News icon Near Named Scholarship Director at the Mitchell Institute

PORTLAND, Maine — Jared Cash, President and CEO of the Mitchell Institute, announced today that Casey Near will join Maine’s premier scholarship organization as its next Scholarship Director. Among her responsibilities, Near will focus on increasing every Mitchell Scholar’s prospect for success, enhancing the wraparound supports that are a hallmark of the Mitchell Scholar experience, cultivating networks to help strengthen Scholars’ career development, and participating in the organization’s holistic review process to select 185 recipients of the $10,000 Mitchell Scholarship in 2024.

“I am delighted to share that Casey will be joining us on March 1 as the fourth Scholarship Director in the Mitchell Institute’s 28-year history,” Cash said. “After interviews with an impressive round of finalists and an evaluation process that included board, Scholar, Alumni, and staff input, it became clear that Casey’s student advising experience, leadership and communication skills, and demonstrated commitment to increasing access to higher education will strengthen the heart of our mission.”

Near comes to the Mitchell Institute from Collegewise, a national provider of college admission counseling, tutoring, and test-preparation services, where she most recently served as Executive Director of Counseling and later Dean of Counselor Development. In her roles of progressive responsibility that began with serving as Director of Collegewise’s counseling services in the San Francisco Bay Area, Near worked closely with students and their families on the college selection and admission processes.

In her 10 years at Collegewise, Near also developed a broad range of resources to promote access to higher education. In response to the lack of access to college advising in school districts impacted by 2020 budget cuts, Near created Runway, a free, multimedia-based college counseling course that Collegewise distributed to school districts and individuals nationwide. She also launched and was the lead content developer of a monthly Collegewise newsletter and weekly blog designed to help students and families adapt to changes in college admission practices at the start of the pandemic.

“It was apparent through the search process that Casey was integral in taking Collegewise from a local startup to an organization with a national presence and impact on college-going young people and their families,” Cash said.

Before joining Collegewise, Near was an admission counselor at Mills College in Oakland, California, where she helped students navigate the admission and financial aid processes and was responsible for reviewing applications from students in Los Angeles County, California’s Central Coast, and Nevada, as well as assisting on the review of all transfer admission files.

“My husband and I moved to Maine in 2019, and we soon realized it would be our forever home,” Near said. “While at Collegewise, I counseled students for 10 years, and I worked to support school districts and families across the country during my tenure, but I was always eager to make a more local, personal impact, especially here in Maine. Serving as Scholarship Director at the Mitchell Institute will allow me to combine all that I love into one—making the path to college more accessible and serving the great state of Maine and its young people. I feel honored to continue the longstanding tradition of providing Mitchell Scholars with far more than a scholarship, during their college years and beyond.”

Abby Diaz, a member of the Mitchell Institute’s Board of Directors, Chair of the organization’s Scholarship Committee, and Chief Legal Officer for Tyler Technologies, participated in the evaluation of finalists in the search process.

“Casey exudes warmth, wisdom, and a deep commitment to helping young people realize their aspirations through higher education,” Diaz said. “I am so excited to watch her apply that special combination to the core work of ensuring Scholars’ success during and beyond college. Our mission and our scholars will be well-served in her very capable hands.”

After transferring from the University of Pennsylvania, Near graduated with a B.A. in American Studies and highest honors from Scripps College in Claremont, California, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Outside of work, she enjoys running, practicing her Spanish with her toddler, Forrest, and attempting to become a year-round Maine ocean dipper.

About the Mitchell Institute

Founded by Senator George J. Mitchell, the Mitchell Institute’s core mission is to improve the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue, and achieve a college education. Through awarding $1.85 million in college scholarship funds to students from every community in Maine, the Mitchell Institute unlocks the potential of the state’s young people so that they can find success in college and contribute to the vitality of their communities. In addition to providing each Mitchell Scholar with a $10,000 scholarship, the Institute provides an array of support programs for leadership development and supplemental funding opportunities for activities related to career and professional development. This combination of personal, professional, and financial support makes college degrees more attainable for Mitchell Scholars, who graduate at a rate 30% higher than the national average and are more likely than their peers to work in Maine or return to the state after graduating from college.