An Up to US branded yellow plastic box rests on an NEIU branded tablecloth amid a scattering of 100 Grand chocolate bars

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The national debt never tasted so good.

Staging a series of events that are a mix of entertaining, informative and delicious, the students in Professor Christina Ciecierski’s Economics 320 class have spent the Spring 2018 semester drawing attention to the nation’s staggering national debt. It’s all part of a nationwide campus competition called Up to Us, a nonpartisan campaigning initiative that aims to engage and inform students about the United States debt and the effect that debt has on jobs, families and the future of young generations.

“While my classmates and I worked diligently to raise awareness of our nation’s $20 trillion national debt on our NEIU campus, I realized that few people understand that this debt is ours; it doesn’t belong to some distant government agency in Washington,” Ketta Cardona said. “It should matter to us that last year we paid $269 billion just on the interest of our debt. That money could have been allocated to more essential programs such as education and health care.”

Ciecierski’s students chose to develop a “sub-movement” called My100Grand. The motto: “It’s not just national debt, it’s your debt.” My100Grand’s title seeks to bring awareness to the national debt by highlighting the fact that each American taxpayer would need to produce approximately $100,000 out of pocket in order to absolve current levels of national debt.

In collaboration with the College of Business and Management’s Sigma Beta Gamma honors society and the student-run International Business Conference, Ciecierski’s students have hosted three major events. Perhaps the most high-profile was the My100Grand Challenge in the Cafeteria on Feb. 22, in which the public was invited to eat as many 100 Grand chocolate bars as they could in 100 seconds, all while engaging in conversation about the issue of national debt. More than 40 students participated in the competition, and the winner earned a $50 prize. The boisterous event drew so much attention that it made the cover of the student newspaper.

“The campaign has been a learning experience from start to end but I must say, I’ve never learned so much or had this much fun teaching a course here at Northeastern,” Ciecierski said. “Our wide array of course activities have brought students together in ways I’ve never experienced through a usual ‘lecture course.’”

The students also hosted a session during the International Business Conference featuring Cindy Ivanac-Lillig, an economist with the Chicago Federal Reserve and creator of the Fed‘s Business School Speaker Series. Following Ivanac-Lillig’s presentation, students participated in trivia relating to the presentation as well as other national debt facts.

Other events included an informal kick-off, participation in an Omicron Delta Epsilon Economic Honors Society Career Panel, inclusion in a Wellness Fair and an appearance during International Day.

In addition to running this campaign, students participated in 10 campaign training webinars and two expert webinars, all focused on the problem of the U.S. national debt. Later this month, they will participate in a webinar focused on resume writing and leveraging the Up to Us/My100Grand campaign efforts on the job market.

While the team’s final competition report is due later this month, students in the writing-intensive class are also completing various computer-based modules to improve their written and oral communication skills.

“Now that the campaign is over, we have to ensure that the experience from Econ 320 lives on through our resumes, experience roster, skillsets, mindsets, how we approach teamwork, goals and job interviews,” Ciecierski said.