EDUCATIONAL MODEL

Our educational method is learner-centered and holistic.

Students do not all learn in the same way, so we have designed the program to include an assorted selection of learning activities, readings, videos, reflections, interactive projects, discussions and assessments. Instead of teaching subjects as compartmentalized academic courses that require students to figure out how the subjects work together, we did that work for you. The subjects are interwoven in each unit so you can see the connection between everything you learn.

Our educational model teaches the skills and competencies needed for learners to serve as immigrant advocates and accredited legal representatives.

We started backward by consulting with community stakeholders (e.g. lawyers, NGOs, migrants, potential students, retired immigration judges, etc.) and potential employers to develop a list of competencies that our graduates must have upon graduation. We then built a curriculum to teach to those specific competencies.

Our educational model is interdisciplinary.

To best understand migration, you need to study it from various perspectives and disciplines. VIISTA’s team of renowned design faculty come from several academic departments – law, history, theology, cultural studies, public administration, writing, research, and trial advocacy – and bring a variety of experiences and backgrounds – they are lawyers, professors, retired immigration judges, and advocates.

Our educational model is practical.

VIISTA’s focus is on active, project-based learning. Practical exercises are embedded throughout the curriculum. As you move through the program, you will build an online portfolio of documents and related materials that is directly applicable to and can be used in your work post-graduation.

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

VIISTA IN THE NEWS

  • Villanova Offers Online Certificate Program to Train Immigrant Advocates
    IN THE NEWS: DIVERSE ISSUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION. Michele Pistone, a professor of law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and an immigration lawyer for nearly 30 years, has founded the first university-based online certificate program that trains immigrant advocates to serve migrants and refugees.

  • New program trains non-lawyers to assist asylum seekers who have no legal counsel
    IN THE NEWS | THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH. After 20 years of teaching law students to defend asylum seekers and even more time defending them herself, Michele Pistone was distressed that many immigrants still have to face the complicated United States asylum system without an advocate — or even any understanding of the process. So, she designed a program to train more people to represent asylum seekers and immigrants.

  • WATCH: First Person Interview - Michele Pistone and VIISTA
    IN THE NEWS | REFUGEE, MIGRANT AND EDUCATION NETWORK. Villanova Immigration Studies Training Program founder, Michele Pistone, was interviewed by Refugee and Migrant Education Network.

  • Most Asylum Seekers Have No Legal Counsel. This Villanova Program Trains Non-Lawyers to Step In.
    IN THE NEWS | THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. After a successful pilot that ended in May, she started a program this fall to certify students to become legal advocates for migrants and refugees. “Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates,” offered through the university’s College of Professional Studies, is described as the first university-based, fully online program to train immigrant advocates. That format, planned before the pandemic forced most courses online, allows easier access for working professionals, including those in rural areas, and keeps costs low.

  • New Villanova program tackles ‘justice gap’ for immigrants
    IN THE NEWS | CATHOLICPHILLY.COM A new program at Villanova University is helping migrants and refugees by equipping advocates to provide desperately needed legal aid. Launched in August, the Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigrations Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA) consists of a one-year, fully online curriculum that enables graduates to become U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representatives.

SUPPORTED BY:

MacArthur Foundation


 

j.m. kaplan fund logo

VIISTA PERSPECTIVES

michele-pistone

“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

adam-vincent

"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 pilot student

nicole-tan

"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 Pilot Student

john-kingery

"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 Pilot Student