June 7, 2019
Read time : 6 min

In this blog series we are highlighting our 2018-2019 Up to Us Competition top 5 finalists! These emerging leaders are passionate millennials who care about our country's fiscal future and are brave enough to tackle a complex topic like the long-term national debt through creative bipartisan activities. 

This blog will dive into the University of California, Irvine Up to Us team and their creative activities including a debt-themed carnival, “meme marketing” booths, and a fiscal policy debate:

One of the UC, Irvine Up to Us team's booth.
Austin and his team at one of their signature booths on campus. 

The University of California, Irvine team included Carlos Beltran, Sonia Chinedu, Tomohide Hishinuma, Kimberly Quiros, and team leader, Austin Hensel. Their strategy for the competition was to host several Boost Activities with booths at multiple locations around campus to diversify the student population engaged in the campaign. They utilized “meme marketing” to appeal to the average college student and make the topics of national debt and fiscal policy more appealing. Once students came to look at the memes, the team retained them by testing their fiscal policy knowledge. 

For non-boothing Boost Activities, they used “Piece of the Pie Presentations”. The team presented a national debt powerpoint and served pizza with a side of United States annual spending pie charts. 

The mason jars from the UC, Irvine Up to Us team's event.
The team’s Penny Jar Survey with the 8 jars representing major discretionary spending categories.

For My Two Cents Day (MTCD), Austin and his team hosted a national debt themed carnival. The first carnival game was the American Fiscal Policy Dartboard where students tossed darts at a U.S. government spending pie chart fixed onto a standard dartboard. If the dart landed on debt interest expense, participants did not receive a prize. The second game was the Money Toss where students “threw away” coins into various cups, each consisting of true/false, multiple choice, or pop-culture questions relating to American fiscal policy. Participants were rewarded based on throwing accuracy and the number of questions they answered correctly. For the third game, the team created a Penny Jar Survey with participants receiving 10 coins to distribute between 8 jars representing major discretionary spending categories. Education and energy/environment received the most “funding.” The next activity included Individuals participating in Peter the Anteater Tweets and writing on a giant UptoUs dollar bill. 

The final activity, titled Do-Not Increase the National Debt, had participants race to see who could eat a donut hanging from a string the fastest. Once the activity was over, participants were told how much the national debt grew while they ate their donuts. The fastest participants pied members of the team in the face, while paying homage to interest expense payments as $364 billion was written on the pies. 

UC, Irvine Up to Us team's debate panel.
The team’s panel discussion composed of professionals and local business leaders.

The team had a tough decision to make choosing between a panel discussion composed of professionals and local business leaders or a fiscal policy debate between the College Democrats and Republicans for their Wildcard activity. So they decided to do both! Their wildcard event included Feroz Ansari (Senior Principal & Portfolio Manager at Compak Asset Management) and Jerry Braakman (Chief Investment Officer at First American Trust) answering questions on the national debt and its impact on their respective industries. The moderator initially drove the panel, but encouraged the audience to ask questions in the second half. 

Following the panel discussion, the College Republicans, Progressive Student Alliance, and the Transpolitical Forum participated in a conversational debate focused on the cost-benefit analysis of proposed solutions to the national debt. “Overall, our team unanimously agreed that this was our favorite event – the quality of discussion exceeded our expectations and deconstructed partisan barriers allowing students from different backgrounds to unilaterally recognize the importance of national debt awareness and the need for change,” says Austin.

Throughout the competition, Austin and his team partnered with a diverse group of organizations. From business & political organizations to cultural clubs and engineering teams, their campaign embodied the diverse nature of UC Irvine as a collection of different social groups united under a shared cause. 

“I’m proudest of my teammates and my fellow Anteaters for being as concerned as I am about the national debt and deficit spending. At every crossroads we reminded ourselves that raising awareness and creating action was our ultimate goal.” - Austin Hensel, University of California Up to Us team leader.

We are so proud of what the University of California, Irvine team, and all of the Up to Us Competition teams, accomplished this year!