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.