Bonner Curriculum



Mason's Bonner Four Year Developmental Path

The Bonner Leadership Program’s student development model is designed to challenge and support students throughout their four years through their service-learning activities, courses, and co-curricular experiences. Through a combination of course work and community engagement activities, students will understand how knowledge is created, and how it can be used to address questions or problems in society. Each year the program builds upon itself, allowing students to lead, take more responsibility and think more critically about their community experiences. The program concludes with a Mason Impact designated Legacy Presentation.

Bonner Curriculum



The student learns about the Bonner Foundation network and the Bonner Leadership Program at George Mason University. Students will be oriented to have a clear understanding of the qualifications, expectations, and commitment of what it means to be a Bonner Leader.



The student is involved in a variety of service projects, exploring their interests, discovering social issues, agencies and communities for which they have a commitment to learning the aspects of what it means to be a personally responsible citizen.


  1. Exploring Identity & Place (First Semester)
  2. Service Learning (Second Semester)

In the first/freshman year, Bonner students are oriented and immersed in exploring personal identity, the local and at-large community, and the program’s structure and expectations. They intentionally engage in learning about themselves, each other, and the places surrounding the campus where they will serve. Throughout this first year, Bonner Leaders will learn the philosophy and approaches for making an impact and identifying solutions to the issues they’re confronting.

  • Courses should provide a basis of knowledge creation. Students will understand how knowledge is generated and communicated, and how it can be used to address questions or problems in disciplines and in society



The student begins to focus on a set of issues, a neighborhood, and/or an agency, while beginning to serve as a regular volunteer and an active citizen discovering the differences and challenges of participatory citizenship.


  1. Leading Teams (Third Semester)
  2. Knowing Your Issue (Fourth Semester)

In the second/sophomore year, a student ideally begins to focus his or her efforts on a neighborhood (place), project and/or issue area.  The student begins to find a stable role within an organization.  Their level of responsibility may increase, and they take on more sophisticated questions and issues through critical thinking, planning, and reflection. Students begin to learn more about the scope of the problem of the issue(s) they are addressing, the current approaches to making an impact, and identify solutions that are working to solve the problem. Special Bonner activity like the Second-Year Service Exchange (in which students meet across campuses) allow students to develop a broader sense of belonging to the local and national program.

  • Courses should provide a basis for multiple perspectives where students will identify and negotiate, work collaboratively within and across multiple social and environmental contexts, and engage ethically with their subjects and others.



The student emerges as a leader of discrete projects both within and outside the classroom to critically assess social, political, and economic structures to see beyond surface causes by demonstrating knowledge of fairness and equity to effectively address injustices.


  1. Planning & Managing Projects (Fifth Semester)
  2. Thinking Critically (Sixth Semester)

By their third year, students often assume Project Coordinator responsibilities including recruiting, placing, guiding, supervising, and leading reflections for other student volunteers at community service sites.  These roles are often supported by intensive training, covering topics like resource development, volunteer management, and by gaining a system level view on their community engagement work. Through positions and education helping build organizational and community capacities, Bonner Leaders will also think critically about the impacts of their work and their potential future pathways.

  • Courses should provide a basis for research application and building to the Legacy Presentation. Students will articulate a question; engage in an inquiry process; and situate the concepts, practices, or results within a broader context. Students will design and carry out an individual or collaborative project(s) that explores an original problem, applies knowledge to a professional challenge, or offers a unique perspective.
    1. Students will ask complex questions
    2. Students will evaluate and choose inquiry methods
    3. Students will explain how a project has value



The student continues in a project leader or specialist capacity within the agency and/or the community and continues to address areas of injustices by understanding the importance of questioning, debating, and challenging established systems, structures, and policies that reproduce patters of social and economic injustices. This culminates in the Legacy Presentation

  1. Leaving a Legacy (Seventh Semester)
  2. Preparing Critically Engaged Lives (Eighth Semester)


Students in their fourth/senior year are prepared to assume Project Leader/Specialist responsibilities, evaluating existing programs, designing new initiatives, and launching their capacity building or social action capstone project. The fourth year Bonner Leaders begin to transition out of leadership roles and the relationship to their community partners is one of leaving a legacy and preparation for a civically engaged life. Through senior capstone projects, academic linkages, and career planning efforts, students often reflect on and culminate their final year involving research, networking, and special initiatives connected to their academic major

  • Courses should aid the Bonner Leaders in the completion of project and support for the Legacy Presentation their final semester. Students turn their attention towards the future, completing the capstone projects, reflecting on their four years of college, and pursuing their post-graduate goals.