Diversity and Inclusion

Strategy  •  Background  •  Next Steps  •  Available Resources


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.

Meet four of the 2011-2012 Bonner Leaders from Augsburg College. Created by Adam Spanier

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.

Connection to Community Impact

Community partners benefit from the relationship they develop with students who reflect the diversity of their community, and who are knowledgable about the community context in which they are serving and skilled at entering into new environments with sensitivity and respect. 

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.

Connection to Campus Impact

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 and all campus-wide community engagement efforts.

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 sense making — 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.


Diversity is one of six of the Bonner Common Commitments, which are intentionally woven into all programs through education, training, reflection, and other strategies; 

This commitment to diversity and inclusion is represented in several policies and practices including:

First, the Bonner Program model focuses directly on increasing access for low-income, first generation, and historically underrepresented students. The Bonner Scholar Program recruitment guidelines specify that 85% of students must have Estimated Family Contribution below $10,000 with an average below $6,000), while the Bonner Leader Program's recruit at least 75% students who are eligible for Federal Work-Study. 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.

In terms of gender balance, our goal is that no more than it be no more 60%/40% in any direction.

Finally, 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 

Next Steps

We continue to put diversity and inclusion at the center of the Bonner Program.  We will continue to develop new training and reflection modules (see below).  And, we will be seeking out national organization partners with expertise in the areas of dialogue across difference.

Finally, we are seeking to measure and document the impact of the Bonner Program on diverse, low-income, often first generation students on a number of dimensions — recruitment, retention, thriving, among others — through our student assessment initiatives.

Available Resources

On our wiki, we have compiled a set of resources around the common commitment of diversity and inclusion and for the related area of dialogue across difference.

Here you will find guides, campus examples, and documents to download, including presentations, publications, and links to national organizations with additional resources for campuses.