The Posse program was developed on the premise that students are more likely to succeed if their peers – Posse – are available to them for support when they enter college. Groups typically composed of 10 students from the same community are selected by participating colleges each year.
Mount Holyoke began partnering with the Posse Foundation to admit students from high schools in Miami three years ago. This year's group of 10 will begin taking classes in September.
Santiago is excited to meet his cohort.
"It is such a great opportunity to help this group of young women adjust to Mount Holyoke," he said. "I hope that I can provide an environment in which they feel welcomed and supported by our institution and each other. At the same time, I hope to encourage them to become independent and comfortable making their own decisions as they progress through their first years in college."
Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella helped select the Posse 3 cohort when she visited Miami this past fall.
"Mount Holyoke and the Posse Foundation share a commitment to promoting access to academic excellence for extraordinary students from all socioeconomic backgrounds," she said. "I was thrilled to participate in the selection of our third class of Posse students who, as role models and mentors, will play a critical role in shaping the next generation of women leaders."
Current Posse mentors Tanya Williams and Leah Glasser agree that while the job requires a significant time commitment, the benefits to the scholars, and the mentors themselves, are substantial.
"Mentoring the Posse scholars has been rewarding to me as someone who strives to work toward understanding the complete student experience," said Williams. "My mentoring of the Posse has made me a better administrator and teacher for all students because I am able to see inside the full college experience for students as they balance academics, extracurricular activities, personal life, family life, and their own development as an adult. "
Glasser says her mentorship of Posse 2 is centered on helping the scholars meet their academic and leadership potential, synthesizing all that they are learning at Mount Holyoke, and accessing opportunities.
"The Posse scholars play an active part because they are assertive, inquisitive, and open to suggestions, " said Glasser. "They engage and connect, and they are a terrific team."
Being a Posse mentor, she said, has helped her in her role as dean of first year studies. "It's had a huge impact on how I advise faculty on the best approaches to mentoring students."
Kala Jones '15, a member of Posse 2, says she is grateful for Glasser's counsel and advice.
"Mount Holyoke seemed very scary and daunting from Miami," she recalled. "But Leah was there to help me every step of the way."
Jones, who is majoring in neuroscience and behavior, described Glasser's role as "getting her on track" from the start.
"Right from the beginning she helped me to fix my first-semester schedule, think about organizations to join. She calmed me down and offered encouragement in reference to my classes. Honestly, I don't know where I would be without Leah on my side," she said.
Santiago said he is looking forward to his new role.
"I strongly believe that my job as a mentor is to be available to guide as needed, to exchange ideas and points of view," he said. "I will challenge the students to think independently, extract the most out of their day-to-day experiences, and find their own answers."
"Posse is the gift that keeps on giving," said Mount Holyoke's Posse liaison Diane Anci. "Our scholars bring so much to our community. I know they will go on to make a difference at home in Miami and all around the country and world. Through Posse, we've learned so much about the value of teams and the impact of great mentoring."
Santiago is currently in his 19th season as head coach of Mount Holyoke's tennis team. Since taking over the reigns of the program in 1993, he has mentored a pair nationally ranked players, a NEWMAC Player of the Year and three NEWMAC Rookies of the Year. Many of his players have earned All-Conference recognition, and one took home a Seven Sisters Championship. One of the top coaches in the northeast, he has racked up 166 wins.
Beginning with the 1998-99 campaign, Santiago led Mount Holyoke to seven consecitive winning seasons. He was named ITA Northeast Region Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the 2004-05 season.
Prior to joining the Mount Holyoke staff, Santiago served as an assistant coach for the men's tennis team at The Ohio State University. He helped lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship in 1991. In 1986, Santiago was an assistant coach for women's tennis team at Ohio University.
Once ranked among the top five amateur players in Puerto Rico, Santiago played tennis for four years at the University of Puerto Rico and was named Most Valuable Player in his senior season. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in physical education from Puerto Rico and his Master of Science degree in physical education from Ohio.
Santiago's players have offered instruction to young people in the local community and have conducted weekly workouts for faculty and friends. His teams travel to his home in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico during spring break most seasons.
In addition to his duties as tennis coach at Mount Holyoke, Santiago also serves as Physical Education Curriculum Coordinator and teaches all levels of tennis and squash.
Photos by Leila Quinn '12