IGNITE is a first-year experience program designed to help new students “find their spark” and ignite their passion for UNC Asheville. 


IGNITE supports the transition of first-year students by helping them develop personal skills and confidence to be successful at UNC Asheville. PALs initially meet their cohort of students at the end of EmBark, UNC Asheville’s first-year student orientation. First-year students are grouped by IGNITE/First-Year Seminar cohorts throughout EmBark, allowing for relationship-building and connection from the first day they set foot on campus. 

At the end of EmBark, PALs facilitate the first session of IGNITE entitled “Finding Your Spark,” which invites students to start identifying a passion area and set intentions for their time at UNC Asheville. During the fall semester, PALs visit First-Year Seminar classes every other week to facilitate IGNITE sessions on topics including identity development, values exploration, building authentic relationships, effective communication, identifying strengths and skills, and becoming a change agent. 

Foundations for Learning

  • Academic Self-Efficacy 
  • Personal and Social Responsibility 
  • Reflection


  • Fall to Spring Retention 
  • Fall to Fall Retention 
  • 150% Graduation Rate


  • Community
  • Connectedness

Peer Advising Leaders

IGNITE PAL Leaders group photos

PALs provide peer mentorship, welcome first-year students to campus, and help them “find their spark”. PALs create a transformational experience for new students and facilitate community-building and belonging for the entire campus. PALs develop leadership competencies including communication, planning, teamwork, collaboration, critical thinking, equity, and interpersonal skills. This position is ideal for any student who wants to build leadership and employability skills and be a change-maker at UNC Asheville. 

The PAL position supports the IGNITE First-Year Experience Program through the facilitation of the 9-week IGNITE curriculum for a cohort of 20 first-year students in the fall semester. PALs will be assigned a cohort based on their availability and will be responsible for community-building and facilitating the established curriculum and lesson plans. PALs are trained to support incoming first-year students as they navigate the transition to UNC Asheville student life and learning. 

Former PALs Spotlight

Apply to be a PAL

Applications to be a PAL for the 2024-2025 academic year have closed. Check back for more information on how to apply to be a PAL for the 2025-2026 school year.

$14/hour; $12/hour during training

Note that throughout the semester, PALs work between 2 and 4 hours per week.  PALs also receive one hour of academic credit for their leadership role.

  • Flexible scheduling – we work with PALs individually to schedule your IGNITE meeting time around your classes and other commitments.
  • Early move-in – PALs return to UNCA before most other students.
  • Receive custom IGNITE “swag” such as t-shirts, water bottles, tote bags, bandanas, and more.
  • Build authentic relationships with other PALs. 
  • Make a difference in the lives of first-year students through peer mentorship.
  • Build confidence and leadership skills, including effective communication, teaching, problem-solving, planning, and teamwork. 
  • Cultivate strong relationships with faculty and staff across the university.
  • Gain employability skills for future internships or jobs.
  • Earn academic credit. 
  • Good academic and University standing.
  • 2.5 GPA or higher. Applicants who are below the GPA requirement who would like to apply should submit a letter stating their specific situation and provide the name of a faculty or staff member who would support their application to the program.
  • Must be a current student who has completed at least one full fall or spring semester at UNC Asheville before the start date of the program.
  • Demonstrated leadership potential; self-motivated.
  • Interested in working with a diverse student body and a strong commitment to belonging, equity, and inclusion.
  • Exhibit communication, interpersonal, and helping skills in order to assist their peers with accessing campus resources.
  • Display a positive attitude. 

PALs will receive one hour of course credit for their leadership position and must be available to attend a class session on Mondays from 5:30-7:00 p.m. (bi-weekly) during the fall 2024 semester to develop and practice facilitation skills. Upon acceptance, we will enroll PALs in the LA 271: Applied Leadership Development course to receive credit.

*note that all of the dates and times below are mandatory

Spring 2024 Training

PALs will attend five evening training sessions in Spring 2024. These training sessions are mandatory. They will welcome PALs to the IGNITE program, facilitate relationship-building among PALs and program staff, and introduce PALs to campus partners and resources.

  • Wednesday, March 6, 2024 from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024 from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2024 from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 3, 2024 from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 10, 2024 from 5:30-7 p.m.

Summer 2024 Zoom Check-Ins

  • Monday, June 10, 2024 from 6-7 p.m.  – OPTIONAL Check-In and Q&A
  • Monday, July 15, 2024 from 6-7 p.m. –  Mandatory Pre-Retreat Meeting

August 2024 Retreat and Events 

PALs will be expected to move back to campus on Friday, August 9, 2024 for a training retreat that will run from August 10-12. This will be a busy couple of days filled with lots of training, relationship-building, and fun! Following the retreat, PALs will meet their IGNITE cohorts on Sunday, August 18, and then attend the annual First-Year Firelight event.

Once classes start and the IGNITE program begins, PALs can expect to work between two and four hours per week, including time with their IGNITE cohort, prep time for IGNITE sessions, and attending campus events with first-year students. Below is an overview of the program dates: 

  • Friday, August 9, 2024: PALs will be expected to move back to campus and be prepared for in-person training the following day.
  • August 10-12, 2024: PALs will attend an overnight retreat to connect with other PALs and prepare for the year ahead. All lodging, meals, and transportation will be provided throughout the retreat.
  • Sunday, August 18, 2024:  PALs will meet their IGNITE cohorts at the end of EmBark Orientation and facilitate the first IGNITE session, “Finding Your Spark.”  Following the session, PALs will attend the “First-Year Firelight” event on the Quad with their cohorts to mark the end of EmBark and the beginning of IGNITE.
  • Monday, August 19, 2024: First Day of Classes – PALs will attend LA 271:  Applied Leadership Development at 5:30 PM.
  • August 19 – December 2, 2024: PALs attend bi-weekly class sessions on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m. and meet with their IGNITE cohorts approximately every other week throughout the fall semester during their assigned time.

*These dates are tentative and subject to shift based on the needs of our students.  We are committed to communicating any changes in the schedule as soon as possible.

Contact Us 

Alex Hollifield
Caitlin Brez headshot photo