Achieving excellence

Since 1965, AmeriCorps VISTA members have helped alleviate poverty for communities in need. AmeriCorps VISTA, which stands for Volunteer in Service to America, is a brand of AmeriCorps.

Kristina Kofoot

“My VISTA service changed my career path and has lead me to my dream job,” said Kristina.

Kristina Kofoot, community engagement program coordinator, served in VISTA for two years here at the University of Northern Iowa. For her efforts, she was recently awarded the Tom Harkin Excellence Award at a ceremony in Washington D.C., becoming the first individual Iowan to receive this award and one of only five awardees nationwide.

The VISTA branch work focuses on fighting poverty through building organizational capacity, support and programming. VISTA members also commit to “living in poverty” while they serve.

The Tom Harkin Excellence Award recognizes the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs tackling our nation’s most pressing challenges. Kofoot’s most impactful service was implementing UNI’s 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, Goal #3, Community Engagement. This goal aims to create opportunities for students, faculty and staff to build external relationships that enhance local and global learning experiences and contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the Cedar Valley and Iowa.

“I loved the work I was able to do as a VISTA at UNI,” said Kristina.

She also led an organization called, Service-Learning Institute (SLI), which connected 10 faculty members with 10 community partners in order to create new service learning courses. In addition, she supported the work of the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley by greeting all incoming freshman/transfer students and telling them ways to get involved here at UNI.

“My VISTA service changed my career path and has lead me to my dream job,” said Kristina. “This award is truly an honor and validates that I have found my calling.”