to the changes MCAN underwent in 2019. Due to health and equity challenges we currently face, the world is completely different in ways we have yet to understand. We will need to adapt even more than we already have to be resilient and relevant. We can’t move forward until we’ve reflected upon the past, so please allow me to do so here.


After a decade of having the words “assistant” or “deputy” in front of my title, I decided to shed my supportive role and assume leadership in a more formal way. In November, our board agreed with that decision and appointed me MCAN’s permanent executive director.

Stepping into the founder’s shoes is never an easy task — and they were particularly impressive high heels to fill. I can’t write about 2019 without thanking Brandy Johnson one more time for nearly a decade of innovative entrepreneurism in launching and growing MCAN. She couldn’t have left a stronger organization on her way to the governor’s office, making my job much easier. We also lost my colleague Sarah Anthony, MCAN’s second employee who was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. Michigan’s government is in good hands with these women serving.


I was transformed by my college experience which has made this work my calling. When I entered college in the late 90s, I expected to earn a degree in public relations and go right to work for Detroit’s Big Three. When I graduated in the early 2000’s, my worldview had completely changed, and I knew my role was in public service. Not only was I committed to my community, but I was committed to the concept of higher education that helped me figure that out. Everyone deserves access to that life-changing opportunity.

That brings me to what I believe is the most important transformation you’ll notice — MCAN’s commitment to equity. We’ve always had a strong commitment to equity since the formation of the organization, but now you’ll see us talk about it even louder. We’re going to push harder than ever on ourselves, our partners, and those who influence policy. Equity will be embedded in our decision-making, in our grant awards and in our communications. Being an ally is no longer good enough. We’re transforming into an anti-racist organization working to create change wherever institutional and systemic oppression exists — and that’s everywhere.

We won’t rest until students of color, low-income students, and first-generation college-going students are enrolling, persisting in, and completing college at the same rates as everyone else. And we’re not going to rest until you’re working toward those same outcomes.

While our external-facing work is equity-focused, we will recognize that there is equity work to be done internally as well. We will make more intentional decisions about staff recruitment and hiring and assess all of our programming through an equity lens. We will engage our staff and board in learning and development so we are ready for the challenge ahead, which recent events including the national pandemic and racist events have made even more critical.

The most immediate way that you’ll notice these changes is in our new brand. We have a new logo, new colors, and new language. While you can’t change systems by color palette, it's a good start to communicating that we mean business. We're invested in this transformation as an organization from head to toe.

We’ve got a decade to go to get to Sixty by 30. We’re ready for this work. We’re ready for this challenge. We’re ready for economic recovery. We know you are too.

Let’s get to work.

Ryan Fewins-Bliss
Executive Director

Ryan Fewin-Bliss