University of South Florida

Judy Genshaft Honors College

Tampa | St. Petersburg | Sarasota-Manatee


Honors Students Take Part in the Unify Challenge College Bowl

Students from University of South Florida’s (USF) Judy Genshaft Honors College are used to engaging in challenging conversations, but thanks to the rapidly expanding Unify Challenge College Bowl, they are now building on their leadership skills while finding hope for the future in an unexpected way: talking politics with a stranger. 
This fall, Honors College professors and leaders partnered with the nonpartisan nonprofit Unify America and 104 other universities across the country to share the 5th biannual Unify Challenge College Bowl with college students. 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. 

USF was one of the nationwide leaders of the experience with 177 student participants.  


Here’s how the Unify Challenge College Bowl works: Two college students — total strangers from different schools with different political leanings, geographical locations, or backgrounds — are matched into a one-on-one guided video conversation to talk about pressing issues and goals for the country. 

“Experiences that foster discussion across differences and engage in the respectful exchange of ideas speak directly to the core of the Honors experience,” said Judy Genshaft Endowed Honors Dean Charles Adams. “We are proud that so many of our Honors students were able to participate, and look forward to growing our participation for the next Unify Challenge College Bowl!” 

“We set out to build a program that could offer low-risk, but high-impact experiential learning, while also cultivating the leadership skills that college students — and our nation — need for the future,” explains Michelle Sobel, President of Unify America, whose organization is leveraging technology and games to reduce political polarization and teach collaborative problem-solving skills.  

The program began in October 2021 with 10 schools, and now almost 8,000 students have participated, representing a wide variety of learners from students at four-year public institutions to community colleges and military academies. Since its launch, the program has grown 10x in two years. 

Most importantly for Unify America and its collegiate partners, the students were wowed by the experience. After the College Bowl, students are encouraged to submit a feedback survey.  

An anonymous University of South Florida student shared this reflection at the end of the experience: “It was interesting meeting someone new and discussing politics with someone with different views. And I'm not politically active, so this was a good first experience.”  

Among participants from University of South Florida, 67% say they feel more hopeful about the future of democracy after participating and 61% said they were more likely to share their point of view on political or current events in class or on campus. 

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Committed to intellectual curiosity, global citizenship, and service across three unique Tampa Bay campuses, Honors News shares the exceptional stories of the Judy Genshaft Honors College.