Connect2Politics (C2P) is a leadership initiative for Duke undergraduates interested in political engagement. Organized around a speaker series, C2P exposes students to a new generation of young political leaders.

The emerging consensus is "that many colleges and universities choose to pay significant attention to various aspects of community engagement and civic participation," but "they devote minimal attention to political engagement, specifically" (Colby et al., Educating for Democracy, 2007, Pages 4-5). Like many universities around the country, Duke University has limited structured educational opportunities that expose undergraduates to politics (as opposed to political science) and promote political participation. C2P aims to address that void. 

The program's premise is simple: invite young electeds to campus to share why they decided to run for public office. In the short-term, students have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from young leaders who are shaping their communities. 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.

Connect2Politics began in 2008, and speakers such as Tallahassee Commissioner Andrew Gillum and then-Mayor, now-Senator Cory Booker visited Duke that year.

Cory Booker talking with students at dinner

In the spring of 2014, Hart Leadership ran the C2P speaker series with a new theme: cities. This theme was inspired by a book called The Metropolitan Revolution by Brookings Institution authors Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley. The book skillfully tells the story of how power in the United States is shifting away from Washington and toward major metropolitan areas. Pragmatic and often young municipal leaders are stepping up to tackle issues that Washington has left unsolved.

Three of these leaders spoke as part of the 2014 Connect2Politics series:

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of New York

Supervisor Jane Kim of San Francisco

Keynote Speaker Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio

Twelve Duke students were accepted to the Connect2Politics Committee. These students help plan the series and are required to attend all events and dinners with speakers. Committee members said the following about this year's C2P series:

“This is a great activity, and probably my favorite way that I engage with Sanford outside of the classroom. Every speaker was engaging and interesting in their own way, and I really could not give the program higher marks overall.”

“Great program and a lot of fun. Great to meet interesting speakers and hear about their political and life experiences. The biggest contrast between C2P and other Duke programs is that it is primarily student-driven. At dinners, I didn’t feel like I had to compete with professors and donors questions—it was all on us.”

"C2P was an excellent method of facilitating political discussion on campus. We spoke to politicians that I agreed and disagreed with, which was a nice way to help me understand my own political beliefs and better clarify my ambitions for public office. I loved the cities theme because many of our discussions focused on policy and people, not just politics." 

Nicole Malliotakis speaking to students

Jane Kim and students after her talk

Former C2P Director Erin Sweeney introducing Mayor Julian Castro in Fleishman Commons

C2P Committee and Mayor Castro

C2P Committee member Steve Brenner and Mayor Castro

Flyer for the 2014 C2P Series *Mayor Pete Buttigieg was unable to attend due to weather


"Cory Booker Encourages Students to Engage Politics" Duke Chronicle, February 6, 2009

"Malliotakis helps college students Connect2Politics." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 13, 2014

"Political Leadership Under 40" WUNC's The State of Things, March 27, 2014

"Castro Highlights Importance of Public Service Work, Leadership" Duke Chronicle, April 2, 2014

Video of Mayor Castro's speech