Liberal Arts Core

First Year Experience

UNI First-Year Philosophy Statement

A positive first-year experience is the cornerstone of students’ success in college, and by extension, their careers and lives. The University of Northern Iowa recognizes the importance and value of this positive first-year experience for students, and the need for the university to facilitate students’ effective transition to the University by providing a variety of experiences, opportunities, and foundational skills to help them become successful students.

In the first year, students learn to take responsibility for their own learning and develop a sense of who they are as members of a diverse community, both on campus and outside of the university. Students become active participants in campus and community life, engage in a variety of experiences, learn to listen to and respect diverse perspectives, and develop foundational skills to help them become well-educated persons. Students engage in critical inquiry throughout their first year and begin to communicate the results of this inquiry in order to work for the common good within our pluralistic society.


This two semester course is an integrated communication class emphasizing written, oral, visual and electronic communication as central processes of life-long inquiry. Students will develop other abilities that are vital for their transition to and success at UNI. Such skills include critical and creative thinking, decision-making, ethics, and working with diverse perspectives. Students will explore their own identities, discover their intellectual interests, learn to do research and engage in academic inquiry to ultimately achieve academic and personal success. As part of the UNI first-year experience, First-Year Cornerstone is committed to fostering a personal and supportive environment that challenges and inspires students to actively engage in learning and reflection, develop a broader world view, be engaged citizens, and be members of pluralistic communities. Cornerstone instructors are committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment both in and outside the classroom that is sensitive to individual needs, backgrounds and experiences of all first-year students.

Peer Mentor Program

Classroom communities for first-year students include peer mentors who are there to help support you during the transition to college. These peer teaching assistants share their experiences as UNI students, work with faculty members to facilitate class activities, help you get connected with campus organizations, and provide academic assistance related to your first-year course.

More information on the Peer Mentor Program (PDF)

If you are interested in becoming a Peer Mentor, fill out an application

First Year Only (FYO) Courses 

Every first-year student at UNI has the opportunity to enroll in a first-year only Liberal Arts Core course. This classroom experience connects you to a faculty member who will assist you through the transition to college, a peer teaching assistant who will serve as mentor inside and outside the classroom, and a tight-knit community of other first-year students who are also experiencing their first semester at UNI. 

Clink on the following link to check out the Student Success and Retention page for information on orientation, UNI Now, Jump Start, Success Coaching and more!