Driven by the mission to increase the number of Tennesseans accessing and completing post-secondary opportunities, the Tennessee College Access and Success Network aims to establish a college-going culture in communities across the state. Network staff work with member organizations and partners across all levels of learning to remove barriers to higher education, promote college persistence, and increase post-secondary completion rates. TCASN supports such efforts by connecting education and community leaders, advocating for policies that support students, expanding and creating college success programs, and promoting professional education and information sharing.
Through a Lumina Foundation for Education grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), the Tennessee College Access and Success Network formally launched in November 2010. TCASN was founded under the leadership of a Partnership Council, comprised of representatives from the Ayers Foundation, Kingsport Educate and Grow, Niswonger Foundation, Oasis Center, Public Education Foundation, Southwest Tennessee Development District (REDI), tnAchieves, Tennessee Department of Education, and the Tennessee higher Education Commission. Through partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and THEC, TCASN received Race to the Top funds in July 2011 to expand the reach of its services and grow its membership base.
After being "incubated" at the Oasis Center for a year, the Network received its 501c3 status and has been operating as a stand-alone organization since July 2012. Through Race to the Top, TCASN awarded $1.6 million to 51 grant projects that served more than 60,500 students and families across Tennessee. In 2015, TCASN expanded its reach nationally with The TalentED Project. Built in partnership with UBS, The TalentED Project is a free online platform that matches first-generation, lower-income college-goers with select institutions that are a good fit for them.
Bob Obrohta has over twenty years of experience in the college access field. Prior to joining the Network, Obrohta founded Oasis College Connection, Middle Tennessee’s first dedicated college counseling center with a concentration on serving first-generation/low-income students. Obrohta has worked with numerous college access programs and organizations including Beloit College (Upward Bound), Peabody College - Vanderbilt (Gear Up), Oasis Center (Oasis College Connection), and The Ayers Foundation (The Ayers Scholars Program). He has helped to develop numerous urban and rural college access initiatives and scholarships funded by private foundations, state funding, economic development organizations, workforce development organizations, and federal grants. Bob has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of St. Francis and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Teachers College, Columbia University. Bob has lived in Nashville with his wife (Lora) and two sons since 2000. His sons attend local public middle and high schools.
senior director of external affairs
With ten years experience in college access and success, Wendy has worked with programs such as Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), the College Access Challenge Grant, KnowHow2Go and Race to the Top. Wendy earned a master's degree in public relations and advertising from the University of Alabama and a bachelor's degree in communication from Mississippi State University.
Director of Strategy and Engagement
Jenny Mills McFerron
Jenny began her involvement in college access through an independent study with Oasis College Connection, and served as a member of the Tennessee College Mentor Corps in its first year, working with low-income young people in the Nashville area. A native of California, Jenny graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles and worked for a nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Tennessee for graduate school. She has a Masters of Education from Vanderbilt University, where she studied teaching and learning in informal educational settings.
Assistant director of Advocacy and special projects
Prior to joining the Network, Kate gained college access experience working on the college and career planning web portal CollegeforTN.org and on Tennessee’s Gaining Early Awareness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kate earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Denison University and a master’s degree in higher education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.