Bonner Center relocated on campus


Mohamed Togol

Jeniffer Gonzalez-Reyes ‘19, Leonard McNair ‘19, Zaynah Afada ‘19 and Danny Rodas Garcia ‘19 discuss wellness with the of the senior class.// Photo By: Mohamed Togol/ The Guilfordian

Over the past summer at Guilford, there has been a reshuffling of campus facilities. Academic departments and other campus programs were moved into new spaces to help facilitate renovations and ensure the effective operations of all Guilford programs.

One of the relocated departments was the Bonner Center for Community and Service, which serves as an administrative hub for the Bonner Scholars program at Guilford. The center, previously located at the Bonner House close to the edge of campus, was relocated to the first floor of King Hall in the suite that previously held the Study Abroad offices. The Study Abroad offices are now housed in Hege Library.

The move was a major transition for the Bonner Program, which had been housed in the Bonner House for almost a decade. Director of the Bonner Center James Shields was apprehensive about the move and expressed concern about meeting the needs of the program.

“This new, minimized space doesn’t meet the needs of the center,” Shields said. “It just doesn’t.”

Shields emphasized the meaning the physical space of the Bonner House held for students, staff and faculty members on campus.

“Because of the nature of the house and the sun room, it was a safe place for a lot of people and that cannot be replicated here,” Shields said.

Bonner Hunger Fellow and Quaker Cupboard and Community Kitchen Site Coordinator Regina Gardner expressed similar sentiments.

“The move disrupted us from our sense of community that we had in the Bonner House,” Gardner said. “We were home there. Our programs are so collaborative I am not sure the administration understood the importance of keeping the students together with the staff.

“Most of us work very hard in this program and spend a lot of time together. The seriousness of what we do in service to our community seems to have been underestimated.”

Gardner feels that her program, the Community Kitchen, was impacted by the move the most. While the previous house was equipped with a full kitchen and dining space, the suite in King is equipped with a much smaller kitchenette, lacking the distinctive community space the Bonner House provided. Gardner says the cooking and food preparation aspects of the Bonner Program may have suffered as a result.

“For instance, last semester we served 20-30 students meals twice a week, meals cooked by our international students,” Gardner said. “It was a rewarding experience as we gathered in fellowship and learned about food from other parts of the world. We don’t have that now. Bonner staff is working with us to try to revamp things so we can continue with our mission, but it was disrupted by the move.”

Sophomore Bonner Scholar Ian Gordon speaks of the positive and negative sides of the move.

“Having everything Bonner at a more central location is nice but it’s been difficult finding new places to meet and store things,” Gordon said. “The Quaker Cupboard was also moved to a very obscure location, which makes it harder for students experiencing food insecurity to find food.”

This feeling is echoed by many Bonner Scholars who expressed disorientation because of the center’s sudden move over the summer.

Gordon remembers the day Bonner Scholars were notified of the changing location.

“My phone absolutely blew up,” Gordon said. “It seemed like every single Bonner, including first-years who hadn’t even started work with the program, was emailing back to express their disagreement with how the move was done. Really, everyone just wanted more transparency with the move.”

The Bonner House is currently undergoing renovations to be transformed into student space for the later years. Shields acknowledges the House’s need for renovation and change but wishes he had been consulted in the process.

However, Shields assures the community that the center and its scholar program will continue moving forward despite the setbacks presented with the relocation. He acknowledges the relocation has brought some advantages for the Bonner Program, now allowing the Center to work more closely with the Intercultural Engagement Center and the Center of Principled Problem Solving, which are also housed in King Hall.

For the future of the Bonner Program, Shields and community members involved in the center’s work are hopeful.

“The work continues,” Shields said. “This move had not deterred us from the work.”