Professor Michele R. Pistone, Founder and Faculty Director, VIISTA

Professor Pistone is a Professor of Law and directs and teaches the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. She founded the Law School’s in-house Clinical Program in 1999. Through the CARES clinic, Professor Pistone and her students provide free legal services to asylum seekers and represent them in immigration court and before the Department of Homeland Security. Over the last 20 years, she and her students have helped hundreds of asylum seekers and their families gain asylum protection in the United States.

Professor Pistone is a regular speaker. Her research focus on technological innovations in the practice of law and in legal education, asylum and refugee law, immigration law, migration, clinical education, and Catholic social thought.  She co-authored Disrupting Law School: how disruptive innovation is revolutionizing the legal world, a whitepaper for the Christensen Institute as well as many papers on technology, legal education and the practice of law.

She is also co-author of a groundbreaking book entitled, Stepping Out of the Brain Drain: Applying Catholic Social Teaching in a New Era of Migration (Lexington Books 2007).  Professor Pistone has also written numerous articles and book chapters on migration. She is a Fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, an immigration think tank, the co-Associate Editor of the Journal on Migration and Human Security, and serves as an advisor on migration to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations.



Pina N. Cirillo is a Supervising Attorney at Rutgers Law School, where she represents detained and non-detained indigent immigrants before the Immigration Courts as part of New Jersey’s groundbreaking immigration representation project, Detention & Deportation Defense Initiative (DDDI). As an advocate for the Universal Representation model, she believes that all individuals deserve their fair day in court, and she is excited to be a part of the VIISTA program which seeks to fill that gap.

Pina previously worked as an Enforcement & Operations Attorney at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C.; as a Contract Attorney at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP in Matawan, NJ; and as an Attorney Advisor at the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review in Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. She earned a Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Order of the Coif, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Spanish from the University of Miami. She also dedicated a year of service to the AmeriCorps program, City Year, where she helped high school students get back on track to graduate.


Matt Gorman is an associate attorney in the Global Immigration & Mobility practice of Baker McKenzie's Chicago office. Matthew advises on corporate and employment-based immigration law across international jurisdictions, including work visa petitions, permanent residence and permanent employment certification applications. He has experience with defending against immigration-based government investigations from DHS, DOL, and DOJ. He also advises on issues of admissibility, waivers and motions to reopen/reconsider and appeals. Matt represents pro bono clients in naturalization and denaturalization proceedings as well as asylum cases. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Matt served as an Attorney Advisor with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, based at the Chicago Immigration Court. In this role, he drafted judicial decisions and legal memorandum and advised the Court's Immigration Judges on complex areas of immigration removal and family law. Matt graduated from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law magna cum laude in 2014, where he was an editor of the School's law journal on race, religion, gender, and sex.


The daughter of once-undocumented immigrants and granddaughter of refugees from Poland, Jenny Grobelski (she/they) has been working to keep immigrants in the United States since 2005. Prior to her current role as Supervisory Attorney with Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), which she started in October 2011, she was the supervisor of the DePaul Asylum and Immigration Clinic’s inaugural U Visa Summer Volunteer Project, a student in DePaul’s Asylum and Immigration Clinic, and a volunteer at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR). Jenny is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Chicago Bar Association, NLG Chicago’s Next Gen Committee, and NLG’s National Immigration Project. She received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in 2005 and her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law in 2010. She is based in and conducts her work primarily in Chicago, Illinois, but she has also spent significant time consulting for JFON throughout the country and volunteering in various places along the U.S.-Mexico border.


Ramón is currently the founder and manager of the Law Firm of Ramón M. Guerra, a solo immigration law practice based in Long Island City, Queens, New York.  The firm is a full-service immigration law office focusing on cases involving family petitions, relief from deportation and business visas.  In addition to his law practice, he is also an adjunct professor at the City University of New York – City College, teaching classes on U.S. history and immigration law and health law and economics.

Ramón is very involved in the immigrant community as an activist fighting for immigrant rights.  He most recently sat on the national pro-bono committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and is a former chair of the AILA New York City Chapter pro-bono committee, responsible for helping find legal representation for juveniles in deportation proceedings, as well as, organizing legal clinics to provide free legal consultations to the immigrant community of New York. Currently, Ramón proudly serves on the board of the Mexican Coalition, which is a non-profit organization based in New York providing legal, health and a variety of social services to the immigrant community and is a Deputy Regional President for the Hispanic National Bar Association. Ramón is also a frequent commentator on Univision as an immigration legal analyst and has presented at numerous CLEs and public speaking events discussing immigration legal issues and politics. In his spare time, he enjoys eating spicy foods and playing water polo.


Kerry Walsh Hartington is a partner at Hartington King English, LLC, located in Vineland and Freehold, New Jersey.  Kerry is widely recognized as one of the premier immigration practitioners in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Kerry obtained her B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from University of Delaware.  As an undergraduate student, Kerry studied abroad at the University of Granada, Spain, and then taught English in Burgos, Spain following her graduation.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Kerry worked as a BIA-Accredited Immigration Representative at Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia.  Kerry also worked as a paralegal at immigration law firms in Philadelphia and South Jersey while obtaining her law degree.

She has vast experience with Family-based immigration petitions, Employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant petitions, Investor visas, PERM Labor Certifications, Waivers, and Removal defense.  Kerry has represented thousands of individuals before the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor and has successfully obtained immigration benefits for her clients within the United States and abroad.  Kerry is a leader in the practice of filing inadmissibility waivers and provisional unlawful presence waivers.

Kerry is also a highly sought-after speaker who frequently lectures at immigration law seminars throughout the region due to her expertise in the field and recognition as an authority on immigration law.  Kerry has participated in seminars for the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association and many local non-profit organizations and churches.   Kerry is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) in New Jersey and Philadelphia, the New Jersey State Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Associations.  Kerry serves as the AILA liaison to the Mount Laurel United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Field Office. 

Kerry graduated from Widener University Delaware Law School and is admitted to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars.

Kerry is fluent in Spanish.  She spends her free time with her husband and two sons.


Richard is an attorney with extensive experience working in immigration spaces.  Currently, Richard is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia.  Prior to his current role, Richard served as the Co-Legal Director of the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, where he built an immigration practice focused on representing survivors of gender-based violence and vulnerable children in affirmative and defensive pursuits of humanitarian immigration relief options.

In addition, Richard was the volunteer Legal Director for Center Global from 2017 - 2021 (a former program of the DC Center for LGBT Community), an organization that focused on holistic support for LGBTQ asylum seekers and asylees.  Prior to joining DCVLP, Richard was a litigation associate at DLA Piper LLP and a senior attorney at the DC Affordable Law Firm, where he represented survivors of domestic violence, at-risk children, and asylum seekers.

He also has spent time working for juvenile justice reform in Maryland through the National Juvenile Defender Center.  Richard has previously spoken on asylum issues for the D.C. Mayor's office and on briefing panels for both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate focused on the asylum process for LGBTQ individuals.  He has also written about issues impacting LGBTQ asylum seekers and immigrant survivors of domestic violence.

Richard received his J.D. and LL.M in International Business and Economic Law and LL.M in Civil Justice from Georgetown University Law Center and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University.  He and his husband live in Washington, D.C. 


Carrie Rosenbaum is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society, a Legal Writing Professor at Berkeley Law, and has served as a Lecturer in Legal Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and an Adjunct Professor at the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco. She is an immigration attorney in private practice, and is a board member of LexisNexis Benders Immigration Bulletin, and has served on the Executive Board of the Bay Area National Lawyers Guild and as Co-Chair of the Bay Area National Lawyers Guild Immigration Committee. She has also held leadership positions in the American Immigration Lawyers Association within the Northern California Chapter. She has edited and authored practice guides and treatises for LexisNexis and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and has been invited to contribute to the ImmigrationProf blog, and LexisNexis where she has been recognized as an Expert Commentator.

Carrie Rosenbaum’s scholarship focuses on the constitutionality of immigration laws, racial bias in crimmigration enforcement, the effects of the war on drugs on immigrant communities, and the role of settler colonialism in shaping contemporary expressions of immigration law.


Elizabeth Taufa is a policy attorney and strategist based in Washington, D.C.  Her work is focused on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration advocacy, particularly naturalization and policies related to equal access to immigration benefits. 

Prior to joining ILRC, Elizabeth was a senior attorney with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration managing their detention information line. She began her legal career representing children in removal proceedings at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston and previously worked as an attorney advisor in the Office of Legal Access Programs at the Executive Office for Immigration Review. 

She is a native of Winchester, Virginia and holds a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law where she completed internships with the ABA’s Immigration Justice Project in San Diego, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Office of Immigration Litigation. She also volunteered with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).


Jennifer White graduated from Liberty University’s Honors Program with a degree in Clinical Psychology and a minor in Sociology. After serving as a social worker and counselor for several years, Jen attended Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, where she was a public interest scholar; a student representative in the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee, and Emigrant Services; and a Research Assistant to Professor Michele Pistone. After law school, Jen worked as an associate attorney for a law firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pursuing employment-based, family-based, and humanitarian immigration benefits. She then worked at Just Neighbors, a non-profit organization in Northern Virginia, predominantly pursuing humanitarian immigration benefits for clients. She currently resides in Pittsburgh and works pro bono immigration cases. Jen considers it a privilege to advocate for those seeking freedom and protection in the U.S. She is thrilled to be a part of the VIISTA program and to have the opportunity to train advocates to serve immigrants in search of a new home in the U.S.

Anita Gupta

Anita Gupta is a consulting attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC). She is based in Austin, Texas, where she focuses on building the capacity of legal practitioners in Texas to represent immigrants in immigration and criminal proceedings. She conducts trainings on immigration law, provides legal expertise through the ILRC’s Attorney of the Day program, and writes practice manuals and advisories for practitioners across the country. She also works with advocates and local officials throughout Texas to strategize, pass, and implement local policies that reduce the arrest-to-deportation pipeline. She focuses on issues related to removal defense, federal immigration enforcement, and the intersectionality of the immigration and criminal legal systems. 

Prior to joining the ILRC, Anita worked in private practice in Austin, specializing in removal defense and humanitarian-based immigration relief. She has also worked at American Gateways and the National Immigrant Justice Center, where she represented low-income immigrants in a variety of matters before the immigration courts, USCIS, and ICE.

Anita obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she earned her law degree from DePaul University in Chicago. She is admitted to the Illinois bar.

Ashley Cruz

Ashley is a Staff Attorney at the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic and a member of the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children. She is committed to making a meaningful impact in the lives of non-citizen youth within the New Jersey foster care system by providing invaluable assistance with their immigration cases. This unique project, initiated in May 2016 through a collaborative effort with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, has already aided hundreds of non-citizen foster youth in navigating their complex immigration matters. 

With a profound passion for advocacy, Ashley possesses a diverse background encompassing immigration law, education, and community engagement. Her journey into the realm of public interest was sparked during her time at Rutgers University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science, coupled with a minor in women's and gender studies. Continuing her pursuit of knowledge and a career in law, Ashley enrolled in Rutgers Law School, graduating in May 2016. She is admitted to the New Jersey Bar, the New York Bar, and the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. 

Ashley's professional journey has been marked by an unwavering commitment to immigration law. Her multifaceted responsibilities have encompassed the management of complex family-based immigration cases, in-depth legal research and writing, and the oversight of comprehensive case management. 

Michael Neal

Michael Neal is an attorney with the International Rescue Committee, an NGO that provides humanitarian relief to displaced people. He is currently an advisor on the IRC's legal technical unit, which supports legal service programs for refugees and asylees in the US and southeastern Europe. Previously, he served as an Assistant Federal Defender in El Paso, Texas, where he represented migrants and asylum seekers on criminal immigration cases.

Stephanie Costa

Stephanie Costa is the Co-Managing Attorney of HIAS PA's Domestic Violence Initiative. Stephanie oversees a team of legal and social staff that provides direct representation and support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault residing in Philadelphia, PA and several surrounding counties. Stephanie also represents survivors before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and in Immigration Court.  She is involved in local and state-wide advocacy efforts to increase access to justice for immigrant survivors.  She graduated from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2012 and joined HIAS PA in 2013.  

Sara Ramey

Sara Ramey has been working in the immigration space since 2006 when she volunteered with the refugee team at Amnesty International in Sydney, Australia. She subsequently interned with the UNHCR in DC and then attended law school at American University. Ramey has been working in Texas since 2012, primarily focusing on detained asylum cases and has also represented clients in U, T, S, VAWA, humanitarian parole, bond, cancellation of removal, TPS, DACA, adjustment of status, consular processing, and naturalization. Most recently, Ramey helped found and directed the Migrant Center for Human Rights for over five years. She is from the Bay Area and currently lives in San Antonio. 





Module 1 Design Team


Candace Centeno
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor of Law, Director of Duane Morris LLP Legal Writing Program
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Lori Corso
Librarian and Legal Research Instructor
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Lynne Hartnett
Chair, Graduate History, Associate Professor
Villanova University


Ed Hastings
Assistant Professor, Theology
Villanova University


Karyn Hollis
Chair, Department of Cultural Studies, Associate Professor
Villanova University


Steve Schultz
Writing Specialist
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Catherine Wilson
Chair, Department of Public Administration, Associate Professor
Villanova University  

Modules 2 and 3 Design Team


Juli Bildhauer
Senior Director of Legal Training and Teaching Assistance
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)


Kris Clerkin
Managing Partner
Volta Learning


Erin Corcoran
Executive Director, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Concurrent Faculty, Keough School of Global Affairs
University of Notre Dame


Lori Corso
Librarian and Legal Research Instructor
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Rebecca Feldmann
Visiting Assistant Professor
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Ayodele Gansallo
Co-author, Understanding Immigration Law
HIAS PA and Adjunct Professor University of Pennsylvania School of Law


Cathrael Kazin
Managing Partner
Volta Learning


JC Lore
Author, Modern Trial Advocacy
Professor, Rutgers Law and National Institute of Trial Advocacy


Rena Cutlip-Mason
Chief of Programs
Tahirih Justice Center


Shannon McKinnon
Managing Attorney
Immigrant Justice Corps


Michele Pistone
Professor of Law, Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES)
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Shea Rhodes
Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Judge Paul W. Schmidt
Former Chairperson of Board of Immigration Appeals
Retired Immigration Judge


Susan Schmidt
Assistant Professor of Social Work and Field Director
Luther College


Steve Schultz
Writing Specialist
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Wendy Wylegala
Deputy Director for Legal Technical Assistance
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Design Faculty Advisors


Mary Gentile
Professor of Practice, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
Creator and Director of Giving Voice to Values

Marcy Gonzalez
Chief Operating Officer and DOJ accredited representative
Latinos Progresando, Chicago

Saulo Padilla
Immigration Education National Program
Mennonite Central Committee

Mary Studziniski
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

Pope Francis recently called on Catholic universities worldwide to contribute to research and teaching about refugees and migrants. As a Catholic and Augustinian institution with a deep and long-standing commitment to community service and founded to educate immigrants, Villanova is answering Pope Francis’ call.

Michele R. Pistone

Professor of Law & Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES)
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Villanova is pleased to offer a limited number of scholarships to VIISTA students. Please click the 'more' buttons below for information and to apply by 8/1 for Fall!

CPS VIISTA Scholarship

For students who are sponsored by a Dept. of Justice recognized organization.

Justamere Scholars Scholarship

For bilingual, bicultural students from the state of Pennsylvania.


MacArthur Foundation


j.m. kaplan fund logo



“Immigrant advocates model a new way forward to revolutionize the provision of legal services, akin to nurse practitioners in healthcare.”
-Professor Michele Pistone
Founder, VIISTA


"I want to make a difference in the lives of immigrants but lacked the proper skills. VIISTA addresses a real need and gives me the tools necessary to step up and provide valuable support to immigrants in my community."
-Adam Vincent
VIISTA student


"I joined VIISTA to deepen my commitment as an immigrant advocate. At the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, I have the honor of standing alongside asylum-seeking families seeking the right to protection and safety in the U.S. My day to day work has shown me the huge gaps in access to legal representation across the country and the drastic disparity in outcome, when asylum-seeking families do not have access to an attorney. VIISTA is an innovative model that removes traditional barriers to law school through its’ remote, self-paced classroom model, allowing people like me to gain a comprehensive understanding of immigration law and advocacy. I truly believe VIISTA is the future direction of the immigrant rights movement, to respond to the huge need for legal representation and to give every immigrant family their day in court."
-Nicole Tan
VIISTA Student


"VIISTA provides the education and tools to turn my concern and passion into effective compassion. Along with the law, you will learn the history, spiritual and truly human aspects of immigration.

VIISTA’s interdisciplinary focus will challenge you to grow as a person, ally and companion. I have gained a deeper appreciation of the legal and human issues facing our immigrant families. Knowledge of the law gives you the tools to be effective, VIISTA’s other components provides you the means to be compassionate."
-John Marshall Kingery
VIISTA Student

Important Notices for Distance Education Students

The following includes important information for students participating in online courses, online programs and/or on-ground clinicals or practicums while physically located outside of Pennsylvania.

Read the Notices for Distance Education Students