One of the most distinctive aspects of the Bonner Program is its focus on student voice and leadership. 

Our philosophy is that “students are the leaders of today,” not tomorrow.  Whether helping to launch a new Bonner Program, lead all of the 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 lead the program and broader engagement.

Bonner students play strong leadership roles within their Bonner Programs and campus-wide, as well as 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.

Using team structures for engagement and leadership has been shown to be a best practice, promoting deeper engagement, community capacity building, and student learning. In a program of 60 students, typically 15-20 take formalized roles.


Bonner Leadership Teams 

Programs build a team with multiple students.  They may be organized into programmatic areas like recruitment, community buiding (Bonner Love), and public relations.  

Class Representatives

Many campuses also enlist selected representatives from each class (freshmen, etc.) to play leadership roles in planning and leading reflections and trainings, organize service trips, and play other roles.  These students are often part of the BLT. 

Site or Issue Team Leaders

Students play a leadership role for 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 also lead these teams. 

Senior, High-Impact, and Community Impact Interns  

Students move into sophisticated program management roles, working alongside staff, faculty, and partners.  Senior 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.


Two representatives from each program participate in a national network, attending conferences twice a year and developing a “big idea” strategy to strengthen their programs.

Special Projects

Other projects for students include organizing service events (like Sophomore Exchange), researching public policy and issues (PolicyOptions Interns) and more.

Back to Integrated Approach

See the Bonner Resource Wiki for more information.