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Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility

The Ethics Essay Prize

In celebration of our 25th anniversary, SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility is proud to announce the Ethics Essay Prize - an undergraduate essay competition, open to all undergraduate students enrolled at SMU. The competition is intended to encourage the development of ethical discernment, imagination, and thoughtful reflection among students. We hope it will challenge undergraduates to consider the role of ethics in their lives. Further, the contest provides the Maguire Ethics Center with valuable insights into topics of importance to undergraduates.



First Place: $1,000

Second Place: $500

Third Place: $300

Honorable Mentions: $200


Essay Topic

The 2020 Maguire Ethics Essay Prize will be an open ethics-topic contest. To be considered, the essay should describe an ethical issue have you encountered and examine what it taught you (or what you are still learning from it). You may have been influenced by a class you took, a professor who inspired you, a piece of art that evoked response, a law that affects you, a meaningful campus experience, some moral quandary you have faced, or something that provides you with peace or happiness.  There is no “right” topic. Essays are due November 1, 2020.


Essays will be judged on

  • Clear articulation and genuine struggle with an ethical dilemma
  • Originality and imagination
  • A demonstration of robust ethical analysis and moral reflection
  • The quality of the writing
  • Adherence to guidelines and careful proofing


Submission Requirements

  1. Essays must be submitted in a Microsoft Word document file attached to an e-mail to
  2. The title of the Microsoft Word document file name must be the Entrant’s last name only (e.g., LastName.docx).
  3. Essays should be 2,000 – 3,000 words, not exceeding 3,000 words. Essays must be written by a single author, typed in Times New Roman 12 font, double-spaced.
  4. Cover page. Each entry must include author’s contact information. The first page of the single Word document file must be the cover page, which must include the author’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, current classification (e.g., Sophomore, Junior), major, minor and anticipated graduation date as well as the word count of the essay (excluding cover page and references).  This information must be included on the cover page only; essays including the author’s name on other pages of the essay will not be reviewed.
  5. Essays must be the work of a single author and must be an original work.
  6. Only your first submission will be accepted, any further submissions will not be read.
  7. References must be included. Plagiarism will lead to disqualification.
  9. Employees of the Maguire Ethics Center (and the immediate family members of said employees) are not eligible to participate in the contest.
  10. Winning essays will be shared widely and featured on the Maguire Ethics Center’s website and social media sites


For more information, including eligibility and submission information, please email Candace Crespo, associate director for the Maguire Ethics Center at