Return to Learn: Challenges and Opportunities in Supporting Education

Thursday, October 1, 2020 -
9:00am to 11:30am EDT
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Join your education funder colleagues as we gather to discuss the various challenges along the P-20 education continuum during this unprecedented school year and explore how philanthropy can best support students, families and communities. We will be joined by education leadership from around the state. During our conversation, we invite you to share successes from your own work and the challenges you’re facing in supporting education in your own community.

This dialogue, coordinated by the Office of Foundation Liaison, will bring together members of the P-20 Education Affinity Group, Rural Philanthropy Affinity Group, corporate foundations and giving programs, community college foundation members and others across our Michigan community of philanthropy. Invited guests will include leadership from the Governor’s Office and the Michigan Department of Education, along with representatives from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation and the Michigan Community College Association.


Dawne Bell, chief executive officer, Early Childhood Investment Corporation

Dawne Bell has over eighteen years of experience as a nonprofit leader and professional fundraiser, specializing on issues affecting women and children such as early care and education, domestic violence, health care, housing and homelessness and workforce development. Before joining ECIC, Dawne most recently served as a foundation executive in Southern Arizona and was previously the chief fundraiser for the largest homeless health care agency in New York City, NY. She also formerly served as the executive director of a statewide nonprofit pediatric hospital foundation for children with special health care needs in New Mexico and led the fundraising and advocacy departments at award-winning health care and social service nonprofit organizations in New Mexico and Michigan. Dawne has served on numerous boards, including the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Association of Fundraising Professionals and Women’s Prison Association. She is a frequent speaker to nonprofit organizations, facilitating training workshops on nonpartisan advocacy, fundraising and board engagement. Dawne is a member of AFP and Rotary and was named “40 Under 40” by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Daily Star.

Brandy Johnson, advisor, postsecondary education & workforce development, Executive Office of the Governor

Before joining Governor Whitmer’s administration as education policy advisor in March 2019, Brandy served as the founder and executive director of the Michigan College Access Network. In this role she helped build Michigan’s college access movement and worked to coordinate policy and programming to increase Michigan’s college readiness, enrollment, and completion rates. Between 2008 and 2010 she served in the Office of Governor Granholm as college access coordinator. Brandy hails from Arizona and attained her Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University but relocated to Michigan in 2007 to pursue her MPP from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She also served as a Teach for America Corps Member and third grade teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2013, she was named the Michigan Champion for Children by the Michigan Association of School Administrators; in 2014, she received the National College Access Network’s Executive Leader of Excellence Award, and in 2017 she was awarded the Centennial Award for Excellence by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Brandy, her husband, and two small children live in East Lansing, Michigan.

Erica Lee Orians, executive director, michigan center for student success, Michigan Community College Association

Erica joins the Michigan Community College Association from her most recent position as Senior Research Associate in the Utah Education Policy Center (UEPC) at the University of Utah. Erica has also held positions in student affairs and academic advising at The Ohio State University, Miami University- Middletown campus, and the Columbus College of Arts and Design. Erica has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at several institutions of higher education and enjoys staying active in local, state, and national professional organizations. Erica earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah where her dissertation focused on benchmarking and efficiency among rural community colleges. She earned her MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs and BA in History from The Ohio State University. Erica is thrilled to join the staff of the MCCA where she can focus on student success at Michigan's 28 community colleges.

Michael Rice, state superintendent, Michigan Department of Education

Dr. Michael F. Rice was appointed Michigan’s 45th superintendent of public instruction by Michigan’s State Board of Education in May 2019. Dr. Rice came to the Michigan Department of Education after serving 17 years as a local district superintendent: 12 years as superintendent in Kalamazoo, MI and 5 as superintendent in Clifton, NJ. During his tenure in Kalamazoo, the community passed all ten education-related ballot initiatives, and the district began full-day pre-school, quintupled the number of full-day kindergarten students, and improved student achievement in all board strategic plan areas of reading, writing, math, Advanced Placement and graduation rates. The district also built its first three new schools in over a third of a century, started an English-Spanish dual language school, began two new alternative programs, and started a mentoring program that served more than 1,400 students. Dr. Rice began his career in public education in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools, where he taught high school French, and founded and coached an award-winning speech and debate program. He graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors and from New York University with a master’s degree and doctoral degree in public administration, also with honors. His most rewarding work remains his mentoring and teaching of, and informal discussions with, school children-- which he continues to do as Michigan’s state superintendent.

Michelle Richard, deputy to the senior advisor for michigan prosperity, Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity

Michelle Richard is working to ensure every young child has a great start. She joined Governor Whitmer’s team to pursue the state’s sixty by 30 goal–an effort designed to help more Michiganders get the skills and education they need to secure a good paying job. During COVID-19, she has led an ambitious agenda to support young children and their families during the crisis. She currently serves as the deputy to the senior advisor for Michigan prosperity. Prior to joining the Governor’s team, Michelle was an executive at Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants where she specialized in improving education from birth through life. Michelle started her career as an elementary teacher and is a proud graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


There is no cost to participate, but registration is required.


October 01, 2020 at 9AM EDT


Programming: Olivia Henry via email or call 313-960-4633
Registration:  Denise Temple via email or call 616-850-2136

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