Indiana University students to work on poverty, education, other challenges as VISTA fellows

  • Aug. 5, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Polly Fairfield got her hands dirty as a VISTA fellow. Now a new crop of students is ready to join her in tackling some of the nation’s most pressing problems including poverty, educational opportunity and job training through a unique Indiana University program.

Fairfield developed farm-to-table programs for low-income residents of Washington, D.C., while working with the Common Good City Farm. She evaluated the organization’s efforts, launched new initiatives and worked in the fields to bring healthy food to residents of the La Droit Park neighborhood. Now the graduate student at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington says she will return to campus to complete her studies.

"A year at VISTA has really set me up to take advantage of the master’s program and has given me valuable experience that will help me to choose and develop a career in sustainable agriculture," Fairfield said.

As she returns to Bloomington, 10 more students are heading out on their yearlong VISTA assignments for 2014-15. VISTA, formerly known as Volunteers in Service to America, has contributed more than $1 million to the program, which is directed by SPEA. It continues to be VISTA’s first and only partnership with a graduate school.

A majority of the students attend or recently graduated from IU, including SPEA, the Kelley School of Business, IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and the College of Arts and Sciences. Others come from Northern Arizona University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Examples of IU SPEA students' assignments include:

  • Sarah Bennett will work with the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity on programs to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency.
  • Tyler Ewigleben will work with the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation in Indianapolis on a strategic citywide plan for education and develop techniques to evaluate city-sponsored charter schools.
  • Chloe Lahre will work with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago to will help establish a method of determining the impact the foundation’s grants have on low-income communities.

"The students will also get an extraordinary opportunity to put to use the skills they’re learning," said SPEA Executive Associate Dean David Reingold. "They will also have a profound impact on the cities and rural communities they serve."

That impact is defined by the numbers in the most recent semi-annual report summarizing the SPEA-VISTA partnership:

  • 2,000 people received housing services.
  • 820 children and youths received health, fitness and nutrition education.
  • 5,117 people received financial literacy and employment services.

This is the fourth year of the partnership between VISTA and SPEA. It was initiated by Reingold and grew out of his tenure directing the Office of Research and Policy Development at the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service, the government agency that oversees the VISTA program.

The other VISTA Fellows and their assignments include:

  • Kanishka Singh, IU Kelley School -- Metropolitan Energy Center
  • Justin Bigelow, Northern Arizona University -- National Human Services Assembly
  • Chris Rice, IU SPEA -- Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
  • Lindsey Smith, IU College of Arts and Sciences -- New York Women’s Foundation
  • Sally Bae, IU Kelley School -- Indianapolis Mayor’s Office for Educational Innovation
  • Brandon Washington, IU School of Public Health-Bloomington -- Indianapolis Mayor’s Office for Educational Innovation
  • Kelsey McGuinness, UNC-Chapel Hill -- Robert R. McCormick Foundation

For more information, visit the SPEA VISTA fellows website.

Related Links

Polly Fairfield at Common Good City Farm

VISTA fellow Polly Fairfield works at Common Good City Farm in Washington, D.C.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Jim Hanchett

  • School of Public and Environmental Affairs
  • Office 812-856-5490