Signature Work:
Exploring the Future with Academic and Civic Engagement Leaders

Sponsored by the Bonner Foundation 
September 21-23, 2015 • Hosted by Allegheny College 

If your campus will be participating, please 



Please join the Bonner Foundation and network for an engaging meeting involving Chief Academic Officers and top-ranking civic engagement leaders from institutions throughout a national network.  This event will provide institutional leaders with the opportunity to  discuss the strategies, challenges, and opportunities that are shaping engaged, experiential education and liberal learning.  We will explore the research, scholarship, and models that suggest the relevance of civically engaged learning.  We will also discuss operational strategies and resources that campuses are finding useful to integrate and foster this work.  This meeting will provide opportunities for dialogue amongst institutional leaders and with leading scholars and practitioners including those involved with the Association of American Colleges and Universities and with the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement.

The Bonner Foundation intends for this gathering to be rich with dialogue and will limit attendance to 100 participants.   To participate, an institution must send both its Chief Academic Officer and top-ranking staff or faculty member for community engagement involved with the Bonner Program (generally the center director).  We believe this is important for maximizing the opportunity.  

Additionally, the institution should have one or more of the following factors:

  • Be an endowed Bonner Scholar or Leader Programs
  • Have participated in the Bonner High-Impact Initiative
  • Have earned the Carnegie Classification in Community Engagement in 2010 or 2015
  • Have participated consistently in the Bonner Program (including national meetings) in last three years 
  • Have recently hosted or plan to host a Bonner Foundation meeting in 2015-2016

If the institution has an Associate Provost or another senior position for this week, we can talk with you about that person also participating.  If your institution does not meet one of these criteria but you believe that it will be important and productive for your Provost and Civic Engagement Leader to attend, please contact Robert Hackett ( or Ariane Hoy ( to discuss.  Should space allow it, we would be happy to include you.  There is no cost for the meeting, although campuses must cover participants’ travel and lodging.  See accommodations below.

You can find a downloadable version of this information here: Signature Work Prospectus


Current research and scholarship supports the impact of engaged learning experiences on students’ success.  In the past few decades, numerous studies have suggested the importance of high-impact practices like first year experiences, internships, service-learning, undergraduate research, and capstones on student persistence (Kuh 2008, 2010).  Responding “to the call for increased accountability among higher education institutions,” Gallup and Purdue University (2014) conducted a study involving more than 30K graduates with baccalaureate degrees.  They found that six key dimensions of the undergraduate experience correlate with post-graduate engagement in the workplace and well-being.  Students who had at least one professor who cared about them and excited them about learning, had a mentor, worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete, had an internship or job that allowed them to apply learning, and were extremely active in extracurricular activities.   Yet, only 3% of those surveyed had all six.  Signature, civic, engaged learning often includes these dimensions. 

How can and is community engaged learning a form of “Signature Work”?  We’ll explore how academic pathways, capstones and other developmental learning opportunities allow students to apply their learning for a purpose.  This work also represents the next stage of the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Initiative. Building on a ten year initiative to strengthen undergraduate education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities states that “The LEAP Challenge calls for all college students, not just the most fortunate college students, to integrate and apply their learning to complex problems and projects that are important to the student and important to society.”


The meeting will provide an opportunity to share some of the critical issues and directions surrounding this work.  Drawing on their historical roots and commitments to a public purpose, today’s colleges and universities are continuing to integrate engaged, experiential learning in meaningful ways.  This meeting will provide institutional leaders with an opportunity to discuss such themes as:

  • alignment of curricular and cocurricular change with institutional visions and priorities
  • the development and growth of larger and coordinated centers and pathways
  • strategies for faculty engagement and development
  • institutional culture 
  • tenure and rewards
  • financial resources
  • outcomes and assessment
  • links with student learning, persistence, and post-graduate success

With this meeting, the Bonner Foundation and network hopes to support higher education leadership as it aspires to enhance signature academic experiences for students, particularly those that provide opportunities for students to apply their learning to complex and applied problems and projects.

A small team of provosts from across the Bonner network are involved in shaping this gathering.  This meeting will involve key scholars and practitioners who can help promote deep dialogue around best practices, including:

Dr. Caryn McTighe Musil, Ph.D., Senior Scholar at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  Until November 2012, Dr. Musil was the Senior Vice President.  Under her leadership, AAC&U mobilized powerful and overlapping educational reform movements involving civic, diversity, global learning, gender, and social responsibility.  Dr. Musil is currently directing a multi-project national initiative, called Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. She was lead author of A Crucible Moment (2012), the U.S. Department of Education’s call to action for deepening the ethos and practice of civic learning and democratic engagement in higher education. She has written and edited numerous articles, including “Remapping Education for Social Responsibility: Civic, Global, and U.S. Diversity” (2011) and “Educating for Personal and Social Responsibility: The Civic Learning Spiral.” Caryn has been a partner to the Bonn Foundation and the development of civic engagement minors and academic programs and the Bonner High-Impact Initiative.  Dr. Musil received her B.A. from Duke University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University. Before moving into national level administrative work in higher education, she was a faculty member for eighteen years. (Read more here:

Dr. Matthew Hartley, Ph.D., professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.  Matthew Hartley is a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.  His research focuses on academic governance, especially how academic communities define their educational purposes.

Dr. Hartley serves as Executive Director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) at Penn GSE, which also focuses on research around college access. He also serves on the editorial boards of Educational Researcher, The Review of Higher Education, and the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.  He is co-author of Leading Institutional Change to Promote a Diverse Democracy (2013), Effective Governance of a University as an Anchor Institution: University of Pennsylvania as a Case Study (2012), “Integrating a Commitment to the Public Good into the Institutional Fabric: Further Lessons from the Field” (2012) and numerous other publications.  (Read more here:

Dr. John Saltmarsh, Ph.D., Director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) and faculty member at University of Massachusetts Boston.  Dr. Saltmarsh leads the project in which NERCHE serves as the partner with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for Carnegie’s elective Community Engagement Classification. He is the author, most recently, of an edited volume (with Matthew Hartley) of “To Serve a Larger Purpose:” Engagement for Democracy and the Transformation of Higher Education (2011) and a book with Edward Zlotkowski, Higher Education and Democracy: Essays on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (2011), co-author of the Democratic Engagement White Paper (NERCHE, 2009), as well as numerous articles. He is a member of the National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement, has served as a National Scholar with Imagining America’s Tenure Team Initiative. Dr. Saltmarsh has also been a partner to the Bonner Foundation and coach for the High-Impact Initiative since 2012.  From 1998 through 2005, he directed the national Project on Integrating Service with Academic Study at Campus Compact. He holds a Ph.D. in American History from Boston University and taught for over a decade at Northeastern University and as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College.  (Read more here:

This is a tentative schedule which will evolve over the coming months to include programming details.

Monday, September 21, 2015
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm     Registration
4:30 pm - 5:15 pm     Opening Reception
5:15 pm - 6:45 pm     Opening Session and Dinner
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm     Evening Programming
8:30 pm on                Evening Reception

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
8:15 am - 9:30 am       Breakfast and Roundtables
9:30 am - 10:45 am     Plenary Session
11:00 am - 12:30 pm   Critical Issue Discussion and Strategy Session
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm     Lunch and Speakers
2:15 pm - 3:30 pm       Best Practice Sharing Sessions
3:45 pm - 5:00 pm       Plenary Session
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm       Break
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm       Dinner and Immersion in Meadville 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
8:15 am - 9:30 am        Breakfast and Roundtables
9:30 am - 10:45 am      Leadership and Alignment Discussions
11:00 am - 12:30 pm    Closing Plenary Session 


Founded in 1815, Allegheny College is a nationally ranked four-year liberal arts college.  Its mission is to prepare “young adults for successful, meaningful lives by promoting students’ intellectual, moral, and social development and encouraging personal and civic responsibility. Allegheny’s faculty and staff combine high academic standards and a commitment to the exchange of knowledge with a supportive approach to learning. Graduates are equipped to think critically and creatively, write clearly, speak persuasively, and meet challenges in a diverse, interconnected world.”  Allegheny has a strong commitment to civically engaged learning.  It earned the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement in 2006 and 2015; was recognized by Princeton Review as one of 81 “Colleges with a Conscience”; is one of the top ten institutions whose graduates join the Peace Corps and was ranked 25th in the nation for its contribution to the public good by the Washington Monthly (2014).  Allegheny is home to the Allegheny Service Corps, which includes a Bonner Scholar and Leader Program, Davies Scholars, and other pathways.  (Learn more here: 

Allegheny College is located in Meadville, Pennsylvania.  We recommend that you fly to either Erie (approximately 40 miles) or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (100 miles) and get a rental car from there.

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Participants can reserve accommodations in any of the local area hotels or inns.  We have blocked rooms at the Holiday Inn Express.  Mention that you are attending the Allegheny College Bonner Conference.

Holiday Inn Express (Block)
18240 Conneaut Lake Road,
Meadville, PA 16335
(814) 724-6012   
Rate: $89 plus tax
Reserve by September 1, 2015    

Hampton Inn
11446 N. Dawn Drive
Meadville, PA 16335
(814) 807-1446
Rate:  $149/night    

For other accommodations, see: