When Denison University was invited to be a charter affiliate of the Chicago Posse Foundation Program in 2000, the college couldn’t have foretold the enriching and far-reaching ramifications of that decision for the Posse students and for the campus as well. That fruitful relationship is evident in a recent article in “Diverse Issues in Higher Education,” which highlighted the momentum of the Posse program and featured interviews with two Denison participants, Beza Ayalew ’09 and Ana Morales ’14.
The Posse Foundation is a comprehensive and renowned college access and youth leadership development program, which identifies promising students from urban backgrounds to form “posses” of about 10 students. Posses are sent to participating colleges and universities, which provide them with extensive scholarships and support. The students end up graduating from the selective colleges with a very high success rate.
Denison also is an affiliate of the Boston Posse, making it one of the few institutions, which supports two full Posses each year, a total of about 20 students.
Ayalew and Morales both hail from the Boston Posse. Since graduation, Ayalew did HIV/AIDS research on a Fulbright Scholarship with Simon Fraser University the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and she is currently employed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Practice in Atlanta. One of her professors, Kent Maynard, brought her attention to the field of public health and encouraged Ayalew to apply for the Fulbright. “I wasn’t even aware of the Fulbright program or of public health as a possible career path, but Professor Maynard and I had so many illuminating talks. These became real possibilities for me,” she says.
Current president of the Denison student body Morales says, “Posse has greatly influenced my philosophy. I’m here because of Posse. I am a first-generation immigrant from Lawrence, Mass., and if this scholarship didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have applied to Denison. The skills I learned with Posse have informed the way I lead. For example, I favor personal interaction over email. I check in with people. We meet for lunch or coffee. Being a Posse Scholar has helped me to be a more hands-on, interactive leader.”
Deborah Bial, founder of Posse, received a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2007. The $500,000 “genius” grant is awarded to “individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.” In 2010, Bial was awarded an honorary degree by Denison and gave the keynote speech at the college’s commencement ceremony that year.