Student Service Leadership

Strategy  •  Background  •  Available Resources


The Bonner Program provides students opportunities to develop their skills and identity, discern their roles as change-makers, and channel their talents through a range of leadership roles.

Our philosophy is that “students are the leaders of today,” not tomorrow.  Whether helping to launch a new Bonner Program, manage volunteers at a service site, plan and run campus-wide or national events, or even be colleagues to faculty in facilitating the integration of community engagement with courses, students help lead the program and broader engagement.

Bonner students play strong leadership roles within their Bonner Programs campus-wide, and in community contexts (local, national, and even global). Leadership development is supported through intentional training and education (for instance, during regular meetings with class cohorts and the whole program), coursework, mentoring, and advising. Each program builds on these elements.

Connection to Community Impact

Bonners (and other student leaders) serve as volunteer coordinators for many local community agencies.  Students recruit, train, and supervise other student volunteers, support faculty service-learning courses, and develop volunteer recruitment and management resources for their community partners.  Because they are at their agencies so regularly throughout the school year, Bonners are often viewed by their community partners as part-time staff. We often call this Service Leadership, and it begins to happen during students’ sophomore year. The chart below shows the progression.

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Connection to Campus Impact

Students’ leadership is not confined to roles with their service partners or within the Bonner Program. They also lead in clubs and organizations, Greek Life, political and advocacy groups, and student government. According to our 2010 Student Impact Survey, 85% of Bonners play another leadership role on campus outside of their role in the Bonner Program. See chart below for details from a more recent campus survey on campus-wide leadership roles for Bonners.


Bonner Leadership Roles

Below are some examples of how student leadership is organized in many Bonner Programs:


Class Representatives — Many campuses enlist selected representatives from each class (i.e., First Year Representative) to play leadership roles in planning and leading reflections and trainings, organize service trips, and carrying out projects.

Site or Issue-Based Team Leaders — Students take on a leadership role at their non-profit partner site, helping to coordinate other volunteers and activities. Some programs use broader issue teams (like hunger or the environment), which promote coordination and sharing of efforts across community agencies. Students work closely with staff. 

Bonner Senior Interns or Program Associates — Students move into program management roles, working alongside staff, faculty, and partners.  Bonner Interns help manage the Bonner Program. High-Impact Interns work on projects to broaden and deepen engagement across the curriculum and institution. Community Impact Interns work as liaisons to service sites, doing research and analysis. 

National Bonner Congress Representatives — Two representatives from each program also attend national conferences twice a year, where they work on special initiatives like capacity building, Bonner Capstones, and the integration of the 8 Themes Curriculum.

Special Project Leaders — Sometimes, programs create specialized roles for students to organize service events (like the Inspire Conference or a multi-campus Sophomore Exchange), research public policy and issues (PolicyOptions Interns), and more.

Bonner Leadership Teams — All of the student leaders are part of a broader team.  These teams meet regularly and engage in training for their roles. They are often organized into programmatic areas like recruitment, morale (Bonner Love), and accountability (Judicial Committee).

Campus-Wide Service Leadership Roles

Across the Bonner network, student leaders hold many roles and fulfill higher level responsibilities. In fact, student leaders play such an essential role in the Bonner program that they are often referred to as extension of Bonner staff. Below, you will find a list of broad categories that represent the extensive range of responsibilities that student leaders hold.

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Academic Connections — Students work in partnership with faculty to develop community-engaged courses that incorporate best practices of civic and community engagement.

Bonner Cornerstone Events — Students aid in the design, management, and facilitation of instrumental events in the Bonner experience, including the first year trip, second year exchange, and senior presentation of learning.

Bonner Program Start Up — Students assist in the beginning stages of a starting new Bonner program, including tasks such as recruitment and selection, building the training calendar, and establishing community partnerships.

Campus-Wide Engagement — Students brainstorm and forge strategic partnerships with campus partners in order to boost campus-wide engagement and cultivate a culture of service on campus

Capacity Building — Students manage and support their peers in developing community-based capacity building projects focused on five broad areas: volunteer management, training and program development, fundraising, communications, and research.

Communications and Social Media — Students design and implement marketing strategies to build a Bonner brand, share service events and initiatives, and keep Bonners informed about internship and post-graduate opportunities.

Community Building — Students craft social and bonding experiences amongst Bonner peers to create an inclusive learning community.

Community Partnerships — Students act as liaisons between the campus and community, strengthening or creating new partnerships with key nonprofit organizations and community members.

Data and Assessment — Students collect civic engagement and impact data to provide basis for quantitative and qualitative assessment

Fundraising and Grant Writing — Students aid staff in securing grants and other sources of funding to support civic engagement initiatives.

Judiciary and Accountability — Students serve on a judiciary committee or board to provide student input on disciplinary issues.

Logistics and Administration — Students manage the Bonner web-based reporting system or alternative campus-wide tracking system.

Student Development & Programming — Students help to support their peers through designing and facilitating trainings, holding one-on-one meetings, and mentorship opportunities.


We have put a renewed effort into engaging Bonners in helping strengthen or build a campus-wide coalition of projects model that engages every student and creates a culture of service on campus.  As campuses have moved their campus-wide community engagement centers under Academic Affairs, there is a clear need on many campuses to ensure that the student-led, co-curricular community service programming remains strong. 

Available Resources

Click here to learn more about student leadership roles in the Bonner Program.

Click here to learn more about campus-wide student leadership roles.