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February 17, 2015

Posse Foundation founder to address Class of 2015

Deborah Bial
Deborah Bial

Deborah Bial, founder and president of the Posse Foundation, a college access and readiness programs for urban high school students in the United States, will deliver the 165th Arts, Sciences & Engineering commencement address on Sunday, May 17.

Founded in 1989 in New York City, the Posse Foundation sends cohorts of 10 high-achieving regional student leaders together to selective colleges and universities. The program currently has 51 top-tier college and university partners. The University joined in 2014 and is committed to providing full-tuition merit scholarships annually to 10 qualified entering freshmen from the Washington, D.C., area.

Last spring, more than 400 Posse scholars earned diplomas from partner colleges and universities nationwide, joining a network of more than 2,600 Posse alumni. Ninety percent of Posse students graduate from college, a rate significantly higher than the national average.

“Deborah Bial is a change agent in United States higher education, and I’m delighted she will deliver this year’s commencement address,” says President Joel Seligman. “Her development of the Posse Foundation to support highly qualified urban students as they pursue higher education and beyond has had significant impact, both on the lives of individual students as well as on the colleges and universities they have attended.”

Bial is an expert in the field of education and leadership development. Her experience in guiding selective institutions toward improved admissions policies has gained her national recognition in the higher education community, including a prestigious Genius Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2007.

“It’s very fitting that with ‘inclusion’ as this year’s communal principal, Deborah Bial will conclude the year with her remarks on the importance of achieving more together,” says Richard Feldman, dean of the College. “She is an innovator in education whose work has clearly contributed to a greater understanding of how higher education can successfully support promising students.”

Bial earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in education with a focus on higher education administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University. In 1999, she received a $1.9 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for her dissertation work, which focused on the design and assessment of a new college admissions tool that could be used in addition to traditional college admissions measures. The tool, an “Adaptability Index,” is used to assess noncognitive traits that may predict persistence and identify leadership potential.

Information about the University’s commencement ceremonies and related activities is available at The May ceremony will be streamed live.

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