Debt and Pumpkins: Two Things to Be Sure of This Fall

By Mary Grace Richardson, Staff Writer

The current U.S. debt exceeds $19 trillion. Under present conditions, the country’s federal debt will surpass its entire annual economic output within 25 years.

Just in time to spook us before Halloween, MAGAM ’18 students Griffin Gosnell and Cameron Segura hosted the Net Impact-sponsored event Up to Us to not only bring awareness to the national debt crisis, but to also carve pumpkins in the spirit of Halloween. As always, multitasking proves to be a T-Bird’s finest feature.

Segura explained that they hosted the event to help fellow students understand what the national debt is and discuss why it’s an important issue for us to consider. To many millennials, the national debt is an intangible and seemingly irrelevant number.

Framing discussions and view points about the national debt.
Framing discussions and view points about the national debt. Courtesy of Griffin Gosnell

“It’s always an issue that politicians talk about in abstract and general terms, but we need to recognize it as a legitimate issue with quantifiable and serious results,” Segura said. “Millennials are the generation that will have to deal with the majority of this issue, even though we didn’t cause it.”

What can’t be missed is how necessary the national debt topic is to the Thunderbird student population. More than 40 million Americans held student loans at the end of 2013, and currently, $1.2 trillion worth of outstanding student debt exists; cringe-worthy facts for many graduate students who realize they’re contributing to that amount.

Luckily, the startling statistics didn’t put too much of a damper on the pre-Halloween celebration. For those who attended, the event was all the more notable because of how it combined a very complex subject with first-time cultural experiences for several of the participants.

“It’s really interesting to see how my friends are able to link a fun traditional thing like pumpkin carving to an issue like national debt,” Jo-An Su, a MAGAM ’18 student, said. “Also, as an international who has only seen pictures of jack-o-lanterns until last week, it was an amazing experience that I shared with my fellow T-birds.”

MAGAM ’18 student Emily Wilcoxson said she also enjoyed how the Halloween theme brought some fun into learning about the subject. Many pumpkin carving participants did opt for more classic Halloween designs, such as an owl or cat, but there was also an impressive sugar skull carving and a school-spirited Thunderbird.

T-birds prepped their pumpkins. Courtesy of Griffin Gosnell
T-birds prepped their pumpkins. Courtesy of Griffin Gosnell

MAGAM ’18 student Kaitlynn Wilcoxson described, “A big thing to me was the fact that many international students had never carved pumpkins, so it was fun introducing them to an American Halloween tradition while also educating on national debt.”

Showcasing these events on multiple campuses across the U.S., students convey and prove what the younger generation can do to have a voice in long-term fiscal challenges. Nuno Muandumba, MAGAM ’18 student and first-time pumpkin carver, explained that he hadn’t realized that there were students, not just here but on campuses all over the country, trying to bring attention to and create awareness of the national debt.

While providing a new experience for international students, Up to Us hit the message home that the millennial generation has the most at stake when it comes to economic policy decisions. The choices made by the leaders we elect today (or, more accurately, this coming Tuesday) affect our opportunities, earning power, and our ability to pay off student loans or start a business.

Look out for future Up to Us events that go more in depth on these economic issues, and contact Griffin Gosnell at for more details about a to-be-announced competition related to the upcoming gatherings.

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