Diversity and Inclusion

Building and implementing a program and campus-wide engagement that includes diverse individuals and offers an inclusive, equitable environment is critical to the intent and success of the Bonner Program. At its core, the Bonner Program aims to support class diversity within the American higher-education landscape by supporting the admission, enrollment, and success of low-income students, who are often first generation college bound as well as members of a variety of family and ethnic backgrounds. In addition, gender is a key issue of which to remain cognizant, with the service field often being traditionally more represented by female students; this often means that programs work hard to recruit and involve male students, but that we also seek to be a place in which both female and male students can flourish as recognized leaders. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is represented in several policies and practices including:

  • A focus on increasing access for low-income, first generation, and historically underrepresented students, which is built into the Bonner Scholar Program recruitment guidelines (which specify that 85%+ of students must be Pell eligible) and also practiced throughout the Bonner Leader Program;
  • At the same time, programs also welcome and involve some students of higher socioeconomic backgrounds. We acknowledge that service and civic engagement can be a common ground to build communities and break down social, economic, political, racial, ethnic, religious and other barriers;
  • Additionally, each Bonner Program thoughtfully recruits a diverse class and Bonner Program overall, and the gender balance of any class should be no more than 60/40 in any direction (for the Bonner Scholar Program, this is part of the Rules); 
  • Diversity is one of six of the Bonner Common Commitments, which are intentionally woven into all programs through education, training, reflection, and other strategies; 
  • The degree of diversity of the Bonner Program and broader campus climate was found to be a positive contributing factor in the impact of the four-year program on students' learning and post-graduate outcomes. Learn more under Bonner Student Impact Survey 
  • In fact, "dialogue across difference" -- which signifies ways that a program builds in and provides opportunities for students to engage with and learn from a variety of individuals, including peers, community residents and partners, staff and faculty -- is a key dimension of program impact.

Indeed, diversity and engaging with diverse others has been found, through the evaluation of the Bonner Program, to be one of the greatest contributors to the program's effectiveness. We use the phrase “dialogue across difference” to refer to the opportunity for students to explore, clarify, and refine their own values and beliefs within a safe space comprised of diverse voices and perspectives. “Dialogue across Difference” came out of a seven-year longitudinal study of the impact of the Bonner Program involving 23 colleges and more than 1,500 students. We learned that intentional dialogue, reflection, and sensemaking - in preparation for the work, during the work, and in an ongoing way over four years - has a big impact on students' efficacy, knowledge, and skills.