Bonner Alumni Survey


In 2010, Keen also conducted a study of more than 3,500 alumni commissioned in light of the 20th Anniversary of the Bonner Program. This initiative involved additional researchers in the field including Kelly Hall, Julie Hatcher, and Dan Richard. Both surveys’ design integrated proven instruments, such as items from the Higher Education Research Institute’s CIRP, to compare students in the Bonner Program with a broader set of peers.


These assessments strongly affirmed the positive effects of participation in the Bonner Program on students’ learning and development. Moreover, they dispelled common myths about community service, suggesting that an intense, developmental program of co-curricular engagement has significant impacts on student development and post-graduate outcomes. The assessment also found that providing financial scholarships or stipends for such engagement (critical for these low-income students) did not diminish gains. This, too, is an important addition to the field, as a common misperception has been that service only reinforces a charity model engaging students with economic privilege. 

The studies pointed to several key findings:

  • The 2010 large scale survey of Bonner Alumni was found that the program had shaped graduates’ career and vocational choices. Graduates pursued work with meaning and experienced a sense of equanimity and well-being connected with their engagement. Bonner graduates show markedly higher civic professionalism using the“Civic Minded Graduate” scale (developed by Steinberg, Hatcher, and Bringle), compared to students in a national pool who are not in the program (Richard et al. 2011). 
  • While a common critique of community service is its disconnect to political engagement, assessment revealed that Bonner graduates indeed are engaged. More than 90% of graduates had voted in the most recent election, much higher than the national average of college graduates. 


Articles related to the Bonner Student Impact Survey and Alumni Survey have been published in the  Journal of College and Character, Journal of Higher Education, Michigan Journal of Service Learning (a respected journal for community engagement) and other journals. You may access and download these articles here to learn more.

“Post-Graduation Service and Civic Outcomes for High Financial Need Students of a Multi-Campus, Co-Curricular Service-Learning College Program,” published in the Journal of College and Character in 2008 by Cheryl Keen and Kelly Hall. This article captures the findings of the longitudinal study, focusing in particular on the importance of diversity and "dialogue with difference" in the Bonner Program.  

“Access to Education through the Bonner Scholars Program: Post-Graduation Service and Civic Outcomes for High Financial Need Students of a Co-Curricular Service-Learning College Program in the United States,” in 2010 by Cheryl Keen for the International Journal of Social Welfare presents the broader findings of the longitudinal study of Bonner Programs. 

“Pathways to Adult Civic Engagement: Benefits of Reflection and Dialogue across Difference in Higher Education Service-Learning Programs,” published in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (Spring 2017), by Dan Richard, University of North Florida; Julie A. Hatcher; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Cheryl Keen, Walden University; and Heather A. Pease, Loyola University Chicago.