June 29, 1998

Middlebury College Partners with Posse Foundation--Program Sends New York City Students to College in Groups

Middlebury College has become a partner institution with the Posse Foundation of New York City, a program designed to help inner-city high school students attend selective colleges and universities, Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr. announced today. The College joins three other partner institutions-Vanderbilt, Depauw and Brandeis.

The Posse Program identifies, recruits and selects student leaders from New York City high schools to form multicultural teams called "posses." These teams are then prepared, through an intensive 32-week Posse Training Program, for enrollment at top colleges and universities.

The Posse Program was developed by Deborah Bial, an alumna of Brandeis University, who, while working with New York City youth in 1989, noticed that many of them were dropping out of college after short periods of time. "At that time," said Bial, "the word 'posse' was hip in youth culture, meaning a group of friends who look out for one another and back each other up."

"One particular student stated that year that if he had his posse with him, he never would have dropped out. It seemed an incredibly simple idea. Why not send a posse, or a team, of students together to college? Students from the city experiencing the culture shock of an out-of-state campus would then have a built-in support system," Bial said.

The program is structured to prepare the students to meet and deal with the social, political, cultural and academic issues that in the past have limited the success of students from diverse backgrounds.

The Posse Foundation has designed a recruitment strategy called the Dynamic Assessment Process (DAP), an innovative approach to identifying highly able students who may be missed by traditional college admissions processes. The Posse Foundation identifies its primary selection criteria as leadership ability, social status among peers and communities, demonstrated ambition, ability to work with people from different backgrounds, and desire to succeed. Members of Posse's network of more than 100 New York City public high schools and 30 New York City community-based organizations nominate potential candidates and allow Posse staff to begin its process with hundreds of pre-screened students.

The first evaluation process includes workshops which place students in situations where they can illustrate their public speaking skills, listening, negotiating and communication skills. DAP then identifies students who are strong team players, have leadership ability, are good communicators and who are motivated.

Approximately 60% of these first-round students are then invited back to participate in the second phase of the process, the individual review. At this stage of the recruitment process, Middlebury College representatives will be involved in a finalist workshop with Posse staff and 20 scholarship candidates. Together, Middlebury administration and the Posse Foundation will agree on ten Posse scholars for the next entering class.

The first Middlebury posse will participate in the 32-week training program during winter and spring of 1999, and will arrive on the Middlebury campus in the fall of 1999. Once on campus, the members of the posse will meet regularly to talk about their experiences, help one another with the challenges they encounter, and to organize campus-wide events and activities.

Recent research shows that 92% of Posse students graduate within five years, a higher rate than those of average student bodies in the nation's elite institutions of higher education. "This is a remarkable achievement," said McCardell, "that testifies to Posses's effectiveness in identifying, training and supporting students who will succeed."

"One of the main goals," said Bial, "is to graduate outstanding leaders from diverse backgrounds from the top institutions in the country. The reason for this is that we need the leaders of the next century to really represent the demographic realities of the United States, especially in the big city."

Said McCardell, "I am confident that with the commitment and involvement of the entire campus community, this exciting and vital program will dramatically energize our continuing efforts to enhance the diversity of this College."