Leadership Development

We envision a robust and transformational student leadership and engagement experience that sits at the nexus between curricular and co-curricular learning and development at UNC Asheville. This comprehensive and multi-layered approach will complement and deepen students’ liberal arts education and prepare them to become change agents in their future communities and careers.

IGNITE Program

IGNITE is a first-year experience program designed to help new students “find their spark” and ignite their passion for UNC Asheville. The purpose of the program is to help new students build connections with one another, develop students’ leadership efficacy and capacity, and deepen their sense of belonging at UNC Asheville. The program runs parallel to First-Year Seminar courses and introduces new students to concepts of leadership development and self-discovery through structured peer-facilitated discussions. Topics include values exploration, diversity, equity, and inclusion, perspective-taking, building authentic relationships, communication, and leaving a legacy. Each IGNITE cohort is led by a Peer Advising Leader (PAL), who serves as a peer mentor and facilitator throughout the Fall semester.

The PAL priority application deadline is Friday, April 29, 2022. However, applications will remain open until all PAL positions are filled. Applicants will be contacted soon after applying to schedule a brief interview. CLICK HERE to submit your PAL application.

Peer Advising Leaders (PALs)

Throughout the Fall semester, Peer Advising Leaders (PALs) provide peer mentorship and education to welcome first-year students to campus and help them “find their spark” and ignite their passion for UNC Asheville. PALs create a transformational experience for new students and facilitate community-building and belonging for the entire campus community. PALs develop leadership competencies related to communication, planning, teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking, equity, consulting, 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.

We will hire 22 PALs for the Fall 2022 semester. The PAL position supports two main programs: 1) August EmBark Orientation, and 2) the IGNITE Program.

August EmBark Orientation (August 10-14, 2022)

  • PALs play a critical role in introducing incoming first-year and transfer students to UNC Asheville and sharing their experiences as successful UNC Asheville students.They participate in leadership training in order to learn everything there is to know about campus and all the great ways to help you get ready to become a Bulldog!
    During August EmBark, the Blue Crew assists our incoming students in becoming the newest members of the UNC Asheville community, excited and prepared to come to UNC Asheville. The Blue Crew diligently works to ensure that our new students have a positive orientation experience.

IGNITE Program (August 15 – November 18, 2022)

  • PALs are trained to support incoming first-year students as they navigate the transition to UNC Asheville student life and learning. Each PAL leads a cohort of approximately 18 new students who also share a class through the First-Year Seminar program.
  • IGNITE cohorts will meet six times throughout the Fall 2022 semester (about every other week) on either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday evening outside of their normal first-year seminar class time. 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. Topics will include values clarification, identity development, perspective-taking, diversity, equity, and inclusion, communication, and conflict management.

Benefits of Being a PAL

  • Make a difference on campus by serving as a guide and mentor for new students
  • Develop a strong connection to the institution as well as faculty, staff, and peers
  • Develop leadership and employability skills for future internships or jobs
  • Acquire effective communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Get paid $1,200 for your leadership and service throughout the semester.
  • Earn academic credit


  • Good academic and University standing.
  • 2.5 GPA or higher. Applicants who are below the GPA requirement and 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.
  • Registered for classes at UNCA for the upcoming fall semester.
  • Demonstrated leadership potential; self-motivated.
  • Interested in working with a diverse student body and a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Exhibit strong communication, interpersonal, and helping skills in order to assist their peers with accessing campus resources.
  • Display a positive attitude

Fall 2022 Time Commitment

PALs will be expected to move back to campus on Saturday, August 6, 2022 for training and EmBark Orientation during the week of August 7-14. This will be an intense week filled with lots of training, relationship-building, and fun! Once classes start and the IGNITE program begins, PALs can expect to work approximately four hours per week, including time with your IGNITE cohort, PAL class time, and attending campus events. Below is an overview of the Fall 2022 semester:

  • Saturday, August 6, 2022: PAL Move-in Day (if you live off-campus, please be back in Asheville by this day).
  • Sunday, August 7-9, 2022: PAL Retreat (an overnight, off-campus retreat to meet other PALs and prepare for the semester ahead. All lodging, meals, and transportation will be provided throughout the retreat.)
  • Wednesday, August 10, 2022: Move-in Day for New Students
  • Thursday, August 11-Sunday, August 14, 2022: August EmBark
  • Monday, August 15, 2022: First Day of Classes
  • August 22 – November 12, 2022: PALs attend bi-weekly class sessions on Mondays from 5:30-7:00pm and meet with their IGNITE cohorts every other week throughout the Fall semester during their assigned time.

Stipend & Academic Credit

  • PALs will receive a total stipend of $1,200 throughout the semester as well as academic credit for their leadership role. The stipend comes to $15+ per hour.


  • PALs will receive course credit for their leadership position and must be available to attend a class session on Mondays from 5:30-7:00pm (bi-weekly) during the Fall 2022 semester to develop and practice facilitation skills. Upon acceptance, PALs will enroll in the LA 271: Applied Leadership Development course to receive credit.

Ready to Apply? Complete the PAL application here!

For any questions about the IGNITE Program, please email Dr. Dustin Evatt-Young, Director of Highsmith Student Union, at devatt@unca.edu.