Posse Founder to Speak at 2018 Commencement

Kalamazoo College will celebrate its relationship with the acclaimed Posse Foundation when it welcomes the organization’s president and founder, Deborah Bial, as its 2018 Commencement speaker June 17.

2018 Commencement Speaker Deborah Bial

Posse Foundation President and Founder Deborah Bial will be the 2018 Commencement speaker at Kalamazoo College.

Since 2009, Posse has sent 10 students — a “Posse” — a year to K from Los Angeles. Each Posse add its varied experiences in the nation’s second-largest metro area to the College’s mix while its members provide one another with the support of peers from back home.

That’s the idea behind Posse: to give talented, high-achieving students from urban public schools the opportunity to attend top colleges and universities on full scholarship while ensuring they have a support group to help them navigate the cultural challenges of a new landscape. The College will admit its 10th Posse cohort in fall 2018.

Bial has said she launched the foundation in 1989 after hearing a former scholarship student from the Bronx who had left an Ivy League college say he might never have dropped out “if I’d had my posse with me.”

Since then, Posse has sent more than 8,400 students to its 56 partner schools. Kalamazoo College was Posse’s first partner in Michigan, beginning with a five-year commitment made possible by a donation from Jon Stryker ’82, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees and founder and president of the Arcus Foundation.

Posse candidates undergo rigorous screening, then participate in an eight-month training program that develops their skills as individuals and as members of a team. Evidence of the success of Posse is the 90 percent-plus persistence and graduation rate for scholarship recipients.

Bial earned her B.A. at Brandeis University and her M.A. and Ed.D. at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. In 2007, she received a MacArthur Fellowship, an award that recognizes exceptional creativity and potential, accompanied by a $500,000 grant.

In an interview with WNET-TV, Bial said Posse’s overarching goal is to ensure that the United States benefits from the talents and knowledge of all of its people.

“The future of our democracy and global competitiveness will depend on our ability to develop leaders who reflect the country’s rich demographic mix,” she said. “Improving access to top universities for underrepresented students is critical to achieving this.​”

President Jorge G. Gonzalez said he is eager to hear Bial’s message to the class of 2018.

“The visionary efforts of Deborah Bial have brought to Kalamazoo College, and colleges and universities across the nation, a rich yet underrepresented vein of talent,” he said. “She has inspired us all by demonstrating the incredible potential in America’s urban public school districts, and we are deeply honored to have her as our commencement speaker.”

The 2018 Commencement at Kalamazoo College is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 17 on the college quad. The 318 members of the class of 2018 represent 29 states and 12 countries.