Bridging the Political Divide — College Student Edition
November 16, 2022
What happened when two students — strangers from different universities — joined a guided online conversation about America’s toughest political issues?
In this recording, you’ll learn how three of the eighty-seven professors who participated in the Unify Challenge Fall College Bowl integrated the interactive program into their classrooms and campus communities to help students learn, firsthand, about the power of different perspectives. You’ll also hear from students and staff, as well as from Unify America, the nonpartisan nonprofit, harnessing engaging experiences that scale into civics education and community building.
Lynn PasquerellaPresident, AAC&U
Saria BarkerStudent, Weber State University
Abby FergusonDirector of Partnerships, Unify America
Luis LopezStudent, Florida International University
Leah MurrayBrady Presidential Distinguished Professor, Political Science and Philosophy, Weber State University
Heather PollockProfessor of Classics, The University of Akron
Jeffrey WilsonLecturer, University of Illinois at Chicago
The Unify Challenge College Bowl is a live, one-on-one, online conversation between two college students who may live across the country or have a different outlook on things. The paired students talk through goals and issues that matter most in our country, from public safety and education to student debt and immigration.
In October 2021, Unify America piloted the first-ever Unify Challenge College Bowl with 10 universities from across the county to help students share perspectives across differences and strengthen their civic muscles. By the 2022 fall College Bowl, a total of 46 universities and 87 professors joined as partners.
For more information, visit https://www.unifyamerica.org/college-bowl
Professor & Student Successes
Unify America handles all the heavy lifting and provides professors with materials for their classrooms, a unique landing page for student sign-ups, an attendance dashboard, and an impact report with post-Challenge data. Professors reported success across their diverse classrooms in subjects ranging from political science 101 and senior-level public policy capstone classes to business communication.
In fact, 100 percent of participating professors surveyed would consider using the Unify Challenge again in their classrooms.
As for students, despite feeling nervous at the beginning, the majority were surprised by how much agreement they found and how much they enjoyed a conversation with a stranger from a different “bubble.”
Over 70 percent of participating students who took the College Bowl Unify Challenge felt more hopeful about the future of our country after the experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Unify Challenge: College Bowl
Together, students talk through questions provided in a conversation guide about issues that matter most in America, from education and immigration to justice and healthcare. And you don't have to be “into politics” — no prep needed!
Based on the information that students provide when they officially register, we’ll match them across differences. Students may be matched with someone who votes differently, has a different background, or lives in a different part of the country.
People worry about conflict during the Unify Challenge, but thousands of people have taken the Challenge and are surprised by how often they agree with their partner, find common ground, and really enjoy the interaction. It’s also amazing what happens when you are face-to-face on a video call, rather than faceless behind a keyboard on social media. We just are a whole lot friendlier and interested in listening and learning.
However, if at any point during the discussion an issue arises, live support hosts are available to assist.
Students need a computer. (The Challenge DOES NOT work on your phone or a tablet.) And they’ll need about an hour of time. Some partners chat longer because they get into it. Totally up to them! And we ask students to bring an open mind. It’s OK to disagree. In fact, it’s great to disagree. The best Challenges are ones where people find common ground and get into a productive but respectful disagreement.
*This webinar is sponsored by Unify America.