Class of 2023 encouraged to ‘build a better world’
Deborah Bial, the founder and president of The Posse Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at Connecticut College’s 104th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22, 2022.
The winner of a 2007 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, Bial is a leader in the field of college access, persistence and student success. Her experience in advancing equity, diversity and talent at selective colleges and universities—and in creating solutions towards more equitable admissions—has gained her national prominence in higher education administration.
Bial received her bachelor of arts degree in American and English Literature from Brandeis University in 1987. Two years later, she started the organization she would call “Posse,” after hearing a student lament that he would never have left college if he had found his posse. Bial’s idea was to partner with selective colleges and help them bring teams, or posses, of talented student leaders from the same city to pursue higher education on their campuses. That simple idea has turned into one of the most successful college leadership programs in the country. Since 1989, The Posse Foundation has sent over 10,000 students to 60 partner colleges, institutions that have collectively provided more than $1.6 billion in merit scholarships. In 2010, President Obama named Posse as one of 10 nonprofits that would share his Nobel Prize.
Connecticut College’s partnership with Posse began in 2008 with the first group of students selected from Chicago, and expanded in 2020 with the introduction of a second Posse from New York City. By May, a total of 95 Posse scholars will have graduated from the College since 2012.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree, Bial holds both masters and doctoral degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, where she chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and she also sits on the Board of Directors at Xometry, Inc.
“Bial’s presence will be especially meaningful in a year when Connecticut College has welcomed a talented Posse alumna, Erika J. Smith, as our new dean of the College,” President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a letter announcing Bial’s selection to the College community.
“Among our own notable Posse alumni leaders are Chakena Sims Perry ’16, winner of Posse’s 2020 Ainsley Alumni Achievement Award; Maurice Tiner ’17, Director of Race and Ethnicity Programs at Connecticut College; and Christian Vasquez ’19, one of the inaugural Ubben fellows who now works directly with Bial in the Posse Foundation offices.”
During the Commencement ceremony, the College will confer on Bial an honorary degree—a doctor of humane letters honoris causa—an award that reflects her lifelong commitment to fostering campus environments where students thrive, reach their potential, and contribute to others’ flourishing.