Student Impact Survey


Since its creation and growth starting in 1990, the Bonner Foundation and Program has sought to understand its impact on a number of dimensions – including campuses, communities, and especially students. By the time the program spread to 25 institutions in 2000, the Foundation launched a ten-year longitudinal assessment to evaluate its effectiveness and impact. Between 2000-2008, Cheryl and Jim Keen, respected scholars and researchers, led the design and implementation of a national Student Impact Survey to assess the effects of the program on students’ learning across the 25 campuses.


“Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Student Outcomes of Co-Curricular Service-Learning Programs” by by Cheryl Keen and Kelly Hall.   Click  for copy.

“Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Student Outcomes of Co-Curricular Service-Learning Programs” by by Cheryl Keen and Kelly Hall.  Click for copy.

These assessments strongly affirmed the positive effects of participation in the Bonner Program on students’ learning and development. Moreover, they dispelled common myths about community service, suggesting that an intense, developmental program of co-curricular engagement has significant impacts on student development and post-graduate outcomes. The assessment also found that providing financial scholarships or stipends for such engagement (critical for these low-income students) did not diminish gains. This, too, is an important addition to the field, as a common misperception has been that service only reinforces a charity model engaging students with economic privilege. 

The studies pointed to several key findings:

  • The Student Impact Survey attested to significant impact of a four-year co-curricular model on students’ success in college, development of leadership skills, and lifelong civic participation. The fourth year is especially important for students to internalize complex outcomes like a commitment to social justice (Keen & Hall, 2009).
  • Several elements of the Bonner Program contribute strongly to its effectiveness including the cohort experience, dialogue across difference, program and campus diversity (the more diverse, the stronger impact), structured reflection, related education (i.e., meetings and courses), and mentoring (by peers, staff, faculty, and community partners). 
  • This finding was complemented by assessment conducted in conjunction with the Bonner Foundation’s Serve 2.0 initiative by Abby Kiesa from CIRCLE. In examining how students used social media to enhance their civic engagement, these efforts found that indeed students in the Bonner Program were using platforms like Facebook to further learn about issues or connect with groups with shared interests (Hoy and Kiesa, 2013). 


Articles related to the Bonner Student Impact Survey and Alumni Survey have been published in the  Journal of College and Character, Journal of Higher Education, Michigan Journal of Service Learning (a respected journal for community engagement) and other journals. You may access and download these articles here to learn more.

Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Student Outcomes of Co-Curricular Service-Learning Programs,” published in the Journal of Higher Education in 2009 by Cheryl Keen and Kelly Hall, presents the findings of a longitudinal study of the outcomes of four-year Bonner participation on students learning, leadership, and civic values. 

Leveraging New Technologies for Engagement,” published in Deepening Community Engagement in Higher Education (2013). This article by Ariane Hoy and Abby Kiesa shares findings and insights from the Bonner Foundation’s efforts to integrate social media as a tool to enhance campus community engagement.

Pathways to Adult Civic Engagement: Benefits of Reflection and Dialogue across Difference in Higher Education Service-Learning Programs,” published in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (Spring 2017), by Dan Richard, University of North Florida; Julie A. Hatcher; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Cheryl Keen, Walden University; and Heather A. Pease, Loyola University Chicago.