Building Connections in the Bonner Network

National Conference to be held at Brown University from October 16 to 18, 2020
by Susie Pentelow, Communications Coordinator
November 22, 2019
Jenny Lee '21 and Idalmis Lopez '21 at Bonner Congress 2019

Jenny Lee '21 and Idalmis Lopez '21 at Bonner Congress 2019

Staff from the Bonner National Network at the Bonner Directors & Coordinators Meeting

Staff from Brown and other institutions in the Bonner Network at the Bonner Directors & Coordinators Meeting

Bonner Congress 2019

Presentations at Bonner Congress 2019

As Bonner directors and coordinators gathered earlier this month for their annual meeting, the Bonner community from Brown shared an exciting announcement: Bonner Congress is coming to College Hill in 2020! Bonner Congress, which is held at a different college campus each fall, gathers student leaders from across the Bonner network to engage in training, discussion, and networking. Two Bonner Community fellows from Brown University–Jenny Lee ’21 and Idalmis Lopez ’21–attended Bonner Congress 2019, which took place at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. In 2020, the conference will take place from October 16 to 18, and is expected to attract students from approximately 50 campuses. 

“Bonner Congress is a unique opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with fellow college students committed to creating sustainable change alongside their communities that undoubtedly leaves anyone reinvigorated to pursue social justice,” said Idalmis Lopez. “I am so excited for Bonner Congress to be happening on Brown’s campus where community engagement takes many creative forms.”


The announcement for the location of the 2020 conference was made at the Bonner Directors & Coordinators Meeting, which took place from November 3 to 6, 2019 in Adamstown, Maryland. Swearer Center staff members Kelly Finn, program manager of student development; Mathew Johnson, associate dean of the College and Swearer Center executive director; Sage Morgan-Hubbard, assistant director of student development; and Betsy Shimberg, assistant dean of the College and director of student development connected with attendees from 64 other campuses across the Bonner network to share skills, participate in workshops, and build community across institutions. 

This year’s theme was “The Bonner Learning Community.” The conference opened on November 3 with a session on community engaged learning, during which Swearer staff gave a 15-minute spotlight presentation on “Engaging Students as Colleagues in Community-Based Learning.” The presentation used the example of the recently initiated CBLR (Community-Based Learning and Research) fellows to explore models for student agency in engaged course development.

Guest speaker Dr. Dawn Michele Whitehead finished the first day with an evening presentation that focused on structural challenges facing higher education in the U.S. and the role that community engagement can have in building stronger relationships with community partners and supporting students.

The next day, Kelly Finn and Betsy Shimberg presented the workshop “Bonner is Like Love or Peanut Butter: Spread Some!” which focuses on empowering Bonner Community fellows to support and lead campus engagement efforts, using the example of Bonner site leaders, who coordinate Community Corps groups across Rhode Island.

“It was powerful to connect with colleagues from across the Bonner network and talk through new ideas and innovations in increasing the impact of our Bonner program,” said Kelly Finn, who manages the Bonner Community Fellowship at the Swearer Center. “We are so excited to invite the entire Bonner Community to Brown University in 2020 and share the work of our Bonner fellows in Providence!”

Find out more about the Bonner National Network at, or visit the Bonner Community Fellowship page on our website to learn about Bonner at Brown.