What takes you out of your comfort zone? What will help you to learn and grow? This is the Union College Challenge.

Union College Challenge

Challenge logo

One hallmark of President David R. Harris' tenure at Union has been encouraging members of the Union community to expand their horizons by embracing the notion of "becoming comfortable being uncomfortable."

In that spirit, President Harris re-launched the Union College Challenge, an initiative he first introduced at his inauguration in 2018, at the beginning of this academic year. The Challenge calls for members of the community to commit to trying new things, exploring new ideas or seeking out new experiences - whether big or small - and sharing their personal challenges.

President Harris is leading the way by challenging himself to broaden his exposure to music by inviting members of the community to share music that is meaningful to them - and then sitting down to discuss the music and its importance with those who share. Not only is he hoping to expand his personal playlist, but he is very much looking forward to getting to better know and understand members of the Union community through this interactions.

The initial response to President Harris' challenge has been overwhelming, but that's only part of the story. The real power of the Challenge comes in having members of the community commit to their own personal challenges.

"As excited as I am about my Union Challenge, I'm even more excited to hear about your Union College Challenge," Harris said. "What is it that makes you uncomfortable but would help you better understand yourself, and perhaps even the world, if you confronted it? I'm confident that when you confront whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable, you will reap the benefits."

Need some motivation to find a challenge that works for you?

Here are some recent challenges

  • Get to know at least 10 more people on campus.
  • Participate in an interfaith discussion.
  • Learn to play the piano.
  • Join one club sport.
  • Refrain from purchasing any plastic water bottles.
  • Learn conversational Italian.
  • Declutter now that my U is out of the house.
  • Listen more, talk less. Don't fill the silence.
  • Train for a 10k.

Win prizes along the way

  • Everyone who completes their challenge will receive:
    • A free t-shirt and either
    • A coupon for a milkshake at the Rathskeller or a free drink from the campus Starbucks.
  • Three lucky individuals will receive a Union-themed prize package next spring.
  • One member of the Class of 2026 will also receive a Schenectady-themed prize package that includes two tickets to be President Harrris' guest at the local touring production of the smash-hit musical "Hamilton" in March of 2023.

Participating is simple

  • Post to social media what you want to accomplish and why it pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Please make your challenge a responsible choice that doesn’t put you or others at any risk of harm. If you don't use social media, let us know by email that you are participating.
  • Post updates as you work towards achieving your goal. Give others a chance to support you in achieving your goal. And, of course we all want to celebrate your achievement! Remember to tag your post with #UnionCollegeChallenge.
  • After you complete your challenge, fill out this short form.


A view of some of the Challenge cards that are part of the Union College challenge
David Harris talking with students about the Union College Challenge