Alumni establish critical scholarship fund to support student leaders at St. Olaf

St. Olaf Posse Students

The college’s first Posse class gathers in the Cage. By 2017 there will be 40 Posse students at St. Olaf.

Two alumni have given St. Olaf College $2.5 million to support its participation in the nationally recognized Posse Foundation leadership program.

The anonymous gift will establish an endowed fund, and the spendable income will be doubled annually through St. Olaf’s Strategic Initiative Match (SIM) program. These funds will fully support tuition for five Posse scholars each year.

“This thoughtful and generous gift supports St. Olaf’s partnership with a program that brings outstanding students to our campus and works with us to prepare them for productive, useful, happy lives,” says St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74. “We are most grateful.”

The Posse Foundation is a highly competitive and innovative youth leadership and college access program that identifies, recruits, and trains scholars from urban schools who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. The Posse model works for both students and college campuses and is rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students — a Posse — carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for increased individual and community development.

St. Olaf faculty and staff members, led by the dean of students, chose the college’s first posse in 2014 from more than 2,600 students who had been nominated for the program from Chicago. St. Olaf is adding a new posse each year, building to its full complement of four posses — a total of 40 scholars annually — by 2017-18.

Chicago is St. Olaf’s largest enrollment market outside of Minnesota. Working with Posse, St. Olaf can find “best fit” academically talented student leaders who can also help it create an inclusive campus community as the diversity of its student body increases.

Through its partnership, St. Olaf admits and provides full-tuition leadership scholarships for Posse scholars. During their years at St. Olaf, scholars encourage each other as a posse, meeting often together and with their faculty mentors. The Posse Foundation provides pre-collegiate training and regular check-ins with its staff, as well as internship, career planning, and networking opportunities. Following graduation, Posse helps scholars transition into wide-ranging careers and graduate education.

By supporting the development of these scholars, Posse seeks to expand the pool of leaders nationally who can build consensus solutions across diverse multicultural groups and points of view.

In their weekly gatherings at St. Olaf, Posse scholars explore issues, develop solutions, and hone skills necessary to support constructive conversations, building up to an annual weekend-long retreat with peers, faculty, and staff from St. Olaf. This February, a retreat titled “Sticks and Stones: Language, Labels, and Triggers” examined how language defines the terms of conversations about cultural and social issues on campus and beyond. Posse scholars are also deeply engaged in athletics, music, various student organizations, and in serving nonprofits in the Northfield community.

First launched 25 years ago, Posse has realized tremendous outcomes for its scholars. They have a 90 percent retention and graduation rate, and 41 percent pursue or complete graduate degrees, significantly higher than national averages.