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W&M students win national Up to Us competition

  • Up to Us:
    Up to Us:  Members of the winning W&M team included (left to right) Sruveera Sathi '16, Aastha Uprety '18, Arjun Rastogi '18, Octavia Goodman '16, Merci Best '17 and Sudeep Kalkunte '16.  Courtesy photo
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Students to be recognized by former U.S. President Bill Clinton this weekend

A group of students from William & Mary beat 52 other teams from across the country to win the fourth annual Up to Us competition, according to a March 30 press release from the program.

The competition, sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and Net Impact, asks college students to create campaigns to “educate and engage millennials on America’s fiscal challenges.” This was the first year that a team from William & Mary has competed in the program.

“The enthusiasm in this year’s Up to Us competition shows that young people are taking action to invest in America’s future,” said former U.S. President Bill Clinton in the press release. “As the winning team from William & Mary proves, everyone can play an important role in addressing our nation’s challenges, and working together is the best way to do it.”

The winning students – all members of Net Impact, a student organization at W&M’s Mason School of Business that focuses on equipping future businesspeople to act in socially responsible and environmentally conscious ways – will be recognized by Clinton at the CGI U meeting at the University of California, Berkeley, April 1-3. The team will also receive a $10,000 cash prize.

"As an aspiring medical professional, throughout my college career I was taught how important it is to have the medical knowledge to be successful at my future career,” said Sruveera Sathi ’16, W&M team leader and president of Net Impact, in an email. “But what leading Up to Us has taught me, is that awareness of fiscal issues is so important to not just the healthcare profession, but also for many other professions. This is how we ought to engage the students at our campus, by personalizing this abstract issue of the national debt and how it can affect their potential career and lives in the future."

Along with Sathi, the W&M team included Hannah Cannon ’18, Aastha Uprety ’18, Octavia Goodman ’16 and Merci Best ’17 as well as Sudeep Kalkunte '16, Arjun Rastogi '18, Dan Sutherland '16 and William Kilgallin '17.

The group’s Up to Us campaign incorporated several events, including a “Great Debt-bate” that brought together four campus political groups discuss fiscal policy, a dance workshop to “dance the debt away” and a forum featuring millennial innovators in the fields of healthcare, education and defense. The team promoted its campaign through such efforts as a “Money doesn’t grow on trees” art installation, in which fake dollar bills with educational facts about the national debt were hung on trees around campus. The W&M students also traveled to the Virginia state capitol as part of the Road to Richmond event, in which they were able to meet with the governor and state senators.

"Although the main focus of the campaign is to engage millennials, we recognized that we were in unique position to bridge two populations, that being millennials and our current leaders,” said Sathi. “As the pioneering Up to Us team at William & Mary, and advocates of our generation of millennials, we took advantage of every opportunity that came our way to speak to whoever would listen. We spoke to our teachers, administrators, spoke to military generals and defense professionals at a defense conference called DEFx, and even spent an entire day lobbying to our elected officials." 

The competition started in October 2015 with the second annual My Two Cents Day, during which students gathered pledges and used social media to inspire action among millennials on the country’s long-term economic health. The second portion of the competition, in which the teams put their campaigns into practice, occurred in February.

More than 230 students from 28 states participated in this year’s competition, creating campaigns that engaged more than 30,000 fellow students through outreach, events and other campus activities, according to the release. The participants also gathered nearly 16,000 signatures on a pledge to affirm the millennial generation’s role in securing the country’s strong fiscal future.