STEM Engaged Learning
Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Hosts

    Program Questions

  1. Why STEM?

    The CSU served more than 125,000 STEM students and graduated 20,201 STEM baccalaureates in 2016. However, in the CSU, STEM graduation rates are much lower than the national average. Of the 25% of first-time full-time freshmen who declare a STEM major at entry, only 38% of those students will persist and graduate in STEM in six years. These figures drastically decrease for groups of students who are historically and currently underrepresented in STEM fields – 26% of African American, Native American and Hispanic students,1 27% of first generation students, 30% of students from low-income families, and 35% of women – graduate within six years with a STEM degree (CSU Analytic Studies, 2010 full-time freshman cohort data).

    As a systemwide program of the California State University (CSU), we recognize that systems and institutions 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 exist in enrollment, achievement, and graduation rates at all levels of education. While much has been done across the system to advance conversations and action on equity, diversity, and learning in STEM education, there is still much more to be done if our continued, collective efforts to eliminate inequities in higher education are to be successful (AAC&U Diversity & Democracy, Vol 19 No1, Winter 2016). As the CSU works to eliminate the equity gap by 2025, we must work to shift from focusing on the deficits of students to recognizing and tapping into the talent, drive and motivation they have to succeed.

    1Identified in the CSU as underrepresented minority (URM)

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

    No, there is no monetary award. The CSU STEM VISTA program is unique in that we do not provide grant funding, but rather a full-time individual for one year (July 2018 – July 2019) who can support a variety of campus projects related to closing the equity gap in STEM.

  3. 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.

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

    VISTA members will be awarded to CSU STEM academic departments, colleges, and institutes, including faculty development centers. Non-academic departments or programs, such as student affairs programs are also eligible to apply; however, STEM students must be the primary focus of the VISTA project.

  5. Vista Member Questions

  6. Who serves as VISTA members?

    VISTAs must have a B.A. or B.S. degree to participate in the CSU STEM VISTA program. They are typically recent college graduates although some may be retirees or individuals exploring or changing careers. VISTAs come from around the U.S. with a variety of backgrounds, skills and professional goals. They may even be graduates from your campus or program. Below is a snapshot of the 39 VISTA members who have served in our program during the 2014-2017 program years:
    -  35% first-generation college grads
    -  79% educated in CA
    -  59% hold STEM bachelor’s degree
    -  51% graduated from the CSU
    -  8% hold master’s degree
    -  43% relocated to serve
    -  36% White; 31% Hispanic; 23% Asian or Pacific Islander; 8% Two or more races; 3% African American

    After their first year of service, 45% of VISTAs attended graduate school for masters or PhDs, 12% secured jobs in industry or their field of study, 12% secured jobs in education and 20% continued their national service.

  7. What are the criteria and process for hiring a VISTA member?

    We understand that getting the right VISTA member is critical for the success of your VISTA project, therefore, the CSU STEM VISTA program facilitates the rigorous screening and selection process outlined below.

    1. Application, résumé, and cover letter
    2. Screening interview, informational video, and final interview with VISTA program
    3. Selection and placement recommendation from VISTA program
    4. Host site approval of applicant*
    5. Offer is made to applicant
    6. CNCS approval once applicant accepts offer

    *Host sites will have 24 hours to review applicant packets and raise substantive concerns about a candidate. If we do not hear back from your site within this timeframe, we will move forward with an offer.

  8. 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.

  9. Host Site Requirement Questions

  10. What are the requirements of the host site?

    Host site requirements are outlined in the RFP and include paying a small cost share, identifying a host site supervisor, and providing the required resources including office resources for the VISTA member. Selected host sites are also required to help recruit VISTA members. Detailed information is available in the 2018-19 Pre-Award Commitment and the Memorandum of Understanding.

  11. 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 2018 – July 2019). This person will be the primary point of contact for the VISTA Program Manager. There are several requirements of the VISTA supervisor outlined in the 2018-19 Pre-Award Commitmentand the Memorandum of Understanding. 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 differs from other traditional models of supervision. VISTA members have varied needs and may require different levels of support from their supervisors at different times throughout the year. Successful host site supervisors have provided the following for their VISTA members:
    -  Vision and ongoing direction for the VISTA project
    -  Mentorship and support in their professional endeavors
    -  Opportunities to take initiative and for project ownership
    -  Safe space to discuss ideas and express opinions
    -  Ongoing constructive feedback
    -  Professional development opportunities

  12. 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.

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

    In 250 words or less, recruitment statements should describe their project to prospective VISTA members. The recruitment statement will be used to market your VISTA position on our program website and the national service database, therefore, it 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:
      1. Who are you? (What is your organization, mission, history, and role in the community?)
      2. Where are you located? (What are the unique features and benefits of your location?)
      3. 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.
      1. 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?)
      2. 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?)