Mary Laphen

Mary Laphen Pope

Strategy Officer

Articles by Mary

Mary Laphen Pope serves as strategy officer for participation for Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all.

Laphen Pope joined us from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission where she has worked the last 6 years in positions of progressive responsibility, most recently as the Navigate Reconnect Director. In this role, Mary led a team to support the Tennessee Reconnect statewide initiative, which provides high-touch, wrap-around support to and through college to adult Tennesseans. Prior to her work with Tennessee, Mary worked at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, PA as a college adviser in the National College Advising Corps. Mary holds an M.Ed. in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University, and a B.A. in English from Gettysburg College.

More from Mary

Join us for this episode of Inside Out: Community Colleges Far and Wide

Next up, we're traveling to the U.S. territory of Guam to visit Guam Community College, which is steeped in history and culture, and all in on workforce programming. There’s never been a stronger sense of community in college. Guam Community College might be far from the mainland United States, but its faculty and staff are working tirelessly to improve opportunities close to home.

What happens when a system takes on the Challenge?

When we launched The Million Dollar Community College Challenge in February 2022, we were intentional about focusing on individual colleges. Our goal was simple: to provide an opportunity for colleges across the country to energize the field around improving community college brands AND to get resources directly to colleges to do the work. As we went through the process, we heard from state systems and associations that were also interested in working together to advance brand awareness and deepen the outreach and connection with residents of their college communities. So, in July 2023, we provided a $1 million grant to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) to improve the brand-building efforts of their 12 colleges in support of adult learners – and ultimately help them advance their bold goal of Reaching Equitable Prosperity by 2030. To accomplish this goal, LCTCS is working toward graduating 330,000 individuals who will earn on average 150 percent above the state median income.

Worried about the “enrollment cliff”? It’s time to change our perception of who goes to college.

In 2007, Mayra Fierro went to a liberal arts college in Florida right after high school but quickly discovered that the experience wasn’t for her. She was more than prepared academically—she graduated a year early from high school. But her family struggled to pay tuition, even with a scholarship and financial aid.