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 students in the program must have upon completion. 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 after program completion.

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