Bonner Scholars Gear Up Back In-Person Under New Leadership


Photo provided by the Bonner Scholarship Program.

This year’s Bonner Scholars attended a cookout hosted by new Director Dr. Scott Sikes

Dr. Scott Sikes recently became the director of the Appalachian Center for Civic Life after being its associate director, and as of Aug. 1 serves as the director of the Bonner Scholars Program, gearing back up now that it’s back in person.

“Bonner Scholars meet as classes and all Bonner Scholars meet once a month,” Sikes said. “We also had a cookout where first-years learned about the program and got to know each other.”

According to the Bonner Scholarship Program on the E&H website, Bonner Scholars are “students who are involved in long term civic engagement projects that result in tangible outcomes for the community, while connecting their classroom experience with real world questions and issues.”

Bradley Hartsell, the coordinator of the Bonner program, feels that being back in person has helped the program with real world questions and issues.

“It has allowed us to plug back into the community,” Hartsell said. “It definitely helps projects and it helps us spread out into different projects, too.”

“The biggest thing is the face-to-face interaction,” he added. “There is a benefit of being able to hang out with friends again and feel more of that network and family connection.”

Haleigh Cooper, a second-year Bonner Scholar, remembers Bonner work before being back in-person.

“During the second semester of 2020, things started to slowly open up again,” Cooper said. “But a lot of our work was still online, and we didn’t have many opportunities to go off campus.”

In terms of specific projects for Bonner Scholars, 15 official service projects exist. Two of those are the Appalachian Oral History Project and the Watershed Project, dedicated to researching and telling stories surrounding the culture and traditions of Southwest Virginia.

Other Bonner service opportunities exist with the E&H garden as well as with a Bonner-led podcast team.

Sikes feels the Bonner Scholars Program is invaluable to E&H in what it offers to students.

“Bonner has been on this campus for 30 years,” he said. “Hundreds of students have received an E&H education because of the Bonner Scholarship, and I think that is something we should celebrate. What they have done as members of the community is tremendous and the fact that they were able to get a college education is the most important thing.”