Essay contest

2019 Student Essay Contest in Ethics

Contest winner Jacelyne Myrthil

Contest winner Jacelyne Myrthil

The WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society is pleased to announce the winner of its 2019 essay contest. Freshman Jacelyne (Jacie) Myrthil won the $500 prize for her essay, “Lying, Cheating, and the Consequences.” Congratulations, Jacie!

Below is the 2019 call for submissions. Due to budget cuts, the Center is not planning to sponsor an essay contest in 2020.

2019 Essay Contest Announcement

Prizes: Monetary prizes of $500 will be deposited to the WMU student account of the winners in each category (undergraduate and graduate) during the spring 2020 semester. This prize could impact your student financial aid and may be adjusted accordingly. Please contact Bronco Express in the basement of the Bernhard Center or at (269) 387-6000 with any questions.

Eligibility: Students must be enrolled in both the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters.

Theme: This year’s theme for the essay contest is “Lying, Cheating, and the Consequences.” Here are some questions to consider when deciding how to write about this topic, which can be approached in many ways:

When are lies harmless or even ethically justifiable? When do they do serious damage, and why? Cheating often entails deceit of one sort or another, but does it differ from lying in important ways? How does society reward or punish lying and cheating, and how do people rationalize such behavior? What are the consequences of the behavior for the agent, the victim or victims, and for the broader society? How would you describe current attitudes toward lying or cheating? What motivates a person who lies or cheats? Are people pressured or manipulated into lying, or should such behavior always be seen as a choice? Feel free to draw on academic examples—such as what constitutes cheating in your field, why students are tempted to lie or cheat, what role the threat of consequences plays in such cases—or recent incidents, such as the elaborate fraud engaged in by parents attempting to gain admission to prestigious colleges for their children.

Requirements: The entries should be analytical essays that argue for a thesis addressing the contest theme (as opposed to case studies, survey reports, etc., in which authors merely describe facts or offer explanations). Students should explicitly address the contest theme, spell out their assumptions, specify an appropriate conceptual framework, and offer conclusions well-grounded in evidence. The center welcomes essays featuring diverse academic and disciplinary concerns and approaches. Essays should be between 5-7 double-spaced pages for undergraduates and 10-12 pages for graduate students. Credit sources using any accepted academic style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago Style).

Evaluation: All submissions will be judged on the basis of originality, thoroughness, focus, reasoning, clarity and relevance to the contest theme by a panel of WMU faculty on the Advisory Board of the Ethics Center, representing diverse interests and fields of study across the university.

Submission instructions: Submissions should be sent to the Ethics Center at with the subject line “Student Essay Contest” by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 25, 2019. The submission should prepared for blind review with no identifying marks in the paper or the footnotes. Please attach as a second document your paper title and your name. Documents should be formatted as PDFs.

Prize notification: Prize recipients will be notified by Nov. 29, 2019. The Ethics Center will host a reception and discussion of the award-winning essays during the spring 2020 semester, the date to be announced later.