[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Letter to the Editor[/pullquote1]

To the Editor:

The opinion piece about the College’s longtime relationship with the POSSE Foundation that ran in the Oct. 29 edition of The College Reporter contained inaccurate information that is misleading for our community and seriously mischaracterized the many benefits of the program to F&M. While it is not practical to attempt a point-by-point correction of the many inaccuracies in the op-ed, I feel there are several assertions that require addressing.

First and foremost, contrary to the implication of the op-ed, we believe every student is a full partner in the F&M experience and do not believe one student is more right for F&M than another. I have helped select POSSE scholars for the past eight years, and the pool of finalists is truly extraordinary. Overall last year, 14,000 students nationwide were nominated and rigorously assessed to become the 572 scholars attending the finest institutions all across the country (including Cornell, Penn, Oberlin, Pomona and F&M). POSSE is a highly selective program that has brought to the College students with qualities of intellect and leadership that combine with the deepest possible commitment to make the college experience meaningful for themselves and others.

Our POSSE students defy the sweeping generalizations about economic background and academic performance that were simply inaccurate in the Oct. 29 editorial. POSSE students are fully representative of our high-achieving student body, routinely making the dean’s and honors lists, studying abroad, partnering with faculty in leading-edge research projects, and achieving impressive post-graduate success. It’s worth noting one of the College’s winners of the prestigious national Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship last year was a POSSE student who also won a Fulbright Scholarship.

F&M’s relationship with the POSSE Foundation also enhances the leadership capacity of the student body, and this leadership cannot be underestimated as a value to our campus. In the eight years since the program began, POSSE students have enriched the lives of their classmates in leadership positions in the College Houses, student government, and student clubs and organizations. We see definitive beneficial outcomes of POSSE students — like their classmates — playing an important role developing programs, launching initiatives, hosting events, and helping guide and contribute to student life on campus in ways that benefit broad ranges of students every day. It was on the basis of seven years of success of POSSE scholars at F&M that the institution as a whole, led by President Porterfield, and with deep engagement of the faculty, made the decision to create a second POSSE cohort focused on STEM fields with students drawn from Miami.

Daniel Lugo, vice president for admission and financial aid, who took part in the selection of both the New York and Miami cohort with me, reports both groups have exceptional credentials. As a final point, the letter made erroneous assumptions about F&M’s approaches to financial aid and the SAT. First, to be clear, the College is proud of having built an outstanding student body with the benefit of a financial aid program that meets the full demonstrated need of students from a wide range of backgrounds. In point of fact, more than half of all our students receive need-based financial aid. And second, we’re equally proud that one-third of all of our 2,400 students choose to present their achievements and talents to us through means other than standardized tests through our SAT-option.

As we discuss significant issues, I think it’s important for all of us as a community to avoid making generalizations about groups of individuals based on single attributes or affiliations. F&M is proud of its relationship with the POSSE Foundation and of the many contributions the students make to the academic and social vitality of our campus.

Kent Trachte
Dean of the College