STEM Engaged Learning
Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Hosts
  1. Why STEM?

    Our work is focused on eliminating race, class, and gender disparities in STEM.  It is important to recognize that systems in the United States, including the CSU, were not created with people of color, working class people, and women in mind. This is particularly important in STEM degree programs where significant gaps by race and class already exist in enrollment, achievement, and graduation rates at all levels of education. In the CSU, STEM graduation rates are much lower than the national average (of the 28.5% of CSU students who declare a STEM major at entry, only 37% of those students will persist in STEM). These figures drastically decrease for students who are historically and currently underrepresented in STEM fields - 17% of students of color, 26% of first generation students, 29% of students from low-income families, and 34% of women graduate within six years with a STEM degree (CSU Student Success Dashboard, 2009 cohort data).

    As we work to eliminate the achievement gap in the CSU by 2025, we must shift from focusing on students as deficits to students as assets and work to change oppressive systems. One strategy is recognizing and valuing students’ cultural capital (also referred to as cultural wealth).  Through inclusive language and changes to programmatic structures, our campuses can better address race, class and gender disparities in STEM (Yosso, 2005; Ibarra, 1999; Chavez & Longerbeam, 2016).

  2. Is there a monetary award associated with hosting a CSU STEM VISTA member?

    No, there is no monetary award. The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) received a federal VISTA grant that allows us to award a “VISTA person” to CSU departments, colleges, institutes, and programs.

  3. Who can apply to host a CSU STEM VISTA member? 

    Eligible host sites include STEM academic departments, colleges, institutes, and non-academic departments or programs that support STEM students. As of the 2017-18 program year, CSU STEM VISTA members may now serve in non-academic departments or programs, such as student affairs programs; however, STEM students must be the primary focus of the VISTA project.

  4. Who serves as a VISTA member?

    VISTA Members are college graduates (with at least a bachelor’s degree) who willingly commit to a year of national volunteer service. They come from around the country with various backgrounds and professional goals. They are not experts in any specific field but typically all CSU STEM VISTA members have significant leadership experience through on-campus involvement during their undergraduate careers, through internships or other high-impact educational opportunities, and/or through previous full- or part-time employment. VISTA members are also eager to learn, get involved, and make a difference in the community.

  5. Does the applicant submit the RFP directly or does the grants office need to be involved?

    Because the CSU STEM VISTA program is awarding a VISTA position and not a monetary award, CCE does not require proposals be submitted through their grants office. Please refer to your individual campus procedures to determine the appropriate involvement of your grants office.

  6. If CSU STEM VISTA members are not employees of the CSU, who is their employer?

    CSU STEM VISTA members are regarded as federal employees only for certain purposes under 42 U.S.C. § 5055, including the Hatch Act, the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (workers’ compensation), the Federal Tort Claims Act, the IRS Code, and Title II of the Social Security Act. They are not regarded as federal employees for purposes of unemployment compensation, and allowances received from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) are not regarded as wages, except for income tax and Social Security purposes.

  7. Are CSU STEM VISTA members paid?

    CSU STEM VISTA members are volunteers but they do receive a modest living stipend paid for by CCE’s grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The living allowance varies by county and is set at the poverty level. Additional benefits are outlined on our website.

  8. What are the responsibilities of the host site?

    Host site responsibilities are outlined in the RFP and include identifying a host site supervisor/mentor, creating focused leadership and strategic partnerships, providing the required resources including office resources for the VISTA member, and paying a small host site fee. Selected host sites are also required to help recruit VISTA members.

  9. Who supervises the VISTA member?

    Proposals must designate a single person who will serve as the host site supervisor and mentor for the entire VISTA year (July 2017 – July 2018). This person must have the capacity to provide day-to-day supervision, guidance, and support for the VISTA member. The relationship between VISTA and host site supervisor/mentors differs from other traditional models of supervision. Typically, VISTA members are young professionals right out of college who are excited to develop new ideas, gain new skills and implement projects. VISTA members have varied needs and may require different levels of support from their supervisors at different times throughout the year.

  10. How do I write a compelling executive summary for my proposal?

    In 1000 characters or less, proposals should describe their project to prospective VISTA members. The executive summary will be used to market your VISTA position on our program website and the national service database, therefore, the executive summary should “sell” the position and detail the major activities and projects for the year. This is not an abstract of your proposal, but rather an opportunity to market your position to VISTA applicants. Here are three (3) tips for writing a compelling executive summary:

    1. We encourage you to open with a “Two-Line Teaser” since the executive summary will be the first thing an applicant sees when they view your position listing. It is very important to include a “hook” to attract candidates to click and learn more about the opportunity. You do not want to sound identical to the hundreds of other listings in the national service database.
    2. The executive summary should include the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your VISTA position and project(s). Consider the following when crafting your listing:
      • Who are you? (What is your organization, mission, history, and role in the community?)
      • Where are you located? (What are the unique features and benefits of your location?)
      • What will members do? (Use VAD to develop brief list of tasks. Use active words that convey challenge and excitement, and that describe the capacity-building activities your VISTA member will do.)
    3. Also, consider the type of applicant you are trying to appeal to and the benefits of working on your project.
      • What specific attributes and skills are you looking for? (For example, do you need someone with advanced public speaking skills or “x” number of years’ experience in disaster services?)
      • Why should people join your project? (What are the benefits? What will they learn? What will they accomplish? What do you offer that’s unique? Will there be opportunities for travel, networking, or trainings?)