UNCSA partners with The Posse Foundation on new initiative to recruit diverse young artists

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is partnering with The Posse Foundation on a new initiative conceived in collaboration with renowned songwriter, actor, producer and director Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “In the Heights”) to recruit, train and support talented students who might be missed through traditional avenues. UNCSA is the third school — and the first conservatory — to join Posse Arts, an expansion of the nationwide Posse Scholars program.

UNCSA will use existing and new scholarship funds for the Posse members, along with a $500,000 grant ($100,000 per year for five years) from The Posse Foundation.

The Posse Foundation partners with top institutions that view diversity as integral to excellence. Many Posse Scholars are often the first in their families to attend college, or come from historically underrepresented communities.

“Our partnership with The Posse Foundation will help us begin to take action on the recommendation made by the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) Advisory Committee to recruit exceptionally talented students from all walks of life who bring different socioeconomic, cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds,” said Chancellor Brian Cole, who in 2020 launched an EDIB initiative to identify and dismantle systems and practices of bias, exclusion and oppression on campus. “I believe that artists will be at the forefront of transformational change in our society, and the students who we train at UNCSA, with the support of Posse Arts, will lead that cultural shift,” he added.

Deborah Bial, president and founder of Posse, said, “We are thrilled to collaborate with UNCSA on the new Posse Arts initiative. What a fantastic opportunity for the young people who are hoping to lead in the arts. We look forward to working with Chancellor Cole and the UNCSA team.”

Through the partnership that was established with support of the Miranda Family Fund, Posse Arts will use its signature assessment process and the rigorous conservatory admissions criteria already in place at UNCSA to recruit undergraduate prospects in Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Memphis, Newark, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Top recruits, as determined by UNCSA deans and Admissions staff, will enter the UNCSA admissions cycle, which includes interviews with faculty and deans and auditions or portfolio presentations. In addition to receiving full scholarships, Posse Artists will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and retreats with their peers, faculty mentors and Posse trainers.

“The process will dovetail nicely with the work of our Admissions team,” said UNCSA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims, who is providing leadership for the initiative. Sims worked with Posse Scholars programs in his previous position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was thrilled to learn of the new initiative geared specifically to the arts. “This is a perfect fit for UNCSA,” he said. “The Posse Foundation brings to the partnership its vast network for recruiting and its expertise in supporting and mentoring students from underrepresented populations.”

Posse Arts will recruit and support diverse young artists

The Posse Arts partnership will help UNCSA to recruit diverse young artists. / Photo: Peter Mueller

Sims said UNCSA plans to admit 10 students through Posse Arts for fall 2022. He hopes each UNCSA conservatory — Dance, Design and Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music — will have at least one Posse recruit.

“As a community of artists, UNCSA will reap the rewards of partnering with Posse Arts to create a more diverse student body. We are storytellers, and we are committed to telling stories that inspire justice,” he said. “We need to hear the voices of populations that have not been heard. That is vital to the mission of UNCSA and it is vital to all of our students who will lead in creative industries for generations to come.”

The benefits to colleges and universities that adopt the Posse program include improved relations between college administration and the student body, and among the student body; increased diversity within student organizations and among organization leaders; and greater diversity of viewpoints in classroom discussions.

About The Posse Foundation

Posse started in 1989, inspired by a student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.”

Posse Scholars represent the diversity of the cities from which they are recruited. To be considered for the award, students must first be nominated by their high school or a community-based organization. Nominees then take part in Posse’s Dynamic Assessment Process, an innovative, nontraditional method for assessing leadership and academic potential.

Posse partners with 63 highly selective colleges and recruits dynamic students from more than 20 cities across the United States. To date, more than 10,000 students have won over $1.6 billion in scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities. Most importantly, Scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent — a rate that well exceeds the national average and equals or exceeds the average graduation rates at most selective colleges in the United States.

About the Posse Arts Initiative

The Posse Arts initiative was established in the spring of 2021 with the goal of guiding diverse undergraduates into creative fields. Former first lady Michelle Obama announced the initiative at a panel hosted by Miranda, saying, “… starting next year… talented dancers and graphic artists and actors, musicians and more, will head off on their college journeys together, supporting each other every step of the way.”

Miranda, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards, said, “I wish I’d had an Arts Posse when I was looking at colleges. Much of my career has been about challenging and expanding notions of who belongs and who gets to lead. For 30-plus years, Posse has been doing the exact same thing in higher education. It makes so much sense that our Family Fund would look to partner with Posse to realize our shared goal of greater diversity of leadership of the arts.”

Miranda said he hopes Posse Arts brings “new stories, more perspectives. Our culture is richer when you have that.”

In addition to receiving full tuition plus need-based aid, Posse Artists will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and retreats with their peers, faculty mentors and Posse trainers.

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July 14, 2021