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Michael Hanagan: Investing to Remove Barriers to Postsecondary Education

Michael Hanagan: Investing to Remove Barriers to Postsecondary Education


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Michael Hanagan, associate at the Strada Education Foundation. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Mike! Tell me, what challenge is the Strada Education Foundation addressing?

Mike: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Strada supports programs, policies, and organizations that strengthen connections between postsecondary education and opportunity, with a focus on helping people who face the greatest challenges. We advance our mission through impact investments, grantmaking, research, and policy solutions. I am part of the strategic investments team, where we invest in companies and fund managers seeking to remove barriers to postsecondary education and workforce pathways, thus improving socioeconomic mobility for Americans.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Mike: I grew up in an environment that consistently reinforced the phenomenon that not everyone enjoys equal opportunities in life, and it's your duty to contribute to your community to the fullest extent. Because of that, ever since declaring my finance major in college, the idea of investing in companies with a double bottom line where if they do well, they also do good for the world has always been a goal of mine. Strada was and is the perfect place to do that.

Spiffy: That’s inspiring! How is your organization working towards a more equitable world?

Mike: Strada, as an organization, furthers its mission in many different ways, but from an investing perspective, we invest in companies and funds that further upward economic mobility opportunities for Americans and thus create a more equitable world. An example of this would be an investment we made last year in a company called Daivergent. Daivergent is the first fully online and reimbursable upskilling platform for the neurodiverse community.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?

Mike: An initiative I’m very proud to share is The Strada HBCU Initiative. This initiative is a USD 25 million grant designed to elevate the transformative economic, social, educational, and cultural influence of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Through this grant, Strada partners with 50 HBCUs to build upon leadership development efforts with an emphasis on work-based learning, quality coaching, and helping to make the experience affordable through scholarship.

Spiffy: Amazing! Tell me about an inspiring startup that you have helped to advance its impact.

Mike: We have an inspiring startup in the portfolio, Rize Education, that allows higher education institutions to adopt a complete major's curriculum without compromising quality or course control. Traditional major creation for colleges is expensive and complex, but Rize simplifies and accelerates the process, enabling colleges to provide more in-demand and employer-aligned majors to students. By adopting Rize majors, colleges ensure they set up their students for positive employment outcomes.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Mike: When people think of founders and companies, they often picture names like Steve Jobs and Apple or Elon Musk and Tesla—highly successful figures and businesses. However, many aren't aware of equally successful impact-driven companies and founders. You can make a positive impact in many ways, like local volunteering, impact investing, or starting an impact-focused startup. It's about finding what suits you and working on something you're passionate about.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Mike—it’s been an honor!

Mike Hanagan is an associate in Strada Education Foundation’s strategic investment group, where he assists in investing in early-stage companies and venture capital/private equity fund managers aligned with Strada's impact pillars. Mike attended Syracuse University and, before Strada, worked in the merchant capital division of Maxim Group and the ultra-high-net-worth arm of AdvicePeriod. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 2, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.