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Bonner Leaders Program FAQ's

The VWU Bonner Leaders program is part of the Bonner network and is structured after the Bonner Program model. Founded in 1990 by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, which is based in Princeton, New Jersey, the Bonner Program is one of the largest programs of its kind in the nation. The Bonner model is active in 65 colleges and universities across the United States, supporting community work opportunities for more than 2,400 undergraduate students. The program seeks to change the lives of the students, their communities, and the nation by providing access to education and opportunities to serve.

At VWU, the Bonner Leaders Program focuses on leadership development, academic support, civic leadership, networking, and community building.  Each week, participants are engaging in multifaceted relationships with local community partners.  Being involved in the program involves a commitment not only to service but also to learning how to be an effective agent for change on the VWU campus, the community, and throughout the world.

The program admits 20 students each year.

As a Bonner Leader, you will be able to contribute your own experiences and commit to weekly service work through your student employment placement. Your dedication to service, and as an effective agent of change, will enable you to contribute greatly to the Virginia Wesleyan University campus, local Hampton Roads community, nonprofits in the Hampton Roads community, and beyond.

At VWU, we are looking for students who are high-achieving and possess a strong ethic of service.  Individuals should also be passionate about eliminating systematic inequalities, embrace working in a team setting, and embody a deep sense of commitment to the community at large.  

We like for students to have a minimum 3.5 GPA, 1170 SAT or 24 ACT.  However, we will consider students on a case-by-case basis.  Contact to find out if you’re academically eligible.  In addition, we are looking for students who enjoy serving others, are passionate about civic engagement, and want to develop their leadership and networking skills while in college.

Bonner Leadership Program meetings will be held on an assigned day during the week and usually last an hour.  Meetings will typically focus on a relevant topic for discussion or a leadership development workshop. Speakers will vary from the Director of the Wesleyan Engaged Program to community leaders to VWU faculty and staff.  Bonner Leader participants will be required to complete a minimum of 50 service hours a semester, which is an average of 8 hours/week.  Winter Term can also be used to fulfill the academic year requirements of 100 total service hours.  

You can apply and be admitted to both the Batten Honors College and the Bonner Leaders Program, but you may choose to be in only one of the programs. If you have gone through the Batten Honors College competition weekend and were waitlisted, you will remain on the waitlist for the BHC until all the BHC seats are filled. If you end up receiving a spot in the Batten Honors College, you will automatically be withdrawn from the Bonner Leaders Program after you confirm your spot in the BHC.

Yes!!  Bonner Leaders are often students who are actively engaged on the campus.  In regards to athletics, many students at VWU participate in one of our NCAA Division III sports.  At VWU, we ask our Marlins to be students first, a Bonner Leader second, and other activities third.  We ask that our Bonner Leaders make their attendance of all program commitments a priority amongst their other areas of involvement.

The merit scholarship you were awarded upon your acceptance to Virginia Wesleyan University remains the same – there are no additional grants or scholarships for being a Bonner Leader.  However, if you qualify for Federal Work Study, you are guaranteed a job working in the Wesleyan Engaged Office for 8-10 hours a week as a Bonner Leader.  Please note that Work-Study determinations are done by the Office of Financial Aid. Contact Dr. Brian Kurisky ( to get more information about the Work-Study positions within the Wesleyan Engaged Office.

As a Bonner, you will be encouraged to explore multiple ways to be civically engaged, as well as learn how to be an effective change agent for one’s campus, community, and elsewhere. Bonners also gain access to unique professional and academic networks within and beyond the Bonner Foundation. What you gain will also depend on how you choose to process and use what you learn throughout your time as a Bonner.  You will also get:

  • Experience and knowledge about the community and the world in which we live that connect back to your academic studies.
  • Real-world grassroots leadership and advocacy experience, as well as other skills that will translate into success in graduate school and/or life after college
  • A deeper understanding of the six common commitments of service:  civic engagement, community building, diversity, international perspective, spiritual exploration, and social justice
  • Connections and friendship with other members of the Marlin community who are committed to the same values

Interested students must complete the Bonner Leaders application located on our website. Reviews of the applications are on-going with the goal of filling all 20 spots by the start of the 2019-20 academic year. Students who participated in a Batten Honors College competition will have the Bonner Leaders Program application waived. Interviews will be conducted by phone. The Application Committee is comprised of six faculty members representing all VWU academic departments, as well as one current VWU student.

The Bonner Leaders Program is a national program that has existed for over 25 years.  The program has an excellent reputation around the country and the world.  Alumni from Bonner programs throughout the United States work in all sectors around the globe.

Wesleyan Engaged oversees two 10-passenger vans, which are used to shuttle students to service events. Students can receive permission to drive a VWU van once they get on the VWU campus.