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Celebrating 10 years of support for Northwestern’s Posse Scholars

Whether picking a class or a new winter coat, Posse’s Posse helps students succeed and feel a sense of belonging
posse scholars
The 10th class of Posse Scholars at Northwestern arrived on campus in the fall, beginning their college experience alongside a collaborative network of faculty and staff.

Justin Brown, an associate professor of instruction in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, specializes in cellular neuroscience. But, as faculty mentor for this year’s cohort of Posse Scholars, his expertise on winter weather is perhaps even more relevant.

Northwestern University is celebrating its 10th anniversary in partnership with the Posse Foundation’s Los Angeles chapter, which brings a new cohort of Southern California-based students each year.

“I grew up in California,” Brown said. “So, my advice was buy winter clothes when you get here. Whatever concept of cold you have growing up in L.A., it’s just not going to cut it.”

It’s a prime example of why Posse has been so successful at Northwestern over the past decade. There is a cross-institutional support system called Posse’s Posse in place to help each student — whether they’re looking for advice on choosing classes or picking out the right winter coat. And just as students in the cohort look out for one another, this group of faculty and staff is dedicated to making sure Posse Scholars take advantage of all the University resources available to them.

Through regular meetings and information provided by the Department of Campus Inclusion and Community, Posse’s Posse can follow the trajectory of each student and guide them along the way.

“We know that Northwestern has an abundance of resources, and yet sometimes our students may not know of them or know how to access them,” said Daviree Laurel Velázquez Phillip, executive director of Campus Inclusion and Community. “Posse’s Posse creates more direct connection to support a student’s navigation of this landscape.”

Representing faculty and staff from 15 departments across campus, Posse’s Posse includes a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, but each member shares the common goal of empowering students, connecting them to resources across campus and making sure they feel a sense of belonging.

> Related: Posse Scholar Dori Taylor-Carter serves as Victory Congressional Intern on Capitol Hill

“If you have a talented student, what are all the things that student might need to be successful?” Brown asked. “I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what will help this particular student thrive. It’s a matter of asking a lot of questions and getting to know the students.”

Posse’s Posse is up and running before new students even step foot on campus each fall. Once they arrive, Posse Scholars meet weekly as a group with Brown, participate in retreats and receive support services to help them start their college careers off on the right foot. 

“Posse’s Posse creates a network of support in some of the key offices at the institution that hold critical resources and opportunities for students,” Velázquez Phillip said. “Rather than sending a student a link to a website and encouraging them to reach out to someone on their own, Posse’s Posse allows for a warm hand-off to another person who knows the intentional design of the Posse program.”

‘It’s about being a part of something’

The proof is in the performance of Posse Scholars throughout this decade-long partnership, like 2022 graduate Huma Manjra.

Manjra graduated in June from Weinberg College. When she was a first-year student, Manjra struggled with her mental health and decided to return home to California to take care of herself.

But because of her Posse network at Northwestern, Manjra had friends and mentors asking how she was and encouraging her to come back to Evanston when ready.

“It was because of Posse that I had the strength to return to school,” Manjra said. “I knew that I could come back because I had this community of friends and mentors waiting for me. It’s about being a part of something. You’re thousands of miles away from home, but you don't feel alone because you have this support system.”

Manjra, who majored in neuroscience and global health, said she wants to go on to medical school and eventually practice psychiatry, helping to improve mental health in Muslim communities. 

“We see our students thrive from the program,” said Velázquez Phillip. “We see them doing undergraduate research, getting internships, starting their own businesses.”

The University’s first Posse cohort graduated in 2017. Jourdan Dorrell, a member of that class — affectionately known as “Posse 1,” came to Northwestern as a first-generation college student. 

“The biggest culture shock I experienced when I came to Northwestern was being away from my family in Los Angeles,” said Dorrell, now a project manager at Google, in a 2017 interview. “But I have come to see my fellow Posse Scholars as family. And, like a family, they helped me through the most difficult time of my life.”

Austin Siegel is a communications specialist in the Division of Student Affairs.