Winter 2014| Posse National Newsletter


Posse Pres., Scholars Attend White House Summit

The Posse Foundation was represented by its president and founder, Deborah Bial, at a White House summit in Washington, D.C., on January 16, 2014. At the summit, President Obama and the First Lady called on higher education leaders to make a commitment to the administration’s North Star goal of leading the world in college graduation rates by the year 2020.

“If we continue to rely too heavily on test scores, we will never get the kind of diversity we want in student bodies at our elite institutions,” said Deborah during a panel discussion led by Gene B. Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council. “Posse has designed a way of looking at non-cognitive traits like leadership, persistence, ability to work in a team—things that you would look for if you were hiring for a leadership track position—and this has worked great. Scholars are knocking it out of the park.”

In 2006, The Posse Foundation pilot tested the application of its traditional program model to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields by creating, the Posse STEM Program. The model was designed to help institutions of higher education find and graduate outstanding students from diverse backgrounds for STEM majors and grew over the next few years.

At the summit, in response to President Obama’s challenge, Deborah announced that the Posse STEM Program would double to include 10 partners. These outstanding institutions will provide $70 million in full-tuition scholarships to 500 Posse Scholars over the next five years.

Posse Scholar Troy Simon addressed the summit, sharing the story of his journey to Bard College before introducing First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Today’s event is not about me”, Troy said. “It’s about every kid in the United States of America, ensuring that they will succeed and get a chance to reach their intellectual potential.”

“Troy’s story reminds us all of the limitless capacity that lies within all of our young people,” said Mrs. Obama. “Many of the schools here today are supplementing [their] programs by partnering with organizations like The Posse Foundation so that underserved students can connect and build a social network before they even set foot on campus.”

When President Obama addressed the summit, he recognized Estiven Rodriguez’s remarkable journey. Estiven immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic and did not speak much English until just six years ago. This fall, he will matriculate at Dickinson College as a Posse Scholar.

“Everywhere you go you’ve got stories like Estiven’s and you’ve got stories like Troy’s,” said President Obama. “But we don’t want these to be the exception. We want these to be the rule.” 

View other stories in the Posse National Quarterly