Student-Led Campus-Wide Engagement

Strategy  •  Background  •  Next Steps  •  Available Resources


A key goal of the Bonner Program model is to expand Bonners’ leadership roles to include campus-wide leadership.  Our hope that they can utilize the expertise gained through their direct community service placements and projects, capacity building initiatives, and extensive training to help build a culture of service on campus that catalyzes the sustained engagement of other students. 

Bonners have brought campus organizations and departments together to collaborate on social justice and advocacy-based projects, and promoted greater integration of service with academic coursework

Beyond Bonner students, our focus has been on encouraging student-led campus-wide engagement that engages students from all over campus in the service movement.  This includes crafting other multi-year community engagement programs, building site-based teams, and building out the infrastructure and scaffolding support for student leadership within the institution’s center for civic engagement.


The four-year developmental model of the Bonner Program is intended to support and affirm student leadership for all Bonner Scholars and Leaders. It provides students with the financial support and training to engage for multiple years with the same agency, issue area and/or organization, enabling the students to take on increasing responsibility and leadership in their service. In part because of this sustained involvement, agencies can count on having a volunteer with their program for more than one semester and even more than one year. In that time, a student volunteer can take on increasing responsibility, including recruiting, coordinating, and even managing other volunteers or taking on project management.


The Bonner Program is founded on the belief that student leadership and voice is not only critical to the program, but also to broader student and campus engagement, and building a sustained campus-wide infrastructure for engagement. 

It is not the intention that Bonner students are the only students serving the community in meaningful ways. It is the intention that Bonners and the Bonner program serve as a model to increase deep, intensive community and civic engagement in all aspects of campus life.

Therefore, students should not only be fulfilling key student leadership roles within the Bonner Program, but also across other clubs, organizations, student government, and academic pathways for community engagement. 


Service Coalition — The Service Coalition model for student-led campus-wide engagement centers around a diverse group of student leaders who are convened to collaborate on civic engagement initiatives, customized to the campus civic landscape. These student leaders convene for regular meetings to coordinate service duties and functions including transportation, reflection, and training.

Coalition of Projects — The Coalition of Projects Model, originally created by John Sarvey in 2002, describes a type of organizational and operational structure for campus-based community service programs. Many Bonner programs and institutions, most notably the Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS) at Berea College, use this model for organizing student leaders and projects.

Generally, this organizational structure is characterized by an umbrella organization of several, semiautonomous projects each with its own focus on a particular issue or community, and its own set of leaders and volunteers. Frequently, they also include a set of overall student leaders who provide a range of leadership and support functions to all the projects. Many programs fit the basic structure of the model, but not necessarily all the elements of the model in its ideal form. 

Site-Based Teams — In the site- or issue-based team model, each service site has a group of volunteers, characterized by cascading student leadership. This structure allows for the site team leader (or student site coordinator) to continuously train student project coordinators and other volunteers, crafting a scaffolded system of support and transitioning of leadership. This team can be made up of Bonners, campus student leaders, or any students willing to serve at the site. Based on this model for community engagement, any student can become a leader at their service site over time.

“Students as Colleagues” — Students can and should be considered as colleagues to faculty, helping to lead and facilitate faculty engagement.  This concept is supported by research and scholarship (Battistoni & Longo, 2011). In fact, many campuses have developed sustained programs by which students play a leadership and facilitator role in the classroom and in the planning and implementation of community engagement linked with coursework. Students work on logistics, orientations, reflection, and other roles.

For instance, Engaged Learning Facilitators (ELFs) at St. Mary’s College of California are paired with faculty for this role. Bonner student leaders at Allegheny Colleges developed the ACES Fellowship as another example — and will be in leadership roles to guide the implementation of a course-based civic graduation requirement.

A number of campuses have created “High-Impact Interns” positions for students to work on strategies such as an inventory of faculty work and engagement; interviewing faculty to ascertain their perspectives on community engagement; and organizing mixers and events for faculty, students, and partners.


The Bonner Foundation organized a cohort learning community on student-led, campus-wide engagement with participation from 16 institutions in the Bonner network. This group met periodically throughout the 2016-2017 academic year to share models of campus-wide engagement and support one another in the implementation of a service coalition on campus.

We continue to make this strategy a focus in our national Bonner gatherings with students.  And, we will add new resources to our wiki to share successful models and tools to our network.

Available Resources

The Bonner Resource Wiki has two relevant sections — Campus-Wide Student Leadership Roles as well as Organizational and Staffing Structures — with a wide range of guides, campus examples, and documents to download.  We also have a set of training modules designed to build the skills and knowledge of student service leaders.

See also the chapter on "Learning Through Service: Structures that Promote Student Leadership" by Ashley Cochrane and Heather McNew Schill

This chapter from Deepening Community Engagement in Higher Education (Johnson and Hoy, 2014) provides a deeper analysis into the Coalition of Projects model in place at the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS) at Berea College. Written by CELTS staff, Ashley Cochrane and Heather McNew Schill, they provide insight as to how instrumental the Coalition of Projects model has been in fostering greater student leadership and voice, and how they have adapted the model to fit their campus culture over time.