University of Virginia Students Win National Competition Focused on Confronting Rising Debt

Apr 5, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bowles, Simpson, Stephanopoulos and Chelsea Clinton Lend Expertise as Competition Judges
Winners to be Recognized by President Clinton; Team to Receive $10,000 Prize

Contact: Christina Saull, (202) 518-6480
Christina.Saull@widmeyer.com

WASHINGTON, DC — Five students from the University of Virginia (U.Va.) have been awarded first prize in the nationwide Up to Us competition — a first-of-its-kind, six-week challenge to engage young people on college campuses across the country on the federal government's long-term debt.

The students were among ten university teams who took part in a competition to bring the debt discussion to their peers through independently designed campaigns. The campaigns resulted in an unprecedented number of student events, conversations with members of Congress and social media actions related to young people and the nation’s fiscal challenges. The competition was sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and Net Impact.

"The Up to Us competition proves that students can play an important role in addressing our nation's economic challenges," said President Bill Clinton. "The young people who participated in this competition brought passion, energy and creativity to solving one of our most urgent issues, and raised awareness in their own schools and communities."

While Washington continues to be plagued by partisan gridlock, thousands of students from different political perspectives, geographic regions and backgrounds came together to make their generation’s voice heard on this critical issue.

The panel of competition judges — former White House Chief of Staff and former Co-Chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Erskine Bowles; board member of the Clinton Foundation Chelsea Clinton; former U.S. Senator and former Co-Chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Alan Simpson; and anchor of ABC's "This Week" and "Good Morning America" George Stephanopoulos — singled out the U.Va. team for the impact of their innovative campaign.

The U.Va. team members are Lena Shi, Joshua Lansford, Alan Safferson, Ryan Singel and Amara Warren. The second-place team from Brown University and third-place finishers at the University of Texas–Austin also scored high for their creative and thought-provoking campaigns.

"Today’s young people have the most at stake in America's fiscal future and the most to gain from solving the long-term challenges we face," said Pete Peterson, founder and chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "This is the first time young people from across the country have come together to tell Washington they are paying attention to these issues. Through this initiative, they are playing a role in shaping the nation they will inherit."

The students from U.Va. will be recognized by President Clinton at this year's CGI U student meeting on April 5-7 in St. Louis and will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize. In addition, team leaders from the other nine teams will be recognized at CGI U for their work. U.Va. plans to use their prize money to continue to engage college students on the debt issue through sponsorships, research and the establishment of a new NetImpact chapter. Even though the competition is over, a number of schools are continuing the important fiscal conversation on their campuses.

Each of the Up to Us teams engaged their campuses in a broad discussion about the nation's fiscal health, altogether holding 55 campus events focused on the debt, delivering hundreds of letters and petition signatures to Congress, fostering thousands of interactions between students and leading people to take more than 28,000 actions to learn more and make their voices heard through social media.

"The creativity and enthusiasm of the students participating in Up to Us is inspiring," said Liz Maw, chief executive officer of Net Impact. "Their ability to connect with students on these difficult issues on a personal level has made a real difference in the conversation, and their energy shows that this year's Up to Us competition is the start of something much larger."

Student teams from the following universities participated for the competition:

  • American University
  • Brown University
  • Georgetown University
  • New York University
  • Rutgers Business School-Newark
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • University of Virginia

More information about the competition can be found at www.itsuptous.org and in the Projects & Grants section.

About Up to Us
Up to Us, a nationwide campus competition sponsored and managed by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative University and Net Impact, provides an opportunity for students to build a movement to raise awareness and engagement on America's long-term fiscal and economic challenges. Ten student teams selected from across the country competed to design and run thought-provoking, fun and impactful campaigns around the effects of rising debt on economic opportunity and investment in the future.

About the Peter G. Peterson Foundation
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established by Pete Peterson — businessman, philanthropist and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key long-term fiscal challenges threatening America's future and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, we work to bring Americans together to find and implement sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results. To learn more, please visit www.pgpf.org.

About CGI U
The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) brings together college students to address global challenges with practical, innovative solutions. CGI U participants do more than simply discuss problems — they take concrete steps to solve them by creating action plans, building relationships, participating in hands-on workshops, and following up with CGI U as they complete their projects. Previous CGI U meetings have taken place at Tulane University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Miami, the University of California at San Diego and the George Washington University, and have convened more than 4,500 students from nearly 750 schools, more than 130 countries, and all 50 states. To learn more, visit cgiu.org.

About Net Impact
Net Impact is the leading nonprofit that inspires a new generation to use their careers to tackle the world's toughest social and environmental problems. We empower student and professional leaders to act locally through our vibrant chapter network and connect globally online and through our flagship conference. By 2020, we will mobilize a million new leaders to drive positive change in the workplace and the world.


Competition Highlights

American University: The team hosted Alice Rivlin, former-Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to speak on why young people should get involved in the cause of fiscal responsibility. They also participated in a fiscal awareness day on Capitol Hill and met with Members of Congress, and made presentations to college classes on the impact of the debt and how to get involved in the campaign.

Brown University: The team hosted the first statewide, student-organized convention in the U.S. on their generation's economic priorities. The "Rhode Island Fiscal Summit" attracted students from across the state, as well as Brown President Christina Paxson and Steven Rattner, former counselor to the U.S. Treasury. The team also got 575 students to sign the "Contract for the Future," a set of broad bipartisan principles calling for a solution to reduce the debt. In addition, the team organized a "whiteboard campaign" enlisting students to write down their thoughts on why the debt matters to them, and collected Facebook photos of their responses that were viewed by more than 6,000 users.

Georgetown University: The team raised awareness on Capitol Hill by baking and hand delivering 1,200 cookies to members of Congress along with letters asking them to take action on the long-term debt. Each member received 16 cookies, with one cookie representing a trillion dollars of federal debt. They also recorded a flash mob video and organized the "Federal Debt Soiree and Poetry Slam," a debt-themed dance and poetry reading.

New York University: The team hosted Professor Jonathan Haidt to discuss the paralysis in Congress, particularly when it comes to long-term fiscal policy. The team also developed a Jeopardy-themed "Debtpardy" game show event and created a video series.

Rutgers Business School-Newark: The team held a campus-wide "National Debt Awareness Week," a series of information seminars, educational displays and the mobilization of their "Debt Awareness Task Force," which connected hundreds of Rutgers Business School students face-to-face with education about the debt and a survey to evaluate their knowledge on debt issues.

University of Miami: The team leveraged the strong Greek life presence on campus and gave presentations about Up to Us to entire chapters. These presentations included informational and comical videos regarding the federal debt.

University of Michigan: The team organized a Federal Debt Awareness Day event, encouraging students to write down on a whiteboard how they wanted their government to spend tax revenues. They also led a debate forum with student leaders on what methods should be used to reduce the debt.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: The team hosted an activity night where students wrote their own federal budgets, with both spending and revenue. The team also organized town hall meetings featuring panelists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the Minnesota State Senate, and university administration.

University of Texas-Austin: The team utilized social media to increase the reach of their activities, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to promote their activities emphasizing fiscal issues, including a flash mob video, and the "Debt Bomb" iPhone application, which allows students to build a household profile, project the increase in taxes and spending due to the debt, and understand how fiscal issues could harm future generations.

University of Virginia: The team hosted a visit by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, where he participated in a policy and debt discussion with the UVA Batten School of Public Policy. While on campus, Senator Warner also made a public speech on the debt issue. They also organized a rally, filmed a video of students testifying to the importance of addressing the debt, and conducted four "flash seminars," brief sessions on debt issues with issue experts, on different aspects of the debt debate.

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