College of Liberal Arts, AmeriCorps work together to fight poverty

The College of Liberal Arts at Ole Miss and AmeriCorps are looking for a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) to help fight poverty through community service.

The VISTA will be a one-year, full-time service position supported by the AmeriCorps through a modest stipend, health benefits, and a post-service education award.  In addition, a meal plan will be provided by Aramark, and subsidized housing will be provided by Ole Miss Student Housing.

“The support from Aramark and Student Housing will make it easier for our VISTA, who will be living on a limited income, to succeed during his or her year of service,” Dr. Stephen Monroe, the Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said.

The position is similar to a paid internship, so the VISTA will have a living allowance, but will be near to poverty he or she is fighting, which is part of the AmeriCorps philosophy.

AmeriCorps began the VISTA program in 1965 and places more than 6,500 volunteers in more than 1,200 projects every year, according to their website.  Upon completion, VISTA volunteers receive either the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,300 or a $1,500 cash award.

This is the first VISTA opportunity in the university, though AmeriCorps has sponsored one or two other projects at Ole Miss before.

“In the College, we are looking for responsible, cost-efficient ways to expand our service efforts,” Monroe said in an email.

There are already service projects around the College of Liberal Arts for the VISTA to begin work on later this summer, when the position begins.

The VISTA will work on these projects, the planning and implementation of future projects, and will pursue grants for future service efforts, according to the College of Liberal Arts’ ad for the position.

“We want to set achievable but worthwhile goals, the first being to move a handful of projects from zero to sustainable,” Monroe said.

There has been a lot of interest in the opportunity thus far.  Monroe said, “We’ve had an excellent response, even though the financial incentives for this position are low… Some have compared the VISTA program to the Peace Corps. Only highly motivated and compassionate people apply. There are a lot of those people in our area.”

If the program is successful this year, Monroe said the College could pursue a second year or even a second VISTA position.