Brandeis University

Contact Information

415 South St
Ms 116
Waltham, MA 02453 - 2728
(781) 736-3762
FY 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research

Executive Summary

One of the largest areas of the CNCS AmeriCorps VISTA program is that of VISTA grants to higher education institutions, largely through Campus Compacts, to build higher education/community partnerships addressing social issues. While the VISTA programs vary widely, the basic goal in each is to build the capacity of colleges and their partners (schools, CBOs, etc.) to create partnerships that meet essential community needs, and to create lifelong active citizens through quality service learning and community engagement.

There is a substantial and growing literature on campus community engagement but little research on the role that VISTAs play in developing and supporting campus and community partnerships, or in building the capacity of colleges and their local partners for sustained collaboration beyond the presence of the VISTAs themselves.

The proposed study is an exploratory study aimed at more clearly delineating the roles of VISTAs in building and supporting sustainable campus/community partnerships. The study is designed to answer three basic research questions:

1. What role(s) do higher education-based VISTAs play in developing and supporting sustainable campus/community partnerships?

2. How effective are the higher education-based VISTAs in building the capacity for sustained campus community partnerships?

3. What can we learn about effective strategies for VISTAs in building the capacity of college community partnerships, including the impact of the Campus Compacts (state and national) on the support, training and effectiveness of VISTAs?

To address these questions, the study will: 1) conduct an analysis of VISTA Assignment Descriptions (VADs) to provide an in-depth understanding of the operations of campus-based VISTA programs; 2) survey campus-sponsored VISTAs and their host agency supervisors to learn more about how VISTAs respond to contextual facilitators and barriers in building capacity; and 3) conduct in-depth case studies in a sample of campus-based VISTA programs to further examine the VISTA role and the factors influencing the campus/community partnerships. The study will be conducted in collaboration with Campus Compact and concentrate on those VISTAs whose campus community partnerships focus on K-12 education, a major area of interest for campus-based VISTA programs.

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