Justice for Migrants: Bridging Immigrant Advocates & Champions for Justice Through Education
We train immigrant advocates to assist and accompany migrants through VIISTA, a comprehensive legal education.
VIISTA is the Bridge connecting immigrants in need of help with the thousands of passionate allies for immigrant justice. In interviews with prospective students I repeatedly hear these themes: "Teach me so that I can help others," "I want to help but feel powerless, VIISTA will give me the knowledge and skills I need," "I want to do more practically to help," "I am feeling helpless in the face of an inhuman administration,” “give me the skills as a bridge to give practical support to others."
VIISTA bridges the divide between immigrant families who need help confronting the immigration system and welcoming communities of passionate champions eager to make a meaningful impact. Every day immigrant families confront the immigration system alone - a system that is overwhelming and intimidating. There are a lot of passionate people who want to help but they need training so that an understand the laws. VIISTA's holistic education train immigrant advocates as positive forces for justice
Immigrant children are not entitled to a free lawyer. If they cannot afford to hire one or find a pro bono lawyer, children confront the immigration system alone and unrepresented. VIISTA will train immigrant advocates to accompany immigrants and represent them before an overwhelming and intimidating immigration bureaucracy.
Access to an advocate is the biggest indicators of success for immigrants in court and before the USCIS. Yet, most immigrant families confront the immigration system without a lawyer. Six of ten immigrants goes to immigration court without a lawyer. The chances of success on the merits increases 12x when represented. The Committee on Immigration Reform Implementation found that today only 1,200 full-time equivalent staff members provide legal representation to low-income immigrants nationwide.
What do you do with these problems?
An unrepresented 6 year old Spanish-speaking Honduran girl who is expected to explain – by herself - to an immigration judge why she fled her home country and can’t safely return.
A single mother who is afraid to apply for needed public benefits for her US citizen children because she has heard that it may jeopardize her ability to gain US citizenship.
Or the many immigrant families that are deterred from even applying for immigration benefits by high application fees because they don’t realize that fee waivers may be available.
There simply are not enough lawyers– and there will never be enough lawyers – to help all the immigrants that need help.
The project we are working on is designed to address these problems – to provide a way to help. VIISTA is an online certificate program designed to train all the passionate immigrant allies around the country who want to help immigrants. The curriculum is holistic – we teach about immigration from various perspectives and include all the topics needed to become effective immigrant advocates – such as interviewing, how to work with an interpreter, how to work with migrant children, factors that push people to migrate, providing trauma-informed care, trial advocacy – and, of course, immigration law. I am teaching that law in the context of what graduates will do on the job. We designed the VIISTA 5-stage advocacy process. For many weeks, students learn the law as they actively build persuasive legal cases.
For 22 years, I have been teaching law students to represent immigrants. For about half that time, I have been researching online education. Now, I am directing my teaching to a new cohort of students. I know the specific tasks that advocates need to know. And I know how to teach it for transfer. And I am working with a team of experts -- lawyers, retired judges, immigrant serving organizations -- so that what the students learn aligns with the activities that graduates will do on the job.
And, I am particularly excited about it because the students in the pilot have given us good feedback – which we are using now to iterate and improve the program. Overall, they are really enjoying VIISTA so far.
Now, with the resources we currently have, once the students get accredited, they may be able to help a few hundred immigrants each year.
But, with additional resources, we can scale this program to educate many, many more new students each semester.
My goal is to graduate 10,000 Immigrant Advocates over the next 10 years. And, it is realistic -- with additional funding. Then, if every one of those new immigrant advocate helped just 1 immigrant family each month, they would help 660,000 immigrant families over 10 years.
And, the impact could be even greater than that because this program could be a model for using non-lawyers to provide legal services in other areas of law as well, like housing, and veteran’s affairs. Just like the medical field provided space for nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. Those career paths did not exist until about 50 years ago. They were developed – by universities - in response to a real need in the community for medical assistance. Duke University started the first physician’s assistance program in 1965 and the University of Colorado started to train nurse practitioners the same year. Now, there are more than 270,000 nurse practitioners and we could not envision a health care system functioning without them.
We have the same need in the legal field. Access to justice is a problem in many areas of law, so this could go beyond immigration.
But, immigration is my field. So, that’s where I started. And, we are fortunate because we already a legal framework establishing authority in place now. Under current regulations, non-lawyers can stand with immigrants in proceedings before both the Department of Homeland Security and immigration courts.
And we are also fortunate, because there are thousands for passionate immigrant allies today eager to help.
With online education we can reach all the immigrant allies - far and wide – in rural communities, suburbs, and cities around the country with the energy and passion to help.
We hope you will help us achieve this vision. Together, we have the ability to create lasting change.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
PROBLEM: Unlike criminal proceedings in which defendants have constitutional rights to representation, in the US, migrants are not entitled to court appointed lawyers. Six out of 10 migrants confront the immigration system without a lawyer, even children. The consequences are substantial: the Vera Institute found that migrants are 12 times more likely to obtain available relief when they have an advocate. Lack of advocacy disrupts in life-altering ways. With each deportation order, families are separated, employers lose employees, and communities lose valued neighbors and friends. The migrant-serving community knows we need more advocates. Most look to lawyers for the solution. However, they are out of reach for poor migrants. The problem requires an innovative approach. VIISTA represents a bold new solution.
SOLUTION: VIISTA (Villanova University Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates) will be the first university-based online certificate program to train non-lawyers. Designed by an interdisciplinary team of leading faculty, lawyers, and NGOs, VIISTA will revolutionize education about the law. We are educating a category of legal advocates (akin to physician’s assistants in health care) who, under existing regulations, graduates will be eligible to apply to become Department of Justice “accredited representatives,” non-lawyers authorized to provide low-cost representation. VIISTA’s online, modular design makes it scalable and affordable.
VIISTA provides a holistic education: including all of the topics that students need to know to work effectively with immigrants, such as history, push and pull factors, ethics, cultural sensitivity, interviewing, trial advocacy and, of course, law. Topics are interwoven into individual learning activities, just like they are in real life. Interviewing activities include, for example, writing, working with an interpreter, cultural sensitivities, case management and professional development.
Student-Users will experience VIISTA on one of three paths. Module 1 is designed to train people to accompany migrants and work effectively with them. Module 2 is designed to train people who want to provide legal representation to migrants, before the administrative agency, US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Module 3 includes training in trial advocacy and prepares those who want to continue so that they can apply and seek accreditation to represent clients in immigration court.
User-centered design is central to our work. Seed funding early in the ideation stage supported meetings with community groups so we could identify their needs, hopes and aspirations. The meetings helped us to embody a holistic approach to what to teach - self-care, trauma-informed advocacy, working with interpreters - all came from those meetings. Then, we gathered an interdisciplinary team of faculty to develop a prototype and then pilot it with students. Feedback will guide iteration.
My Journey to VIISTA: Working as an immigration law professor and bringing law students and immigrants to court, I was ashamed that so many migrants were deported because they did not have an advocate. My research on online scalable educational technology and disruptive innovation propelled me to consider alternatives to lawyers to fill the justice gap. Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants help in health care, I thought immigrant advocates can similarly expand access to justice in law.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
VIISTA is an online educational program so students from across the US can enroll. The curriculum is interdisciplinary. It will teach migration and how to work effectively with migrants in a holistic way. The curriculum is modular and designed to be repackaged for several different audiences. The pilot curriculum will start with a focus on US immigration law. The legal aspects of the curriculum can later to adopted to educate community legal workers around the world about immigration.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Many people in communities across the US and around the world are passionate about helping migrants, but lack the knowledge and skills needed to offer support. VIISTA offers a scalable way to rapidly expand the capacity of immigrant communities to advocate and organize for change. Many migrant communities are unaware of their legal rights. Immigrant advocates will gain the knowledge needed to empower migrant communities to assert their rights.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Freedom from persecution is a fundamental human right. Many migrants flee conditions of violence. Immigrants' joy, hope, and dignity is restored when they have access to justice, in three ways, by (1) educating immigrant communities about immigration law and policy builds legal capacity and restores hope and dignity to migrants who otherwise confront the immigration system uneducated about heir rights; (2) expanding pipeline of qualified immigrant advocates to provide access to justice to migrants families who otherwise would confront the immigration enforcement system without an advocate; and (3) promoting the expansion of a new employment category within the legal services sector for which immigrants are uniquely qualified, thereby increasing their economic opportunities and civic engagement. The immigrant advocate career path created by VIISTA will be particularly attractive to first generation students and immigrant-origin adults who currently lack a postsecondary credential.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
My aim is to launch the VIISTA program in Fall 2020.
Now, there are 2000 accredited representatives (AR) in the US. By the end of 2024, I hope to teach and graduate an additional 2000 ARs.
Immigrant communities need advocates who understand immigration from a holistic perspective, push and pull factors, cultural sensitivity, trauma-informed care, VIISTA's curriculum is interdisciplinary and holistic.
I also plan to use our network to create a list of priority areas in the US with the most need for immigrant advocates and market to recruit students from there. Through that efforts, VIISTA will expand the pipeline for trained advocates in communities with intense need and limited access to lawyers.
The curriculum is designed to teach the knowledge and skills needed on the job. Our pilot is providing a lot of feedback and insights into how to integrate the curriculum to respond to student needs. Assignments also get students into the community to gather feedback on local needs.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
Access to justice is one of the biggest challenges that immigrant families face. Having an advocate makes a huge difference in whether an immigrant can remain in the US or is deported and separated from his/her family. As an immigration lawyer, I saw this problem every time I walked into an immigration court. I am driven to address it and believe that through scalable online technologies, together with existing regulations that allow non-lawyers to provide legal services to immigrants, a viable solution is attainable. I envision a future in which every immigrant confronting the immigration system has an advocate.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
Immigrant advocates are desperately needed throughout the country, now more than ever before. From remote parish jails in Louisiana, to Mississippi (to respond to recent worksite raids), to rural Pennsylvania, in cities, in suburbs and throughout rural America, immigrant families are being disrupted every day and need advocates to help them navigate a complicated, overwhelming bureaucracy.
VIISTA's online educational platform is accessible to students nationwide - so that our graduates are equipped to respond to needs in their local communities.
Our curriculum is designed with input from community groups across the country so that we teach the knowledge and skills immigrant families and communities need.
For ex. recent changes in laws about immigrant access to public benefits are raising fear and uncertainty in immigrant communities. In response to the rule changes, we now plan to add learning activities about public benefits and aim to educate social workers, healthcare workers.
Students in our pilot came to campus for a focus group after completing Module 1. The audience included design faculty, teaching and learning experts, and administrators. Students shared their experiences in the program, provided feedback on what worked well and what could be improved. The comments were recorded and used to design Module 2 and will be used to iterate the Module 1 curriculum before it is launched in Fall 2020.
After brainstorming session w/ prospective students (undergrad students from various majors), students believed VIISTA could help them achieve their goals. Some would take program either instead of or in preparation for law school. Pre-med student thinks VIISTA is relevant to her medical career. Psychology student saw relevance to her work. Students liked that program incorporates professional development, building network, resume development and career strategizing.
Members of the immigrant advocacy community gathered to provide ideas about how we could develop an educational program that would fit a need in the community for immigrant advocates. We all worked to refine our ideas and create a plan for curriculum design and development.
Professor Erin Corcoran from Notre Dame helped to facilitate a discussion on curriculum design to ensure it aligns with needs of community.
Kate Kazin and Kris Clerkin, experts in online higher education provided advise on curriculum design and assessment during the curriculum design retreat.
Our design faculty includes Shannon McKinnnon, Esq. Managing Attorney at Immigrant Justice Corps in New York City.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Connection to the community has driven this idea from its inception. I was fortunate to receive seed funding from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, which funded meetings with community stakeholders from across the country and included representatives from potential employers, immigrant advocacy organizations, legal service organizations, lawyers, prospective students, accredited representatives and a retired immigration judge who also served as former Chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Together, we generated ideas.
The curriculum design process has involved the community at every stage. Indeed, the curriculum is being designed and build in an innovative way: using a team of design faculty, each specializes in a different area and brings unique perspectives. The faculty designers come from law, history, public administration, theology, social work, and cultural studies. The design faculty collectively have more than 200 yrs in immigration experience.
We learned a tremendous amount from the students in our pilot during the feedback session. We also gathered written feedback at the end of each unit and the end of Module 1. All of that feedback will be organized and used during the iteration process when we modify the prototype for the Fall 2020 launch.
Pictured here are some of the students in our pilot program. Our students range in age and background. Our oldest student in the pilot is a retired nun. The youngest is a college senior.
Design faculty retreat, June 2019: I selected & recruited a team of 25 experts to design and develop the curriculum, including professors, lawyers, potential employers, accredited representatives and students, with more than 200 years of immigration experience, collectively. Because VIISTA is specifically designed to train for practice, the faculty designers were selected because each brings unique specialties, networks and experiences.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
We are blessed with many partners and stakeholders, all of whom are helping to move project forward.
Five immigrant serving organizations are partnering in curriculum design and build:
Catholic Relief Services
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Tahirih Justice Center
Immigrant Justice Corps
HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) PA
Experts from Volta Learning are assisting with curriculum design and assessment
Professors from various disciplines are helping to build robust, holistic curriculum
Professor from National Association of Trial Advocacy and retired immigration judge and Chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals are designing trial advocacy curriculum
Retired immigration judges are providing feedback on curriculum
Communications students at Cabrini College are working on a communications plan
Many immigrant serving organizations offered to help with communications and spreading the word
Immigrant Advocates Network
Nat'l Partnership for New Americans
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Arriving and settling at a destination community
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology
Idea Proposal Stage
Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)
Group or Organization Name
Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA), a certificate program offered by Villanova University, a Catholic and Augustinian University and a 501(c)(3).
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
Villanova is nationally-recognized top 50 research university. Immigration is central to Villanova’s mission. Villanova’s administration embraces VIISTA and sees it as responding to Pope Francis’s 2018 call on Catholic universities to provide more education, research and service to migrant and refugee communities. Service is central to Villanova’s mission and VIISTA provides a way to use our core business – education – in service to both its students and the immigrants its students will serve.
The structure is ideal for VIISTA because: (1) as an institution of higher learning, the University has in-house experience in online education, pedagogy, curriculum development, video production, and student enrollment and management; (2) Villanova branding, as a top 50 national research university, adds name recognition and credibility to VIISTA; (3) Villanova’s network, including 125,000 alumni and many media relations. All of this support to VIISTA bears no monetary cost to the program.
Type of submitter
We are a formal part of a University or Research Institution
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State
In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)
1. How to build a vibrant, cohesive, online community? Prospective & pilot students want to study in community, share resources, post questions to mentors, and form study groups, and to feel part of a community of like-minded advocates for immigrant justice.
2. How to scale the educational program without losing its teaching effectiveness? The need for advocates is huge, but immigrant allies need education so they can meaningfully help. At scale, VIISTA is a bridge that links two growing needs.
3. How best to evaluate the impact of the program, set goals, develop benchmarks & collect data?
Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)
By connecting with our users, we learned that the program is desirable. Our research also illustrated that VIISTA is feasible and viable.
We prototyped VIISTA and students taking the course in pilot stage now. Surveys are included in each unit and after each semester. Students have been good about providing detailed feedback. Survey results are now guiding improvements. We found that students are frustrated with the technology we are using; we need help to identify and acquire access to improved technology. FIX: We plan to add new onboarding short course to introduce students to each other and technology at start of VIISTA.
We developed various personas - for each of the target prospective students group. Jane is seeking an encore career.
Adam is a persona for a recent college grad seeking a job in a legal services organization as an accredited representative
This persona is for a pastoral worker who is seeking to take VIISTA to serve his/her community or congregants. Women and male religious have indicated an interest in enrolling in VIISTA. One of the students in the Module 1 pilot was a Sister of Mercy. I am working with the Sisters of Mercy and other religious groups to spread the word about VIISTA. Catholic Relief Services, our partner, is also planning to help us to market VIISTA through its diocese networks.
My work on personas brought to light several layers of needs to which VIISTA responds. The personas represent the needs and expectations of the student users. Beyond the students, there are at least two categories of secondary beneficiaries w/ other needs, (1) clients and (2) employers. Our curriculum is designed to reach the needs of the those two groups. The knowledge, skills and values all reflect employer needs for certain skills in grads. Trauma informed care taught to serve clients
This persona is for a person whose work puts them in regular contact with migrants and refugees, such a educators, social workers, health care workers and counselors. Many have indicated an interest in VIISTA as a way to help their clients/patients.
The Jenna persona is a millennial who wants to take VIISTA because she wants to work with immigrants as a volunteer. She is seeking knowledge so that she can provide pro bono during service trips, on weekends, and during vacations throughout her life.
JANE -- Persona 1: "Teach me so I can become part of the solution." Encore careers: Retirees and second career students who are seeking an education so that they can do something purposeful in service to others. Jane is a student in our pilot. She and I interviewed two of her friends, a retired NYC teacher and a Lutheran pastor' they learned about VIISTA through Jane. We were fortunate to meet in the rooftop cafe at the Whitney museum - what a glorious setting!
Drawing future for retired NYC public school teacher.
The things she needs to move toward this future are:
• Practical skills – “give me the skills as a bridge to give practical support to others.”
• Knowledge of immigration
• Connections and community
• Information on where I could help
"This is a natural extension of my work. Many of my students were undocumented. I know 5-6 other people who would sign up today, and they each know others.”
"I felt paralyzed; now I feel purposeful."
In the future, empowered through a VIISTA education, this Lutheran Pastor plans to open the Lutheran Church Center for Advocacy for Immigrants. "I would work there and maybe we could hire someone else who is trained through VIISTA.”
“I'd continue to do this work after I retire in 10 years.”
“Immigration was always a passion of mine. Until now, I wasn't able to do anything, other than give money. Now, I can do something.”
“For me, the awareness of the need is my call to action."
Community research with prospective students and the communities they will serve (immigrant clients and employers) helped to refine the program's desirability:
NEEDS OF PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS: •“I want to understand how the immigration bureaucracy works” •“I hate what I am seeing happen in my country. I can’t just stand by and watch. I need to take action.” •“I feel defeated, teach me so I can be empowered.” •“I am privileged because I have status; help me use that position to find a way to help my community.” •“Teach me so I can be helpful.” •“I want to find a community of like-minded immigrant supporters.” •“I know 5-6 other people who would sign up today, and they each know others.”
NEEDS OF EMPLOYERS/IMMIGRANT-SERVING ORGANIZATIONS: •“I am overwhelmed. I need someone who can help with our cases.” •“We need someone who understands immigrants to conduct intake interviews in our office.” •“We need a paralegal who can step in and start adding value.” •“I don’t have time to train someone, I need to make a hire of someone who has a general understanding of immigration law.”
NEEDS OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES: •“Help me navigate a complicated bureaucracy” •“This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life, please stand by me” •“Help me protect my family.” •“Help me understand my rights.” •“I am afraid and all alone, stand with me.” •“I am confused and intimidated, please help me understand what is happening.”
In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funding would make a huge, immediate, impact on our ability to scale, nationally and eventually internationally. Consultants ($30K) can help identify edtech platform and tools (including data collection). Funds would help license and/or develop tech ($125-175K) – we aim to negotiate price with tech co or find tech sponsor. We also need help developing robust online community. If funding is available, we would start by hiring a consultant on fostering networked community ($10K), then hiring staff to implement plan ($50K)
Timing is perfect. Curriculum is built, being piloted and improved. Students are eager to enroll. Now, we need to determine how best to scale so we can reach more students and foster and support a community of immigrant advocates for justice.
What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funds would primarily support the technology side of the project. We want to use appropriate edtech solutions so that we can scale, provide formative assessment and a positive user experience. Good technology will also collect data so that we can continue to improve and iterate based on the feedback on student learning.
We are creating a new career path - so the edtech solution also needs to build a robust community and facilitate mentoring and other forms of support post-graduation.
What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)
We made our first business model canvas in 2017, when we started to work on the idea in advance of building the prototype. For this challenge, we updated and revised the BMC, to incorporate everything that we learned from our key community partners and all the work we did to uncover user needs and value propositions as part of the BridgeBuilder challenge. This BMC also reflects lessons from the pilot, and about customer segments, which is coming to light as we get ready to market.
Through conversations with prospective students, we learned about the users' gains, pains and jobs to be done. We also evaluated VIISTA's curriculum and community through the lens of gain creator and pain reliever. This chart illustrates what we learned.
This chart illustrates all of the touchpoints we aim to create from initially learning about VIISTA through enrollment and onboarding. Meetings with potential users helped us to understand their feelings, especially as before and as they learn about VIISTA. We aim to foster certain feelings in students as they move toward enrollment and will develop systems and procedures to foster those feelings among our users/students.
We took a quick stab at a Community Canvas. We plan to update it with input from the students in the pilot, community partners and mentors. We learned about the community canvas on October 14, so this is just a quick attempt to start thinking about how it could be used in conceptualizing the VIISTA Community of immigrant advocates.
Fall 2022, with BridgeBuilder funds, we will:
Scale to create organic online community
Collaborate w/leading experts in online education, immigration law & practice, trial advocacy, and leading immigration NGOs, to design, build, test and improve online curriculum to ensure it is learned-centered and aligns w/learning competencies & community needs
Promote to gain visibility
Create infrastructure to support organic community (students, alumni, community partners)
Expand pipeline for trained advocates in communities w/intense need & limited access to lawyers
Partner w/colleges; consider expanding to int’l markets
Build alliances w/immigrant serving organizations, faith-based organizations, others, interested in sending students to VIISTA or in employing grads
What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)
Touchpoints for prospective students. How we will convert those who express an interest in VIISTA into students? We will develop various touchpoints so that prospective students gain the information they need, feel welcome and part of the community, and stay connected to the process, through application and on boarding as new students.
IMPACT: graduate 10,000 Immigrant Advocates by 2030. And, it is realistic, if I can scale through technology. If every one of those new immigrant advocates helped just 2 immigrant families each month, they would help 1.3 million immigrant families by 2030. If I can scale, I would iterate curriculum and expand worldwide (many comments through this challenge indicate there is worldwide need)
EVALUATION: collect and measure data on learning outcomes, impact of graduates on the job, impact on clients, and impact on the immigrant-community.
STRATEGY: Continue to learn from users, experiment, prototype and improve. Emphasis on understanding immigrant-community needs, iterating based on those needs, gathering feedback on teaching and learning, iterating curriculum to improve teaching and learning. I want VIISTA to achieve maximum impact
OPEN QUESTIONS: how to (1) effectively reach scale? (2) measure outcomes? (3) use edtech to scale and foster learner community
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)
I worked with a trial advocacy professor to develop the VIISTA 5-stage advocacy process. I want students to learn immigration law in a manner that resembles how they will use it on the job. Each learning activity is tagged to this process, so that students engage actively in the advocacy process as they are learning new areas of law. The accompanying video supplements this chart (the process is also described for students in detail in writing).
Sample educational video. We aim for short videos; most around 5-6 minutes or less. Learning sciences research suggests that short videos allow students to concentrate without attention wandering. I chose this video because it explains the advocacy process. Throughout the curriculum, we aim to teach knowledge, such as law and legal terms, and also how the law is used and applied in real cases. The learning activities ask students to engage in activities that apply their learning to new facts.
Sample educational video on a central advocacy skill - how to analyze a case. This video is supplemented by readings and activities.
Note that both the sample videos are of Michele Pistone. There are many others; each of the design faculty made 1-2 short videos for the program.
A sample whiteboard video on an element of the asylum law - the term "persecution."
The course will include a mix of videos, talking head, whiteboard videos, and voice over powerpoint. We recently visited the the recording studio run by Uncommon Individual Foundation. They have 3 cameras and lots of post production experience. They will assist in a series of videos on trial advocacy, including role plays to demonstrate direct examination, opening statements, closing arguments, etc.
Prof. Michele Pistone is currently the only full-time paid person working on VIISTA. Pistone is a leading expert in immigration, online legal education & assessment. She oversees curriculum design & development, marketing & communications, and is currently teaching the pilot.
An additional full-time hire is approved who could provide admin support & manage growing community of people and organizations interested in VIISTA.
Pistone leverages a team of experts to design & develop VIISTA's curriculum. The team is unusually large; including people who bring unique perspectives and backgrounds - law professors, law practitioners, and experts in various disciplines, including legal writing, history, theology, cultural studies and public administration.
Villanova instructional designers, videographers, and communications & marketing staff support VIISTA.
Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)
Some pilot students participated in feedback session. This live session is supplemented by surveys after each unit. Students described it like this: "Intensely rewarding" "strong sense of community" "feel we know eachother very well" "live out my call to action" "know there are others who want to advocate and make change" "really exciting to be part of scalable solution to immigration problem" "this creates new narratives" "content of course is wonderful" "convenient" "tech challenges"
Meeting on October 6, 2019 in Villanova Law School w/ prospective students from three undergrad colleges - nursing, business and arts and science. The students were majoring in a wide range of fields and all saw value that could be added by understanding migration. The majors included, pre-med, nursing, peace & justice, psychology, finance, biology, chemistry, marketing, nursing, and others. It was a great meeting -I learned tons!
During the feedback session, we asked the prospective students to tell us what they need from VIISTA. The students worked in two small groups to come up with a list of needs. Their responses were recorded on post-it notes. Then the two groups shared their main take-aways. I learned what they wanted from VIISTA - a sense of community, experiential learning, to understand all the immigration terminology, to use their privilege to help others, mentors in their field (ex, psychology, nursing)
The students worked in small groups and also shared with the larger group. I learned a lot from this session.
What do you need from VIISTA? learn more about the immigration system, database of organizations that work in the field, why people migrate, how to bring awareness of immigration and educate them, getting feedback from live performances (role plays), knowing different options for migrants (DACA, green card, visas), how to effectively advocate, understand cultural differences, understand the experience of migrants, etc.
Prospective student needs include: career mentorship, aspect of community (especially since program is online), video lectures, readings, contact with professors, network of job opportunities post VIISTA (possibly through Handshake), study groups, info on how to incorporate VIISTA into my/each discipline, base topics around current issues/analyze current issues, experiential learning, accessible tuition rates.
At the end of the feedback session with prospective undergrad students, I asked how they feel. These post-its capture those feelings - hopeful, determined, proud, educated, love, accessible, excited, motivated, eager, informed, passionate, educated, empathy!
I felt so good to hear these emotions. I know this program will make a difference in people's lives. Both the migrants and refugees that are helped and also the immigrant advocates who want to feel these feelings!
Photo from end of feedback session with undergraduate prospective students. We ended by asking them to share how they feel after learning about VIISTA.
These students volunteered to be part of the feedback session - on a Sunday night before mid-term week. They are a dedicated bunch and I am grateful that they took the time to speak with me!
I had an educational and inspirational conversation with my mentor. She had so many good ideas, which I plan to incorporate into my program. Thanks for introducing me to her.
EXPERT test Slack to create a one-stop shop for sharing information that feels organic. Include feedback loop to take in input & evolve
IMPROVE created Slack account & started testing w/pilot students, will monitor Slack for improvements & ways to evolve
EXPERT think broader than learning outcomes, measure impact on cmt’y-how many imm families are being served by graduates?
IMPROVE will develop mechanisms to measure these outcomes & monitor that learning relevant to on-the-job needs
MENTOR Create a clear process for evaluation
IMPROVE will create surveys, seek feedback from cmt’y partners, clients & imm communities & assess learning
USER Blackboard limiting abilities to share content, create study groups & engage
IMPROVE test Slack