Newswise — ​STEM students at the CSU are reaping the benefits of service learning, thanks to the stellar members of the CSU STEM VISTA program.

Service learning, as a high impact practice, increases students' chances of staying in school and graduating in a timely manner. To get more underrepresented STEM students involved in service learning, the CSU STEM VISTA programs at several campuses are partnering with their campus service-learning centers to offer opportunities that combine STEM and community engagement.

As part of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), CSU STEM VISTA is comprised of professionals tasked with applying their skills and knowledge to meet the needs of STEM students. VISTA members are often recent college graduates or are working to advance their careers in STEM or education, and are participating in a one-year, full-time national service opportunity to eliminate race, class and gender disparities in STEM fields.

CSU STEM VISTA supports the Graduation Initiative 2025 goal of closing equity gaps by creating programs aimed at enhancing learning experiences for students of color, students from low-income communities and first generation students.

CSU STEM VISTA was established in 2014 and its 67 alumni and current members have since enriched the education of 15,000 STEM students through workshops, internships and research opportunities at 17 campuses.

“CSU STEM VISTA members are dedicated to providing innovative equity-based solutions to empower and inspire CSU STEM students," says Kristina Barger, VISTA Program Manager. “By supporting service-learning centers, and other on-campus departments, VISTA members create programs that nurture individual students' talents and strengths while tapping into their passions."

VISTA's collaboration with campus service-learning centers are helping students excel by allowing them to apply their STEM knowledge and interests while serving their local communities.

One example is Stanislaus State's Science in Our Community program, in which Stan State students present hands-on STEM education to local K-12 students. In 2018, its STEM Ambassadors program, developed by CSU STEM VISTAs, received the university's Student Leadership Greatest Achievement award for leading activities such as Science Saturday (a day of learning for K-12 students and their families) and Science Camp (multiple days of studying science in the wild).

At San José State, VISTA members developed curriculum on cybersecurity that STEM students are deploying at a local elementary school. Called the Cyber Spartans Program, SJSU students are hosting after-school workshops in topics such as cryptography, hacking and malware. The program is intended to mentor third to sixth graders, and every SJSU student-mentor has received training from the VISTA member prior to entering the after-school classroom.

In the last five years, students at the CSU have provided nearly 33,000 hours of hands-on STEM activities and have reached more than 20,000 K-12 students. Students who participated in CSU STEM VISTA activities have a higher rate of student success: according to a three-year CSU STEM service-learning study funded by the Keck Foundation, the retention equity gap between underrepresented minority students (URM) who participated in the program's activities and non-URM students was eliminated.

CSU STEM VISTA members continue to diligently ensure that all students have the opportunity to graduate on time while positively impacting their lives, families and communities. For more information on CSU STEM VISTA, visit