Educational access trailblazer Deborah Bial will deliver the Commencement address at Vassar College’s 153rd ceremony on Sunday, May 28, 2017. Her selection as speaker this year has special significance: among the class of 2017 is the first group of veterans brought to Vassar using a model pioneered by Bial.
Bial is the president and founder of the Posse Foundation in New York City, an organization that focuses on youth leadership development and college access. The foundation sends teams (Posses) of students from diverse backgrounds to selective colleges and universities. Under Bial’s leadership, the Posse Foundation has become one of the most comprehensive college success and scholarship programs in the United States. Today it supports programs in Atlanta, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and Washington D.C.
In 2013 Vassar worked with Posse to use their successful model to bring the first group of veterans to campus; that first cohort will graduate this year.
“I am delighted that Deborah Bial will deliver this year’s address, bringing full circle the mission that Vassar and the Posse Foundation embarked on together four years ago to bring veterans to Vassar,” said Vassar interim President Jonathan Chenette. “The college has been thoroughly enriched by this program and these students.”
The fifth group of Posse Veterans will enter Vassar this fall; Wesleyan and Dartmouth have also joined the effort.
Bial is an expert in the field of higher education administration, college access and leadership development. Her extensive experience in facilitating dialogue related to issues of access, equity and diversity—and in guiding selective institutions of higher education towards improved admissions policy has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States. In 2007 she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a prestigious award commonly referred to as the “genius grant.”
Bial holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Harvard University. She has also been the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.