A Commitment to Continuous Growth
This past year, the CSU STEM VISTA Program Manager Kristina Barger and long-time consultant Cathy Avila-Linn led the VISTA leadership team in identifying, explicating and sharing the guiding values of the CSU STEM VISTA program. These values have been inspired by the work of VISTA members and the ways that alums have contributed to the mission of CSU STEM VISTA: to eliminate race, class and gender disparities in STEM undergraduate degree programs.
In this issue, we highlight one long-term campus partner of CSU STEM VISTA who truly embodies our value of a commitment to continuous growth. Fresno State’s Advising and Resources Center (ARC) in the College of Science and Mathematics has been served by ten VISTA members since 2014. All of the VISTA members were supervised by Dr. Jaime Arvizu, the ARC Director. In a recent interview, Dr. Arvizu described how ARC’s partnership with CSU STEM VISTA has propelled efforts in other areas of campus. “I’ve always valued the VISTA program because I know we can build better programs. We do have other colleges and schools that are trying to replicate services that [the ARC] offers because of the VISTA [members’ efforts].”
Continuous Growth in ARC
For ARC and CSU STEM VISTA, sharing feedback and insights with others is an important part of continuing to grow and change systems. In response to a need for a more intrusive approach to student support, the creation and implementation of an early alert system for students in ARC’s BOND (Building Opportunities for Networks of Discovery) program has nearly eliminated the retention disparity between Black, Latinx and Indigenous students and white students, according to recent data. Dr. Arvizu shared that given the success of the instruvie early alert system there is interest from the president and the provost to expand it beyond the College of Science and Mathematics to other colleges at Fresno State.
VISTA members serving with Fresno State’s ARC have expanded and enhanced many key programs that have continued to flourish, including:
- The centralized coordination of research and internships for students.
- A peer mentoring program.
- Block scheduling for students in the BOND (Building Opportunities for Networks of Discovery) first-year experience program.
- An intrusive early alert system to notify and support students who are struggling in certain classes.
This academic year, the VISTA serving with ARC is focused on developing a check-in process for sophomores majoring in science and math. This new project is a direct response to the phenomenon known as the “sophomore slump.” Often, many support services provided to first year students are discontinued in the second year of college which can contribute to many sophomore students feeling disconnected in their undergraduate degree programs. The creation of this program for second year students is a great example in a long line of VISTA-implemented programs at Fresno State that demonstrate the CSU STEM VISTA value of continuous growth and learning - which includes naming challenges and identifying solutions and improvements.
Continuous Growth for VISTA Alumni
Not only has ARC grown and benefitted from the hard work of CSU STEM VISTAs, but the VISTA members themselves have grown professionally and in their career pathways.
Laura Wang, 2017-2018 Fresno State VISTA alum shared some of the ways her VISTA service has prepared her for her final year of medical school and in making decisions about her career path. “Before my VISTA year, I had only engaged in direct service and while direct service is very important, my year at Fresno State taught me the value of leadership and enacting change on a larger scale. I'm considering practicing rural medicine and that interest started when I lived in Fresno,” she shared. “My VISTA year is still one of the most memorable years of my life and the skills and professionalism I learned will help me through the rest of my career.” Laura approached her year of service with curiosity and openness to possibilities, another key factor of this month’s VISTA Value.
2018-2019 VISTA alum, Alexandria Yang, also served the ARC with an open mind and readiness to tackle challenges while transitioning from Fresno State student to staff. “To see behind the scenes made me appreciate and have more gratitude towards everyone who is in service. After my service year, it helped me think more about my career path and what I wanted to pursue.”
The call for higher education to adapt to the changing needs of students is clear. The CSU STEM VISTA program is grateful to work with innovative, intentional partners who are committed to finding solutions that support student success, just like Fresno State’s ARC and the VISTA members who have served there.
About the author: Emily Ward is serving her third year as a CSU STEM VISTA leader in the CSU Center for Community Engagement.