WOOSTER, Ohio – Deborah Bial, an innovative leader in college access for underrepresented students, will provide the keynote address and receive an honorary degree at The College of Wooster’s 149th commencement on Monday, May 13. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m., capping a full weekend of activity recognizing the approximate 460 Wooster seniors who will celebrate the milestone along with their families, friends, faculty, and staff.
Bial founded the Posse Foundation in 1989 and has served as its president since. The non-profit organization is regarded as one of the most comprehensive and prominent college readiness programs for urban high school students in the U.S. It identifies, recruits, and trains diverse, high-achieving students from a metropolitan area, then in small groups (usually 10), matches them with highly selective colleges and universities that provide merit scholarships. The small group, or Posse, ensures that a support system is in place as the students, often first-generation college students, help each other navigate a challenging new landscape.
The program has been a resounding success, having grown to 10 cities across the U.S. and 57 partner institutions, which have awarded $1.4 billion in scholarships to date. The graduation for Posse scholars is above 90 percent, and there are 9,200 scholars and alumni within the network.
The Posse model has proved to be particularly successful for Wooster, which will welcome its 12th cohort this fall, all from Atlanta, since first partnering with the organization in 2008. The relationship with Posse, along with other recent initiatives, has helped transform the campus into a much more diverse and talented student body.
Bial, an expert in the field of education and leadership development, is also known for her work on the “Adaptability Index,” a college admissions assessment tool that looks at non-cognitive traits, which may predict persistence and identify leadership potential. She has received a number of awards, with the most prestigious being a 2007 MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Posse Foundation was honored by President Obama in 2010 with a portion of his $1.4 million in Nobel Peace Prize money going to the organization.
Bial received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University in 1987, and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees in education with a focus on higher education administration, planning, and social work from Harvard University.
More information, including a tentative schedule of events, for Wooster’s commencement weekend is available here.