Bonner Program

The Bonner Program is a unique leadership development program for students with an interest in service and civic engagement. The program is based on the belief that students have the desire and ability to leave lasting and unique contributions through their community service. The Bonner Program provides students with the framework to continue involvement in community service, while providing financial support to help make their education more affordable. Bonners commit to 1800-hours of service and leadership training over the course of their four years in college.

The Bonner Program strives to provide students with the experiences and skill set to provide meaningful and lasting service, during college and beyond. Bonner Scholars commit not only to service, but also to development as a leader both on campus and in the community. For Bonners, their education does not just take place in the classroom; their service serves as a tool to broaden and enhance their education at Washington and Lee.

W&L Bonners are eligible to receive work-study wages for service in the local community and also receive financial support for enrichment activities, such as conferences, summer internships, individual projects, and leadership building workshops. The program provides students with a developmental structure and a peer network of students who share a similar commitment to social justice and desire to serve.

In addition to an interest in meaningful and significant service, most students must demonstrate financial need as evidence by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Bonner Program was introduced at W&L in winter of 2011 by the Corella and Betram F. Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J. The program followed in the footsteps of a strong two-year Bonner Leader Program that was established on W&L's campus in 2002. More than two dozen campuses across the nation have Bonner Programs.

About the Program

Washington and Lee University is one of over 50 college and university campuses to participate in the Bonner Program. These institutions receive support from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J. The Bonner Program enhances and deepens a student's education and commitment to social responsibility.

Six "Common Commitments,"identified by the Bonner Foundation, guide the service and training of Bonners:

  • social justice
  • civic engagement
  • spiritual exploration
  • diversity
  • international perspective
  • community building.

Bonners participate in service based on their career, educational, and service interests. Past Bonners have held positions at a variety of agencies, ranging from free clinics and economic development organizations to women's abuse shelters and nutritional programs.

Opportunities for Bonner Scholars

There are numerous opportunities and benefits available to Bonners:

  • Receive work-study wages for service in the local community
  • Access to funding for summer internships
  • Group service trips funded through the Bonner Program
  • A community of peers who share the same passion for social justice
  • Mentoring from Bonner Program staff
  • A structured leadership development program, that includes guest speakers, focused-skills training, and leadership workshops.
  • Access to funding for conferences and trainings focused on social justice and leadership
  • Connections with students at other Bonner schools and other networking opportunities

Program Expectations

Bonners are expected to participate in the Bonner Program during their four years at W&L, completing 1800-hours of service and leadership training. Bonners participate in at least 280 hours of service and leadership training during each academic year and are encouraged to complete two summers of full-time service.

In addition to these general commitments, Bonners are expected to:

  • Participate in Bonner Cornerstone activities, such as Orientation, First-Year Service Trip, Sophomore Service Exchange, and Senior Service Capstone Presentation
  • Submit required program paperwork in a timely manner
  • Participate fully in the Bonner Program by assuming leadership roles in the community and the Bonner Program
  • Participate in a student developmental model that challenges and supports each Bonner Scholar to develop her or his skills, knowledge, commitments, and responsibilities
  • Commit to making connections between his or her service and education at W&L

Core Commitments

As the Bonner Program initiative expanded and matured, it became clear that the Program needed to communicate more clearly the values and commitments that guide each program. The Common Commitments came out of a year-long dialogue with members of the Bonner community -- including students, faculty, administrators, and community leaders across the country -- during the Foundation's tenth anniversary in 1999.

These cohesive commitments guide the Bonner network with the mission of preparing students to go into the world and serve as educated, culturally aware, and civic-minded individuals. The six Common Commitments are as follows:

  • Social Justice: Advocate for fairness, impartiality, and equality while addressing systemic social and environmental issues.
  • Civic Engagement: Participate intentionally as a citizen in the democratic process, actively engaging in public policy and direct service.
  • Community-Building: Establish and sustain a vibrant community personal relationships and common interests.
  • Spiritual Exploration: Explore personal beliefs while respecting the spiritual practices of others.
  • International Perspective: Develop international understanding that enables individuals to participate successfully and sensitively in a global society.
  • Diversity: Respect and engage the many different dimensions of diversity in our public lives.