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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis grad wins MacArthur Fellowship

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: News

Posse Foundation founder, Deborah Bial 87 learned Tuesday, Sept. 18, that she had been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship. I was in Chicagositting in a rental car and I got a phone call, explained Bial. She continued, he said are you sitting down? Are you alone? Have you heard of the MacArthur Fellow program? He told me and I started crying. It was great. The MacArthur Fellow Program, Bial explained, [has] a network of hundreds of nominators who they secretly pick and who secretly nominate. You dont even know youre nominatedthats why I was crying. Its such a surprise and an honor.

Of the award, Bial remarked, hopefully it means that Posse will get more attention and that more universities will consider signing on as partnersPosse is trying to grow [and] I think this can help. When asked how she will use the money, Bial responded, At this point, I have no idea. She continued, its no strings attached. You can do whatever you want. You can dream bigits really exciting.

She said of the MacArthur Fellowship, its kind of like Posse because theyre identifying people who they think have creative potential. I love that. The award, Bial believes, recognize[s] the entire staff and scholars and partner schools. [It says] Posse we believe in you and we believe in your future.

When asked how what role Brandeis played in the founding of Posse, Bial explained, The thing that I say about Brandeis is that I got a stellar education andI really think Brandeis is one of the finest institutions of higher education in the world. She added, Jehuda Reinharz has been a real advocate for the program and I think his leadership is helping Posse get more publicity and helping us get more ideas for the future.

Brandeis was one of the first partner schools for Posse and its been a great partner, said Bial, the faculty, mentors, and administration have been fabulous. The social justice mission of Brandeis is very much in line with how I feel about my work at Posse. Bial also mentioned the new science Posse program pioneered by Prof. Irv Epstein (CHEM). Irvs vision for the science Posse is amazing, said Bial. When you put different ideas together, she continued, you get something better than you couldve imagined. Its all Brandeis.

In choosing partner schools for the Posse program, Bial said, we look for institutions that are deeply committed to addressing issues of diversity, highly selective institutions of higher education who are, even without Posse, working to make their campus climate more active and engaged and welcoming to students of all backgrounds.

Posse is currently in the process of developing programs with graduate schools. Bial explained, were starting to have a significant number of alumni. Grad schools have approached us and asked how can we connect to your alumni?

Posse, said Bial, is a true leadership program that helps institutions redefine merit. It acknowledges people who have the ability to not just succeed in college[but] people who have potential to be true leaders in the workforce.

Posse scholars on campus expressed excitement over Bials honor. Fanny Familia 09 said, Deborah Bial is such a sweetheart. She's the founder of such an incredible scholarship program that helps those of us who otherwise would not be attending such a prestigious school. She added, [Bial is] always open to suggestions and always looking for ways to make the scholarship program better than it already is. I know that whatever she does with this grant will have wonderful results. A. Watkins 09 agreed. It is no surprise to me that she received this honor. She is responsible for changing the lives of many inner city youth for the better.

Posse scholar and Student Union Director of Campus Life Christina Khemraj 09 commented, Shes always exited to hear about our experiences with the program and welcomes us all to visit her whenever we are in the office. She added, my experience with the Posse program has been like none other. Its a great family to be a part of and the resources are endless. Im proud to be a Posse scholar and I think Ms. Bial deserves every cent of that grant.

Editors Note: Bea Paterno contributed to this report.