Foundational Models for STEM Learning

The CSU STEM VISTA program focuses on eliminating race, class and gender disparities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) undergraduate degree programs.

The CSU STEM VISTA program funds CSU campus teams that aspire to improve STEM student retention and completion rates, primarily for students of color, Pell-grant recipients, women and students who are first in their family to attend college.

The CSU STEM VISTA program is unique in that it does not provide grant funding, but rather a full-time position. Campus teams focus on STEM students in the 2019 cohort as they progress to degree completion. Campuses are awarded a VISTA position for three years (2020-2023) to track and support the 2019 cohort through their degree completion. The full-time VISTA member helps to build long-term sustainability by focusing on building the capacity of STEM student success efforts, including leveraging resources, expanding scale and reach, and enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of your programs.

To do our work, the CSU STEM VISTA program utilizes sustainable, asset-based approaches to STEM education reform, including Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth Model[i]. Traditional education reform models focus on the deficits of students. CSU STEM VISTA program funds campus teams that believe in and will utilize an asset-based approach to examine and enhance institutional culture and learning environments for all students.


At CSU San Marcos, VISTA Jamie Elsner designed a research project to deepen understanding of more than 2,000 student experiences in culturally validated courses. Jamie conducted a literature review, collected scales for the survey measures and submitted the proposal to the Institutional Review Board. In addition to the research project, Jamie helped plan a STEM Research Fair at the Latinx Center for 43 undergraduate students, and created marketing and program materials for the four-day 2019 and 2020 Pathways to Academic Success & Opportunities (PASO) Summer Institutes that trained 32 faculty on cultural validation pedagogy. To sustainably archive resources about cultural validation for faculty and staff, Jamie created a repository. Additionally, she created, administered and analyzed evaluation results for the year-long faculty learning community that included seven STEM faculty.

Yosso, Tara J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8:1, 69-91, DOI: 10.1080/1361332052000341006

Posted in Educational Models & PrinciplesEquity & InclusionSTEM