Capital University Bonner Program | Capital University, Columbus Ohio


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    Bonner Leader Program

  • The Bonner Leader Program extends and deepens Capital University’s long history of community engagement and social justice.


    The first of its kind in Central Ohio, Capital’s Bonner Leader Program connects Capital University and Columbus to a national network of colleges, universities, and communities dedicated to providing students the opportunity to attend college with a reduced financial burden, while simultaneously elevating the communities around them.


    Capital’s Bonner Leaders are guided by a multiyear curriculum and placed in local nonprofit organizations. These extensive and sustained partnerships provide students with meaningful opportunities to acquire real-world problem-solving skills and position them for fulfilling careers and lives of impact. Above all else, these opportunities brighten, lift, and build the capacity of others.

    • During their first year, Capital Bonner Leaders focus on community service and participate in a local community-engaged learning trip.
    • As sophomores, they travel to another participating Bonner school to participate in a shared-service initiative. 
    • An international service trip is a possibility during the junior year.  
    • Seniors complete a Capstone project focusing on a capacity-building event or civic engagement activity. 


    Capital University has always strived to be a place for students to belong, begin, and become. At the heart of Capital’s Bonner Leader Program is the belief that institutions of higher learning play a vital role in nurturing and mobilizing thoughtful, caring, and diverse leaders dedicated to solving challenges in our community.

    “Once our students’ eyes are opened to the challenges of others and the impact they can make, they won’t be able to close them.”

    Elizabeth L. Paul, Ph.D., Capital University President

    Hallmarks of the Bonner Leader Program

    In 1990, the Bonner Foundation launched the first Bonner Scholars Program. Designed to provide students with “access to education and an opportunity to serve,” the program has grown to become the largest privately-funded, service-based college scholarship program in the country.  The scholarship provides students with high financial need and an ethic for service with four-years of financial aid support and an opportunity to participate in an intensive cohort experience.

    The hallmarks of the Capital Bonner Leader Program, include:  

    • Attracting and providing a purpose-driven college education for students who have a demonstrated interest in community engagement and social justice.
    • Providing financial access to a Capital education through scholarship support. 
    • Engaging student talents and leadership in brightening lives and strengthening communities.
    • Building the skills and commitment to continue to be lifelong agents of community development.
    • Developing life and professional skills that are broadly transferable in living, working, and leading.
    • Becoming part of a diverse national network of individuals and organizations through which students will learn and grow
    • Energizing a culture of community engagement, inspiring and engaging many in making significant contributions in the local community.
    • Distinguishing Capital graduates as effective problem solvers, big-picture thinkers, and transformational leaders.

    Become a Capital Bonner Leader

    Prospective students can apply to join the Bonner community through a competitive scholarship process. The Bonner Leader application will be available for students entering in Fall 2020 starting December 2019.

    Capital Bonner Leaders are expected to:

    • Perform 280 hours of service each academic year (10 hours a week)
    • Maintain a GPA of 2.5
    • Participate in a student developmental model that challenges and supports each leader to develop his or her skills, knowledge, commitments and responsibilities 
    • Attend regular group reflection, enrichment, skill and leadership development activities
    • Complete at least one full-time, service-oriented internship during the summer

    For more information about Capital University’s Bonner Leader Program, email Abbey Rutschilling, Program Coordinator, Student and Community Engagement or call 614-236-7180.

    American Electric Power Foundation supports Bonner Leaders

    AEP LogoA vital component of the Bonner Leader Program is financial assistance. Capital University has received support for Bonner students through the establishment of the American Electric Power Bonner Leader Fellowship.
    Through a $500,000 endowed gift from the AEP Foundation, Bonner Leaders receive four years of financial support toward their classroom studies and their commitment to becoming future community leaders.
    “AEP is proud to partner with Capital University to provide opportunities to these impressive students and future leaders,” says Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power.
    The AEP Foundation’s mission “to support and play an active, positive role in the communities where we live and work” is evident in its support for improving lives through education – from early childhood through higher education.


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