Liv Schramkowski

Liv Schramkowski headshot.
This experience has not only provided me with numerous connections for my future, but it has also changed the way I view polarization and the conversations I have with people.


Program II ’26

Project Team

My Bass Connections team works with the Duke North Carolina Leadership Forum (NCLF) to explore deliberative dialogue as a solution to political polarization. The NCLF creates a space where civic and business leaders from across the state can come together and discuss North Carolina’s most pressing issues in a “forum” environment that creates space for different points of view. My teammates and I are tasked with helping out during the forum programs through taking notes, facilitating conversations and improving the functioning of the NCLF as an organization. 

One of the greatest opportunities this team has afforded me is the ability to connect and network with important leaders in various fields from all across North Carolina. Throughout the forums I’ve been able to talk with leaders about their experiences in their respective fields, which has helped me consider jobs I want to pursue in the future. In particular, this cohort’s forum is centered around voting rights, a topic I am familiar with through my work as a voting rights activist. While I thought I was an expert on the topic, the conversations I had with experts, as well as the readings we engaged with to prepare, provided me with a different perspective on voting issues. This perspective has been immediately useful as it allowed me to share new insights in my other classes that are also connected to polarization and political participation. 

Liv at forum.
Liv Schramkowski at a forum meeting in Fall 2023.

In addition to assisting with the leadership forum, our team also hosts our own mini, mock forum. Participation in our own forum allows us to learn more about NCLF’s process, while also learning more about voting rights and the Duke political spectrum. During many of the exercises, we are asked to analyze and rank our values and proposed policy solutions. Through these exercises I was surprised to learn that even though many of us came from the same political party, we valued different things or had different opinions on policies. The conversations that came from these exercises allowed me to begin to see my own misconceptions surrounding polarization, including the realization that a difference in prioritization in values is not necessarily bad and usually stems from different life experiences. I was also able to use some of the skills I learned in the mini forum when I talked to voters in Iowa during my trip to the Iowa caucuses with Duke. 

With the forum wrapping up, our team is now focused on drafting a report on the cohort’s conversations and completing projects within our subteams. As a member of the “Academic Context” team, I am currently working with my teammates to write a comparative analysis that will help the NCLF compare its deliberative dialogue methodology and procedures with other programs that aim to reduce political polarization. 

Overall, this experience has not only provided me with numerous connections for my future, but it has also changed the way I view polarization and the conversations I have with people. As someone that wants to run for office one day, I am sure that the skills and experiences I have had with the NCLF will prepare me to have tough conversations with constituents and work collaboratively with members of all parties.