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Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Program

Freedom to Choose / Freedom to Create / Freedom to Travel

Empowering Autistic Scholars Program

Rainbow infinity symbol in brushstroke style with black text that says Empowering Autistic Scholars Program

What is the Empowering Autistic Scholars Program?

Empowering Autistic Scholars (EAS) is an innovative new program dedicated to building a community of mutual empowerment and support for autistic students at Cal Poly by providing them with the individualized supports and professional development opportunities they need to thrive in college and beyond. There are three main components of the program: community, opportunities and supports:

  • EAS students are welcomed into an inclusive, tight-knit community of peers and staff they can depend on; it’s like having a second family at their “home away from home.” Each Scholar is matched with a peer mentor who will help them navigate the complex world of Cal Poly; teaching students everything they need to know, from the rules, to their rights. They will also provide one-on-one skills training and socio-emotional support. Scholars will also work closely with EAS staff, who will teach them important professional skills, including research methods and professional communication and collaboration skills.
  • Working in teams, Scholars will be trained and paid to work as research assistants on a hands-on, real-world project, giving them ample opportunity to practice important communication and collaboration skills they need in their academic and professional lives. Teams will develop online workshops to support incoming Cal Poly students in their transition to college, utilizing inclusive research practices to ensure an equal partnership between the research team and co-designers recruited from the wider autistic student community.
  • All program supports have been tailored to help smooth our Scholars’ transition to Cal Poly. Students work one-on-one with the program manager to create an individualized plan that best serves their needs. And best of all: Everything is completely free!
  • Undergraduate students from ALL majors are welcome!


  • To increase autism awareness at Cal Poly and create a more inclusive campus environment for autistic students.
  • To improve student retention and graduation rates and advance educational equity for autistic students.


To create a safe and inclusive university learning community that provides our students with the skills, experience, and confidence they need to become empowered self-advocates and leaders in their chosen field.

Program Components



  • One-on-one Peer Mentoring

  • Social Events


  • Skills Training

  • Educational & Professional Development Workshops


  • Faculty & Staff Mentoring

  • Academic & Career Advising

  • Self Advocacy & Neurodiversity Training

EAS Program Staff

EAS students have a team of dedicated staff whose mission is to help them be happy, healthy, and successful. This includes both acting as student advocates and teaching our students how to effectively advocate for themselves. 

Photo of smiling woman with glasses, black and gray wavy hair and dark brown eyes.

Program Manager

Jessica Nombrano Larsen

Office Phone: (805) 756-1132

Email Address:


Faculty Advisors

Dr. David Gillette

Co-Director, LAES Program

Professor, Department of English

Dr. Michael Haungs

Co-Director, LAES Program

Professor, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

Want more info about the program?


Check out this EAS informational video!

EAS Info Session Presentation Slides



Scholar Application

Peer Mentor Application

Campus Partners




Contact Us!

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