There are many approaches to fostering political engagement in college students, including community-based research projects, service-infused learning, classroom-based discussion groups, and critical reflection. However, campus officials in the trenches “have found that connecting students with individuals who are especially knowledgeable about, experienced in, or passionate about some aspect of politics can be helpful to student learning – especially their political understanding and motivation – in ways not accomplished by readings and class discussions” (Colby et al., 2007, 198). Therefore, an important aspect of our work is the Connect2Politics event series.

The premise is simple: invite to campus political leaders, broadly defined, to share why their stories and engage on questions of major importance. In the short-term, students have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from leaders who are shaping their communities. But we also structure our events in ways that allow the visiting leaders to work with and learn from our amazing students. In the long term, C2P hopes to contribute to building a more robust political culture at Duke, and in the process, inspire students to choose careers in politics and public service.

Begun in 2008, C2P programming included New Jersey Senator (then-Newark Mayor) Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary (then-San Antonio Mayor) Julián Castro, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

 C2P Speakers


  • Robin Kirk, Faculty Co-Chair of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Chair of the Durham City-County Commission on Confederate Monuments and Memorials
  • Charmaine McKissick-Melton, Associate Professor of Mass Communications at North Carolina Central University, Chair of the Durham City-County Commission on Confederate Monuments and Memorials
  • Deondra Rose, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Member of the Durham City-County Commission on Confederate Monuments and Memorials
  • Vann Newkirk, Staff Writer for The Atlantic
  • Don Taylor, Professor of Public Policy
  • Mumbi Kanyogo, PPS ’19
  • Satana Deberry, Durham District Attorney
  • Jacob Bachmeier, Member of the Montana House of Representatives
  • Rachel Rubin, PPS ’19
  • Kate Fellman, Founder and Executive Director of You Can Vote
  • Jillian Johnson, PPS’03 and mayor pro tempore of the City of Durham
  • Marcia Morey, North Carolina State Representative
  • Gina Collias, 2020 Congressional Candidate for NC-10
  • Lyndsey Gilpin, founder of Southerly
  • Briana Brough, co-founder of FLIP NC
  • Amy Cox, co-founder of FLIP NC
  • Karthik Balasubramanian, Pratt ’07 and founder of the 14 Cities initiative


  • Kathy Tran, Delegate for Virginia’s 42nd House District
  • Sari Kaufman, Voting Advocate and student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
  • Anita Earls, Founder of The Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Maggie Loredo, Co-director of Otros Dreams en Accion


  • Ivan Parra, lead organizer for Durham CAN
  • Macon Phillips, Bureau Coordinator for International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State


  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indianaman, (D-HI)
  • Joe Klein, Political writer
  • Patrick Murphy, MSNBC host and former Congressman (D-PA)
  • Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman
  • Heather Smith, former president of Rock the Vote


  • Steve Schewel, Durham City Councilman
  • Nicole Malliotakis, New York State Assemblywoman (R)
  • Jane Kim, Member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
  • Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio


  • Nathan Daschle, Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association
  • Tom Kean Jr., New Jersey State Senator (R)
  • Jennifer Beck, New Jersey State Senator (R)
  • Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee City Commissioner


  • Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark
  • Soren Dayton, Political writer
  • Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor of Pittsburgh


  • Harold Ford Jr., former Congressman (D-TN); Chair of the Democratic Leadership Council
  • Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland; Chairman of GOPAC

Latest Connect2Politics Speaker Series Stories

Student Voting Rights Panel event photo

Connect2Politics concludes 2018-2019 series

Connect2Politics promotes student engagement with critical political issues and actors by hosting intimate gatherings with political practitioners of all types and stripes.

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