Skip to main content

Essay Prize Competition in Ethics and Social Justice

National Student Essay Prize Competition in Ethics and Social Justice

This national undergraduate student essay contest is open to college juniors and seniors at accredited 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The contest is intended to amplify historically underrepresented voices and perspectives on issues of societal import, and to encourage thoughtful reflection and critical thinking about ethical concepts as they are encountered personally and as members of society committed to social justice. Please note, essays written for a class requirement are acceptable, but this must be acknowledged in the submission form.

**Note: Fordham University undergraduates are also eligible to submit to Fordham’s Chynn Prize in Ethics and Morality; however, students are not allowed to submit the same essay for consideration in the Chynn Prize and the Ethics and Social Justice Essay Prize competitions.**

2021-22 Theme
Progress & Repair: What Should Movement Toward a More Just World Look Like?

Congratulations to the 2021-22 Winners!

First Place - "On Access and “Success”: The Reparative Role of Higher Education in Shaping a Just Future"
Arianna Chen, Fordham University - Rose Hill
Second Place - "Liberated Intellects: Placing the Prisons back Inside their Walls"
Robert Hall, University of Wisconsin-Madison -
Robert's project, Liberated Intellects, is supported by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Third Place - "What the Bronx Can Teach Us about Transportation Ethics for People with Disabilities"
Gabriel Garcia, Fordham University - Lincoln Center

About the Prize

First Place: $1,000
Second Place: $500
Third Place: $300

Essay Criteria
Essays (1,250-2,000 words) should Identify and analyze an ethical issue or dilemma related to this year’s theme(s). The essay should demonstrate student’s understanding of, and commitment to, racial justice within a thorough discussion of the central ethical concepts, principles, or values at play, and their relevance to the issue at hand. Students are encouraged to (a) draw on a variety of philosophical, theological, humanistic, and scientific perspectives and (b) to discuss how their analysis is informed by their personal experiences, and the shared experiences of family, friends, and other members of their communities. Submissions may include reference to published scholarship; however, they must be original, unpublished work that reflect the student’s individual voice. Sample topics might include: 

  • How should public institutions or community groups address trauma caused by racial injustice?
  • What role does trust play in creating more just institutions, and how should public officials, healthcare providers, researchers, universities, or business leaders make their organizations more deserving of trust by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or people with disabilities?
  • What is an underexplored form of injustice or obstacle currently standing in the way of repairing injustice?
  • How is progress toward justice possible today, given deep and pervasive political divisions in the U.S.?

Submission and Eligibility Requirements

  • Submissions can be uploaded here.
  • Word count: 1,250-2,000 words (excluding references)
  • Applicants must be currently-enrolled juniors or seniors at an accredited 4-year college or university (with expected graduation date between May 2022 and August 2023). Finalists will be contacted to verify academic eligibility.
  • Applicant must be a US citizen.
  • Essays should be original, and written by the applicant; attribution and references to quoted/paraphrased materials must be included, as appropriate.
  • Essays written for a class requirement are acceptable, but this must be acknowledged in the submission form.
  • Fordham University students who are also submitting to the Chynn Ethics Paper Prize competition may not submit the same essay for consideration in both competitions.
  • Applicant may only submit one essay for consideration.
  • Students are encouraged to email questions to Steven Swartzer, Ph.D., Associate Director, Academic Programs at

February 21, 2022

The winning essays will be featured on the Center for Ethics Education’s website and Ethics and Society blog. 

This competition is organized by Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education and Master of Arts in Ethics and Society Program, and is funded by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer and a generous gift in the honor of Helen and Norman Burg.

To read winning essays from a similar undergraduate prize at Fordham and other student essays featured in the Student Voices section of the Ethics and Society blog, visit the following links:

Past Prize Winners
First Place: "But What About Positive Stereotypes?: A Community Based Analysis of the Model Minority Myth" by Mia Nguyen, Dominican University of California
Second Place: "Unheard or Ignored: The Medical Complaints of Black Women" by Denayia Miniex, Fordham University at Lincoln Center
Third Place: "Rightful Reparations for a Hurting Nation" by Paulina Thurmann, Gonzaga University