Deborah Bial, president and founder of The Posse Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at Conn’s 104th Commencement Sunday, May 22, 2022.
Bial, a 2007 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is an expert in the field of college success and leadership development. Her experience in facilitating dialogue related to issues of access, equity, and diversity—and her work reframing college admissions into a more inclusive process—has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States.
Under Bial’s leadership, The Posse Foundation has sent more than10,000 student leaders to college in supportive teams, known as Posses. This singular achievement has garnered more than $1.6 billion in scholarship support from Posse’s more than 60 partner colleges and universities. In 2010, President Obama named Posse one of 10 nonprofits with which he would share his Nobel Peace Prize money.
Bial received a bachelor of arts in American and English literature from Brandeis University and a doctorate in education from Harvard University. She is a member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, where she is chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. She also sits on the Board of Directors at Xometry Inc.
As part of the Commencement ceremony, Bial will receive a doctor of humane letters honoris causa, an honorary degree that reflects Bial’s success leading The Posse Foundation, and her commitment to fostering an environment where all people can thrive, reach their potential and contribute to the flourishing of others for the greater good—what we at Conn call full participation.
Conn welcomes Bial in the same year Conn selected its 14th Posse from Chicago and third from New York City. Conn’s new dean of the college, Erika Smith, is a Posse alumna, and the College has many standout Posse alumni, including Chakena Sims Perry ’16, winner of the 2020 Ainsley Alumni Achievement Award; and Christian Vasquez ’18, an inaugural Ubben fellow who is now working at Posse as Bial’s assistant.
The 2022 Commencement Speaker Committee is co-chaired by Lauren Middleton and Ava Ernst ’22; students Piper Burke ’22, Elizabeth Lopez ’22 and Long Ta ’22; and faculty and staff members Anne Bernhard, Luci Chaplin, Marc Forster, Ayako Takamori and Tiffany Thiele.