As the campus leader of the Southwestern University Up to Us team, I had the opportunity to travel to Oakland to participate in the winter training session. Going into the weekend, I knew the purpose of the session was to prepare each team leader, but I did not know how they would achieve this. It ended up being a mix of presentations and activities that helped us grasp many levels of the competition. Some of my favorites were a presentation by past leaders about how to lead a winning team, a national debt trivia activity, and a presentation on how to successfully utilize media outlets to raise awareness. Through these types of presentations and activities, all 62 different campus leaders in my cohort were able to not only increase our own understanding of the subject and the competition, but we were also able to form connections with each other. The true spectrum and volume of people who are taking strides to make their campus, community, and society a better place was inspiring.  

Up to Us is a unique initiative hosted by Net Impact each year. Net Impact is a company that strives to facilitate creative problem-solving about social and environmental issues that are affecting our society. They achieve this through a host of projects, and Up to Us is one of their largest, spanning over 450 different campuses across the nation in the past 6 years. Each campus in the competition has a group of 4-30 people leading the initiative on their campus Each semester, a new group of around 60 teams compete against each other through their initiatives on campus, each trying to find the most creative and far-reaching means of making an impact. Each college leads their campaign in a different way based on the unique attributes of their campus. Although the competition is judged by a scorecard, any type of impact is a good impact.

This year marks the first year of Southwestern University’s involvement in this competition. When Up to Us reached out to Dr. Sarah Brackmann, the head of the Office of Community-Engaged Learning, she happily relayed the invitation to students. I was inspired by the idea of creating profound social change by adding to the discussion about the national debt ceiling, a topic that is not frequently discussed, yet has a huge impact our society.  The more we can start thinking about national debt and the way it impacts us as students, citizens, and a cohesive society, the more likely we will think about its impact later on when we have an even larger role in helping the economy be as healthy and sustainable as it can be.

I believe this entire experience has not only expanded my awareness about the topic of the national debt ceiling, but also helped me to draw on the information and learning that I had already gathered from many of the classes I have taken at SU. My classes on economics and finance has increased my ability to understand more of the complexities of our economy and what part each of us play. My Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class has enabled me to see the immense value in including the perspectives of people from many different backgrounds and cultures that were in attendance at the training session. Overall, I believe that each stage of this competition has taught me different skills and allowed me to use many of the skills I have learned here at SU.