New Leadership Program will make Experiential Learning more Accessible

A Bonner Leader program is coming to Mason! Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) Director Patty Mathison partnered with School of Integrative Studies faculty Dr. Julie Owen, Dr Graziella McCarron, Dr Samuel Frye, Dr Nick Lennon and Shauna Rigaud as well as Global and Community Health faculty, Dr Laura Poms on a Curriculum Impact Grant. 

The Curriculum Impact Grant outlined a proposal to bring the Bonner Program to Mason. The Bonner Program is a four-year developmental model for students, based around community engagement and experiential learning. Research shows us that experiential learning and high impact practices are beneficial to the student experience. However, community engagement and experiential learning can often be inaccessible for students who may be experiencing financial difficulty, who require a salary or job to assist with paying for school etc. The Bonner Leader program affords college students an opportunity to use their energy, talents, and leadership skills to engage in community service while providing developmental and financial support. It is a four-year program that builds an infrastructure to engage every week, provides a developmental, multi-year program model, shifts how institutions sustain partnerships to make an impact as well as connecting co-curricular and curricular pathways.

The central goal of the Bonner Program is to provide diverse, predominantly low-income students with an “Access to Education and Opportunity to Serve.”  

While most of the funding for students will be coming from work-study funding, the team is looking for opportunities to fund some students each year that do not qualify for work-study. The program will begin in  Fall 2020 and will start recruitment in Spring 2020. The program has pathways to School of Integrative Studies minors such as the Nonprofit Minor, Leadership Minor, Social Justice and Human Rights and Social Innovation. This program is open to students of all majors and disciplines. Courses will build upon one another and is designed around the Mason Impact learning outcomes of understanding knowledge creation, engage multiple perspectives and investigate a meaningful question. Courses will integrate a focus around critical service, ethics, dialogue across difference and research.

From the perspective of the community partner, this means that these entities can count on having dedicated time from trained and skilled student volunteers. These students can begin to lead other volunteers or coordinate programs. Over time, they can take on projects that build the capacity of the agency – developing or expanding programs, recruiting or managing other people, writing grants or raising funds, building websites or social media campaigns, doing marketing, planning and running events, and even participating in community based research. With the help of campus staff and faculty, any of these roles might be tied to academic study, coursework, and credit.

This CIG team will partner with the Corella and Bertram F Bonner Foundation attending conferences and connecting with other colleges and universities that coordinate this program. While the foundation no longer funds these programs their 25 years of experience will be invaluable in the sustainability of this program.