Keeping up with McGraw Prize Winners: Deborah Bial, President and Founder of The Posse Foundation

September 6, 2021
Deborah Bial standing in front of two chalkboards.

2013 McGraw Prize winner, Deborah Bial is the President and Founder of the nonprofit, The Posse Foundation which uses its signature Posse model to support young scholars with diverse demographic backgrounds through attending, enrolling and completing college and emerging as strong leaders from diverse backgrounds who are able to develop consensus solutions to complex social problems.

The Posse Foundation was founded in 1989 with the idea of sending groups of students together to college to support each other through the experience. The Posse Foundation seeks to expand the pool from which top colleges and universities can recruit young leaders from diverse backgrounds, to help institutions build welcoming environments for people from all backgrounds, and to ensure that Posse Scholars persist through their academic studies in order to graduate so they can take on leadership positions in the workforce and reflect the diversity of the country’s demographic mix. Currently, The Posse Foundation program reaches over 20 cities, has identified, recruited and trained more than 10,000 students and boasts a Posse Scholars graduation rate of over 90%. The Posse model is rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students - a Posse - carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development. Posse Scholars are supported through four programs designed to ensure success: Posse’s Dynamic Assessment Process which identifies young leaders with great potential, Posse’s Pre-collegiate Training Program which helps Posse Scholars develop as leaders before beginning college, The Campus Program which involves visits to campus from staff as well as mentoring for Posse Scholars to ensure college retention, and The Career Program which helps connect graduating Posse Scholars and alumni to prestigious professional development opportunities such as internships, coaching and more.

In April of 2021, The Posse Foundation launched the Posse Arts Program, which seeks to create a diverse pipeline of leaders in the creative arts, in partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Miranda Family Fund and CalArts, it’s first institutional partner. The partnership was announced by Michelle Obama at a virtual panel hosted by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Obama shares her experiences “as a first generation college student finding [her] way and finding [her people],” having arrived at college knowing only her brother, and noting that “there weren’t a lot of kids who looked like me on campus.” She praises The Posse Foundation’s work that gives students “a team to belong to from day one.”

The Posse Arts Program will allow creative artists to begin their college journeys together and “support each other every step of the way.” The program will recruit, train and support Posses of students specifically interested in majoring in creative arts. Like students nominated for traditional Posses, Arts Posse nominees will participate in the Dynamic Assessment Process and receive Pre-Collegiate Training before enrolling in college. They will also receive Campus Program supports as well. Currently, Arts Program partner colleges and universities include CalArts, Bard College and the UNC School of the Arts. The Posse Arts Program is currently building its first cohort and will launch next year.