Junior/Senior Capstone Projects
In 2015, in light of a decade’s work on the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, the Association of American Colleges and Universities announced a new charge for colleges and universities to integrate “Signature Work” into the experiences of all undergraduate students. Signature Work is defined as a culminating educational activity (such as a capstone) in which students integrate and apply their learning to a significant project with meaning to the student and to society (AACU, 2015). See https://www.aacu.org/leap-challenge, where you can find a brochure and more information.
To be capable and ready to take on Signature Work, students will likely need to have been involved in a developmental pathway across their undergraduate education. Such a pathway may involve both curricular and co-curricular experiences. Bonner Scholars and Leaders are already engaged in a four-year developmental experience through their service work, and many of these students may also be finding relevant educational pathways through both formal and informal structures, including majors, minors, and concentrations.
The Bonner Foundation itself has worked with and beyond its network on civically-connected curricular pathways, including to infuse Community-Based Research and Minors, Certificates, and Concentrations tied to civic engagement across institutions. These institutional pathways can integrate well with developmental civic and community engagement, like the co-curricular experiences supported intentionally by the Bonner Program’s four-year model. Through these integrated pathways, an undergraduate student (like a Bonner Scholar or Leader) can connect and apply their academic learning from a variety of disciplines for a real purpose, one that benefits a partner, specific population, neighborhood, community, or society. The Bonner Foundation calls this “Community Engaged Signature Work.”
By using the Bonner program as a pathway to prepare students for their Community Engaged Signature Work, students can culminate both their Bonner and undergraduate experience in a meaningful and integrated way. By working individually or in teams, this culminating project is a way for students to be able to work on addressing an issue that is important to society and to their own personal interest. In this way, students hone in their problem-solving and social innovation skills.
Over the next decade, the Foundation will work with campuses to build their capacity to integrate Community Engaged Signature Work into the undergraduate journeys of Bonner Scholars and Leaders, as well as other students at the colleges and universities where the Bonner Program is housed. Though we are still working on providing the support so that each Bonner student will complete their own signature work, we have made significant progress on this front, as evidenced by the quality of community-engaged capstone projects that have been accomplished by Bonner students. Below, you can find real examples of Bonners’ Community Engaged Signature Work:
(from the examples Ari compiled to share with the Board)