Economic Awareness from Up to Us: College and Beyond

This past week, I met with fellow SUNY Old Westbury student and SGA Presidential candidate Evan Rufrano to discuss fiscal policy and how economic awareness is beneficial for everyone, even college students. The following is the transcript from our interview which I hope will help you gain a deeper understanding of the importance our financial habits hold and how they impact your future.


Her Campus: What is your name, major and class standing?

Evan Rufrano: My name is Evan Rufrano. I’m a junior and my major is PEL (Politics, Economics and Law.)

HC: How long have you been a student at Old Westbury?

ER: Three years, this is my junior year.

HC: You mentioned your major is PEL. What initially sparked your interest in PEL?

ER: My interest in law first began in high school, when I took a series of electives focusing around the legal system. The first class was Criminal Justice, at the time it seemed as if it was just a class that was different from the rest, not one that would shape my future.

HC: SUNY Old Westbury prides itself in a diverse and dynamic liberal arts education. How has your education at Old Westbury influenced your interest in PEL?  

ER: SUNY’s requirement for general education classes has allowed me to explore different avenues of academia. For example, in Environmental Analysis of Long Island, I took this course because I care deeply about the environment and especially the land we call home. Learning more about our local ecosystems and environment gave me a better perspective and fueled me with knowledge to act more confidently on environmental issues.  

HC: If you have the opportunity to create a college course, what would it be? What would be the main thing you would want students to take away from this?

ER: I have prescribed to the theory of practicum first and scholarship second. So many institutions believe that the students should study the topic first, and then conduct experiential learning. I believe the opposite. I have been a prime example of the concept. When you’re working in the field, you will be more motivated to educate yourself about the topic matter to perform your responsibilities of the position. My first legal internship was in high school before I had every taken a course in law.

HC: Are you involved in any clubs? If so, which ones?

ER: Currently I serve as the Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences for the Student Government Association. This year I am running for SGA President, I believe my commitment and experience will prove that I will be an effective President. In addition, I also serve as Director of Academic Policy, in my second term as cabinet member for the SUNY Student Assembly. SUNY SA is the most comprehensive higher education student group advocating for the students of the SUNY system with 64 campuses and 600,000 students.

HC: In your own words, how would you describe fiscal policy?

ER: Fiscal policy is the use of government revenues for government services.  

HC: You’re a member of the organization “Up to Us.” how would you describe the goals and intentions of this organization to somebody who has not heard of it before?

ER: As the Team Leader of the Old Westbury Up to Us team, our goal is simple. Educate students about fiscal policy and the national debt, in an interactive, energizing, and engaging way. We have hosted programs that we believe have been unique and have had hundreds of students attend.

HC: How long have you been a member and where did you learn about this organization?

ER: This team is new. The organization selects 100 colleges from across the nation to compete in the competition. Old Westbury has been lucky enough to be firstly selected to compete, and secondly our team has been highly committed. Our team members Matt Schmidt, Priscila Ortega, John Holst, Bobby Reilly, and Josselin Torres have been integral to our success.

HC: Do you intend on starting a chapter on campus?

ER: Our focus right now is finishing the competition strong, Old Westbury has been ranked within the top five the entire competition in the pledge leaderboard, our main goal right now is to finish strong and maintain our momentum.

HC: What are some effective techniques you think would attract students to this cause?

ER: Effective techniques that worked was attracting students through their passions. Our College President Dr. Butts says “there is no better feeling than putting your passion into practice” I completely agree with this statement and this was our way of getting students involved. If we were able to prove that their passion was involved they were more receptive.

HC: If a campus chapter is initiated, what type of events or would you think of hosting?

ER: As I had previously mentioned, our main focus is currently finishing strong with the competition. But, if a campus chapter were initiated, I think we would have similar programs welcoming expert speakers and inviting faculty to present.  

HC: I'm sure you have heard of the phrase “The American Dream”. The definition of “The American Dream” has obviously changed throughout generations, and it has been stated that our national debt and economic problems have put a standstill on what this could potentially be. How would you describe the American dream and what it entails as a college student in the 21st century?

ER: It is true that the national debt has put a standstill on earnings. The Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2037 if current policies are maintained there will be an $8,000 income loss to four- person households. This would severely hurt the purchasing power of consumers.

HC: What are some different ways you think members of the younger generation can get involved h their communities to create a positive impact?

ER: Perry Benjamin, Director of Grassroot Outreach for the RNC, said it best to a audience of students at our most recent event “who is your representatives.” We must start by knowing who are representatives are locally, in the state, and federally. Then we can mobilize and make our voices heard.

HC:  What do you think are some effective ways to educate people on the problem of debt in our country?  

ER: I think the Up to Us Competition does an amazing job educating students across the nation, they have been able to mobilize thousands of students and close to 100, 000 have signed the pledge.

HC: I’m sure your involvement with Up to Us has given you skills to use in university, the workplace and beyond. What may some of these be?

ER: As students we are always learning something new, organizing events might be one of the most important projects students can do while in college. Organizing events provides the opportunity to learn valuable skills of time management, organization, and better communication skills with outside parties.  

HC: On the Up to Us website, it says that this organization “is working to foster creative and collaborative approaches to promote awareness of the necessity to act.” How do you promote economic awareness to fellow students and educators in your life?

ER: Through our programs we strive to promote awareness in creative and interactive ways. My Two Cents Day was on February 15th. At this event we brought distinguished faculty from the Politics, Economics, and Law department to come speak about fiscal policy and the driving forces behind it. Students were engaged with a trivia game competing against hundreds of students. Our most recent event was a panel discussion between speakers from multiple political perspectives.  

HC: Fields of medicine, research and education are at risk to become compromised due to the ever rising national debt. Out of the three, which do you find most essential to the advancement of our society for the future generation and why?  

ER: I believe that all are equally essential, because all are interconnected. Education and Research are essential to the field of medicine and if removed it would be detrimental.

HC: High unemployment rates are a sign of a weak economy. What do you think the connection is between unemployment rates and our national debt?

ER: Unemployment rates generally levitate between four and five percent. Currently it is closer to four percent and has been in decline since the Great Recession. Once that number begins to increase the economy may be on its way to a downturn.

HC: Finally, how do you plan on using your skills and knowledge in PEL and skills acquired from Up to Us to further your goals of a fiscally aware and proactive population of young Americans?

ER: I plan on continuing our efforts to create a greater awareness for fiscal policy and the rising national debt. It’s Up to Us!


I hope you enjoyed the Q&A, don't forget to vote during the upcoming SGA election 3/26-3/30 to support deserving candidates like Evan Rufrano!