Insights & Outlooks

Jim McCorkell

Jim McCorkell

CEO and Founder, College Possible

Jim is responsible for leading strategic organizational development, engaging and building relationships with national partners and championing the organization’s commitment to creating more college graduates. In 1999, Jim received a Master’s of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where he studied nonprofit management, strategic organizational development and the relationship between race, poverty and gender. Prior to Harvard, he received a B.A. from Carleton College with honors in 1990, and an M.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995.

Jim’s motivation for founding College Possible stems from his own experience. His parents did not graduate from high school—though they ultimately earned G.E.D.s—and he experienced first hand the disadvantage of attempting to navigate the admissions and financial aid process as a low-income student. Through the help of his family, teachers, friends, and several scholarships, however, he was able to receive a first-class higher education and all the opportunities it affords. He now wants to help give that same opportunity to other disadvantaged students.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Jim is familiar with the Twin Cities’ nonprofit and philanthropic communities. He worked previously with City Year, a national nonprofit public service and youth development organization headquartered in Boston, where he managed the organization’s strategic development. Prior to City Year, he worked on U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone’s reelection campaign in 1995-96 as Deputy Finance Director and he managed former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug’s statewide campaign for Minnesota Attorney General in 1998.

Jim was elected an Ashoka fellow in 2006. Ashoka recognizes and supports leading social entrepreneurs throughout the world. In 2005, Jim received the “Spirit of Carleton Award” from Carleton College for his efforts to help low-income students prepare for college. In May 2006, he was chosen as one of the top “40 under 40” young professionals by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In 2007, Jim received the first ever Community Luminary Award from General Electric. In 2009, College Possible was recognized by President Obama in a speech highlighting innovative nonprofits and received two national awards from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the National College Access Network (NCAN). In 2011, Jim received the In Harmony with Hope Award from the Elfenworks Foundation for a social innovation creating real change in the world and College Possible was honored with the Community Partnership Award from Mutual of America. In 2012, Jim was the sole recipient of the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Alumni Achievement Award. College Possible also received its first international recognition, the Innovation Award in Education, from Citi and The Financial Times. In 2015, Jim received the Carleton College Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement. In 2017, Jim received Northfield High School’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Jim previously served on the board of directors for the National Association of College Admissions Counseling and currently serves on the board of Youth Frontiers and the steering committee of Voices for Service. He has also served on the board of directors for several nonprofits including the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Growth & Justice and the Girl Scouts – St. Croix Valley. Jim lives in St. Paul with his wife, Dr. Christine Greenhow, a co-founder, former Board Member and former College Possible director of teaching and learning, their son, Jack, and their dog, Milly.

Authored Posts

  • Supporting First-Generation Students: The Power of Peers

    Attending college as a first-generation or low-income student can be a difficult path. Though neither of my parents graduated…