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Student Campaign Addresses National Debt

Drew Eckhart and Brian Simmons at OC Up to Us debate

Once again, public relations students at Oklahoma Christian University are among the best in the country at motivating voters to address business implications of the nation’s debt. The Eagle PR team campaign to raise awareness and organize student outreach to elected officials about the federal deficit was selected this summer as a top-20 Up to Us campaign out of more than 100 submissions.

The winning campaigns, including teams from Yale University and the University of California at Davis, were determined by their ability to engage peers, use of creative strategies, earned and social media efforts and overall impact.

Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which helps fund Up to Us and its parent organization Net Impact, commented on how the nation’s debt affects how well prepared the nation and businesses are to respond to unexpected challenges just like COVID-19.

“The innovative campaigns created as part of this year’s Up to Us Competition can inspire leaders to re-focus on national preparedness across a range of key areas impacting the next generation, including our fiscal outlook,” Peterson said.

With the federal government’s debt at more than $26 trillion this year, the nonpartisan and nonprofit Net Impact invited college students to help develop debt solutions for the public and businesses. Students on the winning teams were recognized at virtual Up to Us events this summer by Peterson and Sheila Bair, the 19th Chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Additionally, the OC students are now eligible to apply for three reserved scholarships to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute’s prestigious Leadership and the American Presidency program as an additional prize.

Due to COVID-19, the students did not get to attend Net Impact’s previously planned 2020 Fiscal Summit. That prestigious, annual event allows students to meet with national business leaders, elected officials and staffers on Capitol Hill who help create and manage the U.S. government’s budget. Last year’s Summit featured distinguished journalists, economists and politicians such as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

OC’s fall campaign included multiple events such as a public debate, news media outreach, organic and paid-for social media messages, student club competitions and a letter-writing drive to deliver zip-code specific messages to elected officials. The OC team was able to achieve more than 400 messages sent to elected officials, which was more than 20 percent of the undergraduate student body. The team’s news and social media messages reached tens of thousands more in the greater Oklahoma City area.

OC’s Up to Us campaign was run by Eagle PR, an award-winning, student-run public relations agency. The team was led by Cypress, Texas, native Elizabeth Killough, Oklahoma City native Bayley Eckhart, Sallisaw, Oklahoma, native Haleigh Evans, and Denver, Colorado, native Melanie Campbell. Other students who helped on the team included Isa Woodson, Kelly Webber, Lindsey Stoeckel, Paige Adams and Brooke Buffington. Associate Professor of Communication Josh Watson advises Eagle PR.

“Once again, I am so proud of how hard these students worked for a serious business issue that affects our future,” Watson said. “Being named to the top-20 is a reflection of the support we received from the OC and Edmond business communities.”

OC was the only school from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri or New Mexico to be selected among the top-20. The winner of the Up to Us competition this year was Mesa Community College.

Brian Simmons, OC’s chair of the department of communication, praised the OC student team.

“I watched these students work so hard with dedication and optimism last fall,” Simmons said. “They are each deserving of this recognition for going above and beyond to encourage their peers and neighbors in business to take action.”

Up to Us is a nonpartisan organization in which students across the nation are encouraged to take action against the national debt crisis. Funded by both Republican and Democratic groups, the Up to Us competition was created in partnership with Net Impact, the Clinton Global Initiative University and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The finalists and winner of the Campus Competition were determined by a panel of judges with expertise spanning civic engagement, economic policy and education. Last year’s judges included: Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Fatema Basrai, assistant director of InnovateHealth at Yale University; Kristen Dupard, J.D. candidate at Columbia University and double alumnae of the Clinton Global Initiative University; Tony Pennay, chief learning officer at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute; James Roland, senior director of civic and community engagement at Emory University; and Nitiya Walker, founder of Seeds of Fortune.

About Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma Christian University is ranked as one of the best universities in the western United States by The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. The school’s mission is to transform lives for Christian faith, scholarship and service.

OC offers undergraduate programs in more than 80 fields of study, an undergraduate Honors Program and graduate programs in accountancy, business administration, computer science, engineering, Christian ministry, divinity and theological studies.