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The Unify Challenge College Bowl: Fostering Unity and Civil Discourse on Campus

Carol Vederman

Carol Vederman

Oct 16, 2023

Nov 13, 2023



In a time of increasing polarization on college campuses, the task of bringing together students from diverse political leanings and backgrounds may seem daunting. But guess what? The Unify Challenge College Bowl is smashing those barriers and proving an effective platform for civil discourse, fostering understanding, and building shared goals for our country's future. So, let's dive into the Fall 2023 Unify Challenge College Bowl and see how its transformative impact on its student participants.

Wait, what? Common ground found?

Imagine two college students, strangers from different schools, each with unique political leanings and backgrounds. Now picture them in a one-on-one, guided video conversation tackling some of America's most challenging issues. While the initial awkwardness is only natural, these students quickly discover that their core values and aspirations for our country are more closely aligned than they had ever imagined.

What students really think

This fall, the nonpartisan nonprofit Unify America partnered with leaders and professors from 105 universities across the country to offer the 5th biannual Unify Challenge College Bowl. Over seven nights, thousands of student participants across 40 states joined the virtual Unify Challenge to share perspectives across differences and strengthen their civic muscles. 

Since its inception in October 2021, the Unify Challenge College Bowl has brought together 167 colleges and universities, 285 professors across 40 states, and over 8,100 student participants. As they navigated the power of constructive dialogue in a safe and inclusive environment, their experiences yielded remarkable results, as captured in their own words: [hyperlink videos to the word "say"]

  • 63% said they feel more hopeful about the future of our democracy. (Compared to 14% feeling hopeful before the Unify Challenge College Bowl)
  • 84% rated the experience an 8 or higher (on a 10 pt. scale)
  • 68% said the Unify Challenge helped them consider new perspectives they hadn’t considered before
  • 86% said they felt "totally" heard, and not judged when they shared their opinions with their partners.
  • 64% said they are more likely to share their point of view on political or current events in class or on campus.
  • 80% said that across party lines, Americans are united when it comes to goals for the country. (Compared to 45% before the Unify Challenge College Bowl)
  • 72% said they wish they had more opportunities to talk openly about these topics.
  • 55% said they are more likely to vote in upcoming elections.

What’s the real impact?

One of the most encouraging outcomes of the Unify Challenge is the students’ outlook on the future of our democracy. Engaging with this program left an indelible mark on 71% of participants, leaving them more hopeful about what lies ahead. Moreover, with 55% of students expressing a greater intention to exercise their voting rights, the seeds of civic engagement have undeniably been sown.

Add your university to the College Bowl

Interested in bringing the Unify Challenge to your classroom or university? Schedule a 30-minute chat with our team, or sign up for our upco

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What about professors and university leaders?

For educators and administrators dedicated to depolarizing campus communities and nurturing leadership skills, the Unify Challenge College Bowl offers a turnkey educational experience that can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom. Professors and staff need only spend under 30 minutes reviewing and sharing tailored materials and instructions with their students, while the dedicated Unify America team handles the rest.

Furthermore, technical support is readily available both before and during the Unify Challenge, ensuring that professors and staff can focus on facilitating meaningful discussions. And yes, technical support comes with a real live name – Carol Vederman (

Some quick final thoughts

Amidst the escalating polarization on college campuses, the Unify Challenge College Bowl emerges as a transformative experience, effectively bridging the divide between students with divergent political leanings and backgrounds. By fostering civil discourse, promoting understanding, and uniting 1800 participants from 50 schools this past fall, this program has proven its ability to create a haven for constructive dialogue. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from students is a testament to its remarkable capacity to sow the seeds of unity and civic engagement, one respectful conversation at a time. 

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