New CSU program to help build STEM student success

Fresno State was selected to host three volunteers from the new California State University STEM AmeriCorps VISTA Program during the 2014-2015 academic year to help build student success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), particularly among traditionally underserved student populations.

Fresno State’s College of Science and Mathematics will host two of the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members and the Lyles College of Engineering will host the other. In all, 15 volunteer positions were awarded throughout the 23-campus CSU system.

The VISTA members will serve as liaisons between campus departments and community partners so that students can participate in mentoring and academic support programs, as well as service-learning, internships and research.

The College of Science and Mathematics is opening its new Advising and Resources Center in June to expand student support services, including promotion of service-learning, undergraduate research and internship opportunities.

“It is exciting for us to be part of this CSU VISTA project,” said Dr. Susan Elrod, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. “We are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the contributions the VISTA members will make to help us deepen outreach and collaboration with local organizations and industry.”

The Lyles College will help strengthen its Construction Management program’s partnership with local K-12 schools, community colleges, community-based organizations and prominent construction companies.

“Service-learning and leadership are emphasized in our Construction Management program and this partnership with VISTA will expand learning opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Ram Nunna, dean of the Lyles College. “This will be an excellent complement to our Engineers Without Borders and other programs offered in the Lyles College of Engineering.”

Chris Fiorentino, director of the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State, hailed the program for providing another way for the university to meet its community service goals. “This new program will expand our university’s service to our region and help increase the number of people who pursue and obtain STEM degrees,” Fiorentino said.

As part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps VISTA is designed to support programs, systems or services to help people move out of poverty.

VISTA members are college graduates who have experience working with community-based organizations, community engagement programs or a background in STEM disciplines. They are recruited, selected and trained by the Center for Community Engagement at the CSU Office of the Chancellor and must commit to one year of volunteer service. Volunteers receive a modest monthly living allowance, health coverage and other benefits. Upon completion of service, volunteers choose either a $5,500 education award or a $1,500 stipend.

For more information contact Andrew Lawson, associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, at 559.278.2150 or alawson@csufresno.edu; or Dr. Vivien Luo, assistant professor of Construction Management, at 559.278.1792 or viluo@csufresno.edu.

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Eddie Hughes

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Writer/Public Affairs Specialist, University Communications
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