Ten full-time Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) Fellows began their year of service at 10 University of Hawaiʻi campuses in April, where they will provide capacity to strengthen UH’s sustainability and resilience programming to better meet the needs of our students and communities.

The program provides stipends, professional development and other support for 11 recent college graduates to take on full-time positions at UH campuses across the state, thanks to financial support from Johnson Controls Foundation.

“We are excited to provide meaningful work experience for recent college graduates in building systems to alleviate poverty by strengthening sustainability and resilience programs at UH campuses across our islands,” said Matthew K Lynch, UH director of sustainability initiatives.

The program was developed to strengthen UH’s COVID-19 response towards equipping students with appropriate knowledge, skills and experiences to contribute to building a just, diverse, sustainable and resilient economy in the post COVID-19 world.

Sustainability-focused initiatives

The Johnson Controls International Americorps VISTA Fellowship program will employ 11 Americorps VISTAs across the UH system to support sustainability-focused initiatives geared towards addressing basic needs to uplift low-income and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander student populations.

UH has been a great partner over the years and Johnson Controls is very happy to support the Americorps VISTA Fellowship program,” said Grady Crosby, vice president public affairs and chief diversity officer at Johnson Controls. “We know that as these students learn together while addressing identified sustainability challenges, their work will greatly contribute to the building, exchanging and facilitating the use of knowledge in support of a faster and broader transition towards sustainable communities.”

VISTAs will work with faculty and staff to connect students to green workforce development opportunities, campus and community food security resources, and sustainability-focused academic pathways,” said Navin Tagore Erwin, UH’s VISTA program manager. “VISTAs will also use the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System platform to identify campus-specific programing strengths, gaps and opportunities for growth at each UH campus.”

VISTA Fellows serve underserved populations who are most vulnerable and at-risk of COVID-19 disruptions. They will also leverage additional funding provided by Americorps Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) to provide an educational bonus that can support further studies by program participants.

Each campus will directly supervise the fellow and build upon successes and lessons learned from the inaugural 2019–20 cohort of UH Americorps VISTA Fellows that were funded by individual campuses.

UH Office of Sustainability’s role

The UH Office of Sustainability is providing oversight and coordination capacity to support the program, which includes: working with campuses to develop campus-specific work plans; supporting campus site supervisors throughout duration of program; convening weekly meetings with entire cohort to share information and resources; managing communications with and reporting to CNCS; and much more.

About Americorps VISTA

AmeriCorps VISTA is funded by CNCS to alleviate poverty among vulnerable populations communities.