Posse scholars address social responsibility

Katy Hillbo

For most new students, coming to college and re-establishing in a foreign environment is a big transition. Suddenly, the comfortable support networks of friends and family are not as readily available as they used to be, and it can be easy to feel homesick and isolated. For students who come from challenging backgrounds, college can present even more difficulties.
The Posse program was founded in 1989 by Deborah Bial to provide students with the opportunity to attend universities and to blossom socially and academically, regardless of economic, social or other limitations.
According to the official Web site, Bial was inspired by a student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.” She created the program to provide scholars with just that kind of support network.
The Posse scholars — individuals who show “extraordinary academic and leadership potential,” but who “may be overlooked by the traditional college selection process” — are placed in teams of 10 students. The teams provide support and social networking, and the students are provided with opportunities to excel in academics and leadership while enhancing their campus communities through projects and research.
The Posse program has sites in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Lawrence recently formed a partnership with the New York site and the first group of scholars arrived last year.
Every year, the Posse scholars organize the Posse Plus Retreat — a seminar in which the scholars invite other students to join them to address a particular issue. Although the themes of the issues varied from group to group in the past, this past year all of the Posse Plus groups focused on the theme of social responsibility.
They conducted a national survey to study how college students felt about various issues concerning social responsibility. The Lawrence Posse scholars recently released a report on the findings of this survey called “Who Cares? The Weight of Social Responsibility.”
The report compares the answers of Lawrence students who took the survey to students at other universities. The report revealed that although Lawrentians answered similarly to other college students on many of the questions, there were a few areas in which the answers Lawrentians gave differed significantly from students at other universities.
For example, 44 percent of Lawrentians considered education to be the most important issue to be addressed in the Presidential campaign as opposed to 22 percent of students at other schools. Also, 30 percent of Lawrentians said that racism is a problem on campus as opposed to 67 percent at other schools.
As evidenced by the report and all of the other contributions from Posse scholars, The Posse program not only helps scholars realize their potential, but also enhances the campus communities of which they are a part. Though still new at Lawrence, the Posse program has a bright future.

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