William & Mary announced today an unprecedented partnership with The Posse Foundation to provide full scholarships to diverse cohorts of students, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college and many of whom may not have otherwise seen the university as an affordable option.
The Posse Foundation is a national organization that identifies, recruits and trains teams of students who show extraordinary leadership and academic potential. It gained attention in 2010 when it was one of 10 organizations to receive a share of President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize award money.
Posse’s work with William & Mary will be unique, as this will be the first time Posse Scholars will be selected from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and this will be the first cohort of Posse Scholars selected from a broader region instead of a single metro area. That expansion is possible now following Posse’s experience with building cohorts through remote modes, such as online meetings, under the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We celebrate this new partnership with The Posse Foundation,” W&M President Katherine A. Rowe said. “I’ve long admired Posse. They effectively identify students of extraordinary ability and enormous potential and support them to ensure they receive an education worth their merit. I know these students will reflect exactly the types of leadership qualities and ethos that typify the William & Mary community.”
Since its inception in 1989, The Posse Foundation has worked with partner colleges to award $1.5 billion in scholarships to nearly 10,000 scholars recruited from major metro areas and nationwide for the Posse Veterans Program.
Starting fall 2021, William & Mary will provide full-tuition scholarships, including mandatory fees, for 10 students selected from a field of 20 candidates identified by Posse from Virginia.
“These scholarships build on William & Mary’s commitment to affordability through financial aid for in-state students,” said W&M Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe. “According to the most recent federal data, in-state students who qualify for aid and come from households at or below an income level of $110,000 will pay and borrow less on average to attend W&M than they would for any other four-year public university in the Commonwealth.”
These virtual Posses will be the first to include Virginians, and the virtual nature means students need not come from the same metro area.
“We are thrilled to partner with William & Mary on this exciting new initiative,” said Deborah Bial, founder and president of The Posse Foundation. “With our nation facing so much division and unrest, this partnership reflects our shared commitment to increasing opportunity for talented young people from diverse backgrounds and contributing to a more equitable society. We are excited to work with President Rowe and her team in Virginia to launch the very first in-state Posse program.”
W&M has committed to a five-year partnership with The Posse Foundation, which will award the university a one-time $250,000 grant to cover costs in the first year. To cover the program costs and scholarships in future years, W&M will be seeking support from alumni and other friends of the university who are committed to college access and student success.
The university also will be initiating a process to recruit faculty mentors for the cohort. These mentors will be involved in the preparatory experience, as well as the Posse scholars’ time on campus.
Posse cohort and faculty mentors will participate in a PossePlus Retreat as well as other programs intended to give students opportunities to connect with other members of their Posse cohort as well as Posse students from other schools.
Members of W&M’s admission office will interview 20 finalists virtually in March 2021 with selections coming soon thereafter. All finalists will commit to enrolling if selected.
From April through August, W&M’s first Posse cohort will work together as a pre-collegiate group, and this will be the first time Posse will use a virtual platform to recruit students beyond its 10 current cities in which it operates across the country.
“What we are doing is engaging a partner to help us find students who are a good match for William & Mary who may not be on our radar, and William & Mary may not be on theirs,” said W&M Vice President for Strategic Initiatives & Public Affairs Henry Broaddus. “These will be high-impact leaders identified in part by Posse’s ability to conduct a comprehensive selection process that includes interviews and other qualitative and time-intensive techniques that complement the work our own admission office does.”
A first for Virginia
Posse has partnered with 60 universities and facilitated scholarships for over 9,500 students from metropolitan areas nationwide, but this will be the first time it will select a cohort from Virginia.
Posse initially proposed W&M recruit its Posse cohort from the Washington, D.C., area, but Rowe sought to widen the pool of candidates to students from all of Virginia.
The Posse Foundation’s mission is to harness peer-to-peer support for student cohorts and build a diverse leadership network.
The name comes from a quote from a student who said in 1989, “I never would’ve dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.” A college or university commits to enrolling a group of 10 students, a Posse, from an agreed upon metro area in which The Posse Foundation operates.
Traditionally, Posse has recruited its cohorts from centralized locations to make it easier for Posse cohorts to acquaint themselves before making their way to college. But advancements in virtual communication make it easier for students from a wider geographical footprint to meet and build relationships before beginning school.
“The idea is peer-to-peer support by identifying a group of students prior to matriculating at a college or university who are going to start to work together and learn together and build community as a cohort,” Broaddus said. “When they then matriculate as a group, they’re going to have more success and impact by virtue of that set of relationships and the peer-to-peer support.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson has a great quote, ‘You send your child to the schoolmaster, but ’tis the schoolboys who educate him.’ We know William & Mary students report what they learn from one another is one of the richest parts of their education, so anything we’re doing that’s going to deepen that and start it sooner is going to contribute to an even better experience.”
Nathan Warters is a communications specialist at William & Mary.
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