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.”
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.