Guest post by Elizabeth Brightwell, University of Virginia Class of 2013, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

national debt project
Participating in a year-long, trailblazing course on the national debt was the capstone of my academic career. Our professor, Renaissance woman Mary Margaret Frank, gathered a class of students from across many academic disciplines at UVA including law, business, nursing, engineering, public policy, and public health. Over the course of an entire academic year, we studied and gathered together to share our points of view on the national debt and its effect on issues of deep concern to all of us.

In our classroom, the perspectives and experiences varied but we all share a passion for and an interest in the national debt. As a student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, I learned from my fellow students, and I hope they learned from me. For example, as an idealistic, public policy student, I often overlook the bottom-line; “I don’t care how much it costs—it is the right thing to do!” My classmates studying business stressed the necessity of considering the costs. Their advice is well-founded; if you mishandle your budget, everyone loses in the long run. The diversity of our classroom broadened my limited perspective and enhanced the group, as a whole.

For many of my classmates, the national debt course was one of our last experiences in academia. Many of us have already started our new jobs, embracing the challenges of the “real world.” For some, this transition was not entirely welcome; luckily, our work for the National Debt class is not over.

The final product of our course was a short video intended to educate and engage our generation on the national debt. Many millennials ignore the national debt despite the great impact it can have on our lives. Will Social Security be available when we reach an eligible age? Should we sacrifice funding research for future innovation in order to cover our increasing health care expenditures? Our class distilled all that we had learned throughout the year into one, ten-minute video.

educated about the debt
Screen shot from National Debt video

The video has already gathered some momentum and we are working to propel it into the cyber sphere. We hope that as our video reaches a wider community, including people of all ages, we can grow the conversation that my classmates and I continued throughout the year. I was sad to walk down the Lawn in May after my wonderful years as a Wahoo and the engaging discussions with classmates and professors. Because of my desire to keep the momentum going, I jumped at the opportunity to become the Social Media Campaign Manager for the National Debt project. I look forward to continuing our class’ efforts and working to get our video in front of as many eyes as possible; I hope your eyes will be next.

Watch the video here: Why the National Debt Defines the Future for Millennials

Learn more about The National Debt Project on Facebook ( and on Twitter (