Illinois Tech is a very sociable environment. A lot of activities – professional, extracurricular and community service – take place on campus every day. Every since arriving at IIT, I have always wanted to be part and join this supportive environment because the “vitality and mentality” of higher education in the United States is very different from what I used back in Syria. University education in the U.S. is not only about curriculum, the lab assignments, and homework. In order to succeed in the academic life, one should also join social events, organizations, and associations as much as he or she can in order to contribute to the life of the university, explore new ideas, and participate in the civic life of the community beyond the confines of the university’s formal boundaries.
Those organizations usually have a message that they are trying to deliver – a mission and vision that they seek to fulfill. It is not necessary to be an academic issue; it could be any subject that concerns the society. So the role of those organizations is to raise awareness, teach people about those subjects, and offer opportunities and activities for them to become involved in the organization itself and to “create the momentum for the change desired.”
One issue that concerns every American citizen (and even those of us who are international students at Illinois Tech), especially university students, is the United States Federal Debt.
That’s why the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) started a competition surrounding this issue called “UP TO US.” Starting a competition from universities is a very good strategy where you can find great individuals who have the motivation and enthusiasm so they will help you to reach for a wider audience and a social base for change. And that was the strategy that “Up to Us” organizers followed.
“Up to Us” is a national competition sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), and Net Impact, bringing together students from twenty-five colleges and universities across the country to participate. This year, over 70 universities applied from top universities like NYU, Tufts, Berkeley, Rice, Duke, and Northwestern. It is a competition surrounding the issue of the United States Federal Debt and it’s implications on economy and mostly on students – and the future that they will inherit.
Illinois Tech is part of this competition, and it is the only technology school selected for the final round of the competition. Proudly, I was selected as an ambassador with IIT’s “Up to Us” team. We’re not trying to solve the issue of the national debt; rather, it’s about educating one another about just how much it affects our futures. Each team is judged based on the amount of awareness raised on their campus, creativity of their events and projects, and overall student involvement. We have a lot of responsibility that we have to do within the next month; the ambassadors are responsible for the marketing, communication, design, organizing events and networking.
I am very glad to be part of a national campaign, and I – along with my peers – are gathering a great deal of new knowledge and experiences which we will be able to use in future activities. The lessons learned around organizing young people around important and critical issues will be transformative as university students in the US – aligned with their peers and counterparts around the globe – take on the 21st century’s most challenging issues.
For me, “Up to Us” represents great proof that empowering and educating youth is the greatest way to start a movement. Our team can’t be more ready for the competition, and we only have one option in this campaign, which is winning, and sharing information about the US federal debt.