Debbie Bial, Founder of the Posse Foundation

Debbie Bial, Founder of the Posse Foundation

Debbie Bial

11.16.2010

Debbie Bial

Deborah Bial is an education strategist who addresses the challenges of college access for underrepresented populations by identifying and fostering latent talent and opening opportunities for them to pursue higher education. Through her Posse Foundation, Bial offers an alternative model for identifying promising young people from less advantaged, urban environments. Working with public high schools and other community organizations, Bial evaluates potential candidates using a rigorous assessment process based on qualities such as leadership, teamwork, communication skills, and motivation – qualities that are as critical to successful navigation of undergraduate education as academic track records. The most promising students are invited to join a “posse,” a small group that participates in an eight-month, pre-collegiate training program that builds individual and team skills and serves as an essential social support system once students arrive at college. In parallel, she develops partnerships with admissions officials from dozens of highly selective liberal arts colleges and universities, offering a powerful means to augment the cultural and economic diversity of their institutions. Bial is now refining her model to provide a focused program for students specifically interested in science and medicine. Today, 90 percent of “posse” students graduate, a rate significantly higher than the national average. By demonstrating the importance of less-recognized skills in educational achievement, Bial continues to open doors for thousands of students and to reframe college admissions into a more successful and inclusive process.

Deborah Bial received a B.A. (1987) from Brandeis University and an M.A. (1996) and Ed.D. (2004) from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She has served as the founder and president of the Posse Foundation since 1989. Bial is also a founding partner of the consulting company Firefly Education LLC.

Debbie Bial is founder of the Posse Foundation, which identifies, recruits, and trains public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential to become Posse Scholars. These students — many of whom are overlooked by traditional college selection processes — receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. Posse Scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent and make a visible difference on campus and throughout their professional careers. The foundation is one of 10 organizations selected by President Obama to receive a portion of his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award money.