Higher Education Initiatives


At the root of the Bonner Program is a transformative vision for higher education, one that harkens to the founding of higher education and its importance to the social, economic, and cultural vitality of the nation and world. Every college and university in our network has a public purpose in its mission statement. These shared aims are to educate the next generation of graduates who lead lives of purpose, contribute to their society, and sustain healthy families, communities, and our democracy.

While the Bonner Program on an individual campus may be small in numbers (a cohort of 40 to 160), its presence and the work of its students, staff, faculty and partners shape the whole campus. Over time and through sustained partnerships with communities, these programs and institutions define what it means to be engaged citizens, reflective scholars and practitioners, and change agents.

Our vision punctuates a number of current trends and issues in higher education:

  • Increase college access and attainment – especially for low-income, diverse and underrepresented students;

  • Leverage work study and financial aid in connection with community engagement;

  • Build college experiences and curricula that educate the whole person, especially through integrative, developmental, civic experiences;

  • Engage institutions in being partners with communities and in collectively leveraging their intellectual, human, and financial assets to address issues, solve problems, and build communities;

  • Support institutions to be "stewards of place" that engage their students, faculty, and staff in contributing to the health, welfare, and vitality of surrounding neighborhoods and communities; and,

  • Foster the development of agents of change who make lifelong and institutional commitments to building a more equitable nation and world.

We play a national role in building a community of practice for administrators, faculty, and student leaders that invites connections across institutions to learn from each other. As a engaged scholars and practitioners' network, we work to develop and implement best practices in the field and to share these models and insights within and outside the Bonner Network.


support new bonner program start-ups

We welcome interest from schools considering starting a Bonner Program, and offer a series of guides, national trainings, and individual support and consultation to support this process.

bonner pipeline project

We are developing a series of national training workshops and other resources to recruit and support Bonner Program and community engagement staff from their first position to campus-wide center director roles. 

presentations & Publications

We regularly find opportunities to share the lessons learned from the Bonner Network to other institutions in higher education in the United States and abroad through publications and national conference


The collective impact of the Bonner Program on higher education is impossible to measure.  There are a few indicators worth noting:

growth in bonner program network

  • The national Bonner Network has grown to 65 institutions representing a diverse range of institutional types in 24 states from an original group of 22 small, liberal arts colleges.

  • There are 26 schools with Bonner Program endowments (with a combined market value more than $215 million) supporting 1,500 students annually. Twenty-one of these schools have Bonner Scholar Programs, which have a specific set of admission and financial aid packaging criteria, and five more have Bonner Leader Programs.

  • The Bonner Leader Program began in 1997 and now has nearly twice as many schools as the original group of institutions.

  • In the 2016-17 year alone, the Bonner Foundation received nearly 50 inquiries from colleges and universities interested in learning more about the Bonner Program model. Each year three or four schools join the Bonner Network.


  • In 2016 Bonner Foundation received the Council for Independent Colleges' Award for Philanthropy. In announcing the 2016 Award for Philanthropy (Organization), President Kimball said, “The award celebrates a foundation whose support of private colleges and universities and CIC has demonstrated leadership and vision and has, consequently, made a significant difference in the vitality of independent higher education.” The foundation also is being honored, Kimball said, because it “seeks to improve the lives of individuals and communities by helping to meet basic nutritional and educational opportunity needs through long-term partnerships with both colleges and congregations.”

  • Graduates of the Bonner Program are sought after by graduate schools, national service organizations, and other non-profit and public sector agencies. We have formed national partnerships with a wide range of these institutions. Some, including City Year and Teach for America, specifically target graduates of the Bonner Program who are accepted into these highly competitive programs at a high rate.

Articles & Speeches