Dr. Marla Delgado-Guerrero describes herself as a product of mentorship, and with her new role as the head of the UW-Madison Posse program, she aims to allow more students to have access to the support that she did.
The UW Posse program is the Madison-based outlet of an organization that works with many universities across the country to bring them access to high-achieving students from underprivileged backgrounds. The program aims to allow these students to get the attention of admissions officers they otherwise wouldn’t and strives to set them up for success by assigning them a “posse” of students from their city to interact with at the university they attend.
“Having a mentor to help guide you and help provide that support can just really help with graduation retention rates,” says Dr. Delgado Guerrero, when describing what drew her back into the Posse program. She served as a mentor to the Posse group from Chicago at UW-Madison from 2007-2009. She says she’s excited to return to not only the Posse program, but the UW-Madison campus, where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees culminating in her Ph.D.
While her Ph.D. is in counseling psychology, the first degree that Dr. Delgado Guerrero earned from UW was a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She notes that it may seem like a big leap from journalism to counseling psychology, but she owes her eventual successes to the mentors who guided her throughout her educational journey. They guided her to programs they thought would work best for her, and encouraged her to explore what she was passionate about.
As her work has progressed and she’s worked in different capacities, including full-time at Marquette University Counseling Center for the past seven years, she’s realized that she too could be a resource for other BIPOC students in higher education. Dr. Delgado Guerrero described being sought out at Marquette by BIPOC students, who were eager to connect with her. One student, in particular, mentioned, “I didn’t know a Latina psychologist existed. I’ve only heard about white therapists and I’ve only seen white therapists. I did not know there was a Latina psychologist.”
Dr. Delgado-Guerrero described that interaction as an “eye-opening” experience that brought clarity to the realization of how important cultural role models and representation can be to a student’s success.
Cultivating that kind of success is also a goal of the Posse program. Not only does the program help students garner the attention of admissions offices, it also grant students four-year full-tuition leadership scholarships to help fund their college education. The UW-Madison Posse program accepts students from four cities, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Chicago, which is the most of any partner university in the program.
When asked about her hopes to expand to more cities, Dr. Delgado Guerro said that she wants to focus on the quality of the program for the students currently enrolled before thinking about expansion. “At the end of the day, for me, it’s always about quality over quantity,” she says, “I want to have quality cities, make sure our Posse scholars that are here are getting as much support as possible.”
Dr. Delgado-Guerrero wants everyone to know how excited she is to return to working with the Posse program. While she doesn’t know if her higher education experience would’ve been different had she been able to be involved in the program, she does believe that the program makes a huge difference for the scholars who are currently involved in it. She also notes that there’s a lot of love that goes into creating and maintaining the program, she describes them as a “family,” all working towards one goal: graduation. “Getting our students to graduation is showing that love, sometimes maybe tough love,” she says, “but we want to get them to that graduation, to that finish mark.”
After finishing up her first full week as director, Dr. Delgado-Guerrero has clear goals and hopes for her tenure with the program. “I want to ensure every single current Posse scholar on our campus feels like they have support and they know who to turn to,” she says. She mentioned earlier in the interview her focus on cultivating mental health care resources in her previous position at Marquette. Allowing students to have access to these resources is something that’s important to her, and something she wants to continue in her work with the Posse program.
With new leadership and commitment to further collaboration, the Posse program is looking forward to moving forward and serving many more students. Delgado-Guerrero says that connecting with more alumni will be a goal, “I want to be able to tap into those networks to help our current Posse scholars, find internships, find careers, find graduate schools post-graduation. And I think that our UW alumni Posse base could be a great place for them to start.”