Pigott, Bial to Address SESP Graduates at Convocation

Pigott, Bial to Address SESP Graduates at Convocation

PIgott_BialJane Pigott, Deborah Bial

Deborah Bial, president and founder of The Posse Foundation, and Jane DiRenzo Pigott, founder and managing director of R3 Group LLC, will deliver keynote speeches during the 2017 School of Education and Social Policy undergraduate and graduate Convocation ceremonies, respectively.

Bial, an education strategist and MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient, will speak during the undergraduate ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 16, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St. on Northwestern University's Evanston campus.

Pigott is an attorney-turned-consultant who has long advocated for workplace diversity. She will address graduate students during the master’s and PhD candidates' ceremony earlier in the day at 2 p.m., also at Cahn Auditorium.

The Class of 2017 features a record-high 269 expected graduates, including 145 undergraduates, 116 master's, and eight PhD candidates. Graduating seniors Emily Kahn and Kayla Jones are the 2017 Convocation co-chairs.

In addition to speeches by Bial and Pigot and a SESP senior representing the Class of 2017, the SESP Convocations feature the annual SESP Alumni Leadership Award, given to a graduating undergraduate student and a graduating graduate student for exceptional leadership in SESP, at Northwestern, and beyond.

A reception for SESP graduates and their families follows each Convocation ceremony. The graduate reception is at approximately 3:15 p.m. in the sorority quad behind Cahn Auditorium. The undergraduate reception is at 6 p.m. in the Jacobs Center Atrium, 2001 Sheridan Road.

Deborah Bial

Bial’s Posse Foundation, a college access and youth leadership development program, recruits and trains students from underrepresented backgrounds and public high schools to help them succeed in college. Bial’s inspiration came in 1989 when she heard a student say, “I would never have dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.”

“I loved this idea that you send teams of kids together to college so they can back each other up,” Bial told The New York Times. “Social justice motivates me now, but at the time, the idea of starting something and making it great really appealed to me.”

In 2007, Bial received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for her work with Posse, which has shown that test scores and entrance exams aren’t the only ways to measure educational achievement.

By emphasizing leadership, teamwork, communication skills and motivation, Bial has opened the doors to college for thousands of students and helped reframe college admissions into a more successful and inclusive process.

Since 1989 The Posse Foundation has identified close to 8,000 Posse Scholars. These young people have won more than $1 billion in leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner colleges and universities, are persisting and graduating at a rate of 90 percent and are active leaders both on their campuses and in the workforce.

Northwestern University, a proud Posse partner, is celebrating its first graduating Posse Cohort this year and will be welcoming its fifth cohort in the fall.

Bial, an expert in the field of higher education administration, college access, and leadership development, received a BA from Brandeis University and an MA and EdD from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She has served as founder and president of the Posse Foundation since 1989.

Jane DiRenzo Pigott

Pigott is managing director of R3 Group LLC, a consulting firm that helps organizations create, develop, and maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce.

An active speaker and author on leadership, management, retention and diversity, Pigott has long championed the advancement of women in the legal profession.

Before starting R3 Group, Pigott practiced law for more than 20 years, most recently at Winston & Strawn where she chaired the global environmental law practice.

At Winston, she became the first woman to serve on the firm’s executive management committee. She created and chaired the firm’s Diversity initiative, dramatically improving recruitment, retention, and promotion of attorneys.

She also was instrumental in modifying the firm’s workplace harassment and flexible hour policies.       

Under Pigott’s leadership, Winston won three coveted Sager Awards for its Diversity Programs from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

Pigott is an active member and leader of numerous boards of directors and civic organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where she serves as a Life Trustee and sits on its executive committee.

She is a Trustee of Northwestern University and sits on several other Northwestern boards and committees.

Pigott received a BA from the University of Virginia and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/30/17