The IGNITE program is primarily led and facilitated by Peer Advising Leaders (PALs). PALs are upperclassmen selected in the Spring semester to fulfill their roles in the subsequent academic year. The PAL selection process includes an application with short essay questions, followed by an interview with professional staff members. PALs must have at least a 2.5 GPA, demonstrated leadership potential, a commitment to equity and inclusion, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and a desire to create positive change at UNC Asheville. PALs receive ongoing training and leadership development throughout the program in order to best support first year students. This includes a three-day retreat at the beginning of August to receive training on program goals, leadership development theory, group development, facilitation, and pedagogical approaches to peer education. Following the retreat, PALs receive continued training, support, and professional development during the academic year through a bi-weekly course entitled Applied Leadership Development.
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.
PALs receive a stipend of $1,200/semester ($2,400 for the academic year if they continue in the Spring) as well as one hour of academic credit for their leadership role.
Former PALs reflect on their experiences in the program:
Working as a PAL was an extremely rewarding experience. Being able to help new students get involved on campus and build connections with one another was truly inspiring. I was able to practice leadership skills on a daily basis and improve my time management skills and active listening skills. I was able to be a role model and mentor to my ignite group. Even after ignite sessions concluded I was able to maintain a bond with the members of group 5. -Parker Lacewell
One of my favorite things as a PAL was how the cohort and myself, are 20 completely different people. We hold different values, beliefs, cultures, and viewpoints. However, this does not stop us from respecting each other, and creating friendships as well as a community. We see beyond our differences, and rather than criticizing them, we learn from each other. We are inspired by each other’s differences, and we support one another through the hectic lives as college students, and I believe this is a very powerful thing. -Beatrice Faureng
When I applied for this IGNITE program I applied because I wish I had something like this coming in as a freshman from a foreign country. This program has taught me so much more than just being a leader. It has taught me how to be a person with open mindedness. To listen and hear from where each and every students comes and their values and uniqueness made me so excited and happy. I learned how to help people find out what their purpose is and why they came to UNCA. I want to pursue being a leader on this campus and to help guide new incoming freshmen to have a smooth and easier freshman experience than I had. I hope to carry my knowledge and skills I gained being a PAL in the past all through the next semesters I will be working as a PAL. -Linge Steenkamp
I learned how to be a more compassionate person, while also growing my communication skills. Becoming a PAL was really rewarding, as I got to see my group of First-Years blossom into the wonderful people they are. This program allowed them a safe place to come out of their shell and find a sense of community much faster than I did my freshman year. It was so amazing to witness that again in my Senior year and after Covid. Through IGNITE I was able to help guide a group of students down the path of self-discovery and it has reassured me that the campus I hold dearly will be left in good hands after I’m gone. -Laura Olls