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competitive contests

Prizes and Honors / Lipson Program

Description. The Leslie Lipson Program at UC Berkeley is intended to encourage undergraduate students to study humanistic values and their practical application for individuals, societies, and states. The program consists of the Lipson Essay Prize, the Lipson Scholarship, and the Lipson Research Grant.

Prizes and Honors / Lipson Research Grant

Description. The third component of the Lipson Program, which is optional, is the Lipson Research Grant (established in 2001). Lipson Scholars who wish to do research in greater depth have the opportunity to apply for funds to support their own original research project. Scholars will undertake such projects during the summer.

Prizes and Honors / Lipson Scholarship

Description. The Lipson Scholarship, established in 2001, is a full, two-year scholarship of up to $10,000 per year and is available to eligible students who submit winning essays for the Lipson Essay Prize. To receive the Lipson Scholarship, students must win the Lipson Essay Prize and be a freshman or sophomore when they apply, with a minimum of a 3.5 grade-point average (GPA).

Prizes and Honors / Lipson Essay Prize

Description. The Leslie Lipson Program at UC Berkeley is intended to encourage undergraduate students to study humanistic values and their practical application for individuals, societies, and states. One component of the Leslie Lipson Program is the Lipson Essay Prize. Eligible freshmen and sophomores are invited to submit an original, unpublished piece to the Lipson Essay Prize contest on one of the essay topics related to humanistic values. The essay topics for each year are selected by the Lipson Committee. 

Prize Amounts. A $2,000 prize is awarded to students who submit winning essays on one of seven topics related to humanistic values. 

Leslie Lipson Biography. The Leslie Lipson Program is endowed in memory of Professor Leslie Lipson, who taught political theory and comparative government at Berkeley for 33 years. As a professor, Lipson's first love was the undergraduate curriculum, and undergraduate students twice selected him as the best teacher in the Department of Political Science. Berkeley honored Lipson in 1980 with the Berkeley Citation, for individuals of extraordinary achievement in their field who have given outstanding service to the campus. Lipson's books include The Great Issues of Politics, which has been published in ten editions, translated into numerous foreign languages, and used in introductory political science courses across the country; and his seminal work, The Ethical Crises of Civilization, in which he analyzed the historical developments in world civilizations that have resulted in both better and worse ethical choices. "Humanistic values are the fundamental values of good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust, as carried out by individuals and societies in service of or against humanity" (Leslie Lipson).

Eligibility. To be eligible for the Lipson Essay Prize, students need to be freshmen or sophomores and have a minimum 3.5 grade-point average (GPA). Students from any field of study are welcome to apply. Essays will be reviewed by the Lipson Committee, and the committee may award up to five prizes for winning essays.

Deadline. Submissions need to be hand-delivered to the Undergraduate Scholarships, Prizes, and Honors Office, 250 Sproul Hall, by Friday, March 6, 2020.


2020-21 Lipson Essay Prize Essay Topics


Lipson Essay Prize Submission Process


3,000 to 4,000 words; typed

12-point font; double-spaced with one-inch margins; numbered pages

Last 4 digits of your student identification (SID) number in top-right corner of every page


You may submit only one essay per calendar year

Submit five stapled copies of your essay

Make a copy for your record; no essays will be returned

Your submission needs to be anonymous; please do not include your name. On the front of your manuscript, please write the following in the upper right corner:

  • Name of the contest

  • The last 4 digits of your student identification (SID) number

  • The number of pages in your submission

Please download and complete the UC Berkeley Prizes and Honors Office Form and submit it in person along with your essay to 210 Sproul Hall.

Hand-deliver your essay to 250 Sproul Hall by Friday, March 6th at 4 p.m. Please be prepared to show your Cal 1 Card when submitting your essay.

Previous Winners

2019-20: Evan Juan, "The Obligation of a Human Right to Health"; Aditya Varma, "American E(conomics) X(clusion) C(hurch) E(xpansion) P(rogress) T(echnology)-ionalism"; Max Zhang, "Sleeping at the Wheel" 

2018-19: Hannah Herrick, "The Persistence of Racism through Colorblindness"; Vedant Kajaria, "A Consummate Relationship with Anarchy"; Karen Lee, "Condemned to Condemn"; Tara Madhav "American Democracy, Racism and the State of Exception"; Kathleen Navas, "Psychological Basis and Modern Impact of Racism on Society"; Wyatt Singh, "The Second Coming: A Century Later, W.B. Yeats' Words Are Still Relevant"; Sharon Marie Vaz, "Yeats' Spiritus Mundi and its Relevance to 2019"; Leo Zlimen, "Our Own Phantom World" ($2000 each)  

2017-18: David Olin, "The Spirit and the Machine", Nicholas Pingitore, "Wandering with Walden", Evan Schwartz, "Arguments for Disobeying Trump's order for a Preemptive Nuclear Strike: Echoes from the Nuremberg Tribunal", Talia Wenger, "How Artificial Intelligence Re-Ignites the Human Spirit" ($2000 each)

2016-17: Alexander Casendio, "Is democracy in general, as a form of government, currently broken on an international basis?"; Daniel Rosenthal,"What are the reasons for the cultural and political polarizations in the U.S. and what is its impact on humanistic values. Is this only a national trend, or is it an issue internationally?"; Thomas Lee Kadie,"The Licensing of Right-Wing Populism"

2015-16: 1st prize: Liya Nahusenay, "Islamophobia: A Detrimental Misnomer"; Neel Somani, "Contemporary Stereotyping: Exploring the Seduction of Bias"; 2nd prize: Nina Djukic, "A Rare Drought Rain"; Suleman Khan, "The Government That Cried Wolf: Refugees and National Security"; Olivia Maigret. "The Complicity of Religion in Terrorism"

2014-15: Carter Bryce Keeling, "The People's Climate March"; Ismael Farooqui, "The Invisible Hand: The results of wealth accumulation in a democracy"; Joprdan Hyatt-Miller, "The Logic of Violence"; James Rosenberg, "Legal Accountability for Torture: Preserving a Nation of Rights and Values"; Zijing Song, "One Oligarchy, Under God"

2013-14: Elizabeth Carroll, "A Nation of Suspects: Modern Surveillance and the Right to Privacy"; Wenyan He, "The Bilateral Nature of Ethics in Economic Inequality"; Taylor Madigan, "A Rawlsian Approach to Economic Inequality"; Sharada Narayan, "The Politics of Political Ethics"; Zijing Song, "The State of Obama's Union"

2012-13: Pierre Bourbonnais, "No Excuses for Lying"; Apruva Govande, "Emotional Bridges through Empathy"; Adithyavairavan Murali, "War on Terror: The Great Game of Education, Economics and Human Dignity"; Seth Victor, "The Lies and Unethical Nature of the War on Terror"

2011-12: Adam Susaneck, "How Party Stratification Leads to Duopoly as Ideology Establishing Elections as a Script Creating Not Deadlock, Livelock!"

2010-11: Ayden Parish, "Fundamentalism, Church and State"; Timothy Borjian, "The Problems with American Exceptionalism"

2009-10: Jasmine L. Segall, "Ethical Implications of Anonymous Methods of Modern Warfare"; Spreeha Debchaudhury, "We the People: A Colorful Portrayal"

2008-09: Alexander Setzepfandt, "Optimism: Breaking Free from the Unethical Behavior of Others"; Anirudh Narla, "The Triumph of Grey: The Importance of Indeterminacy and Complexity in Black and White"

2007-08: Danielle Rathje, "Fair Trade and Global Responsibility"; Keith Browner Brown, "Factoring in Humanity: The Failure of Population Control"

2006-07: Andrina Tran, "Varieties of Morality: William James, Pragmatism and Freedom "

2005-06: Erica Mu, "Dismantling Torture: An Examination of the United States at a Political and Ethical Crossroads"; Jillian Marks, "Torture: An Analysis of Its Evils"; Alexander H. Lau, "Revealing Racial Bias: A Case for Affirmative Action"

2004-05: Jacqueline Nader "The Greatest Danger of Our Time"; Yanpei Chen, "Morality and Political Discourse"; Charles Lin, "Avoiding a Tragedy: Reconciling International Interests in the Atmospheric Commons"

2003-04: No award given

2002-03: Jennifer Greenburg, "Women's Participation in Post-Apartheid Reform"; Sebastian Petty, "Back to the Land: Institutional Forms of Community Supported Agriculture"; Tina Sang, "Chinese Household Registration System"

2001-02: Susan Tche, "Effects of the New World Economy on Post-Embargo Vietnam"

2000-01: Cynthia Houng, "Sustainable Development? Towards a New Synthesis of Environment Ethics and Philosophy"; Joseph Kim, "Does Absentee Voting Have Anti-Social Effects on Voters?"; Pha Lo, "The Hmong of Laos: Cultural Perspectives on Implementing a Global Agenda"

Prizes and Honors / Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize

Description. The Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize is awarded for the best unpublished poem or group of poems by an undergraduate student at University of California campuses, University of the Pacific, Mills College, Stanford University, Santa Clara University, and St. Mary's College. Each participating school may submit three entries to UC Berkeley to compete in the overall contest. For information regarding the submission instructions for other campuses, read Information for Other Participating Campuses below.

Prizes and Honors / Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize

The Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize is awarded for the best essays of 500 words or fewer on a topic chosen by the Committee on Prizes. The contest is open to students, faculty, and staff of the UC Berkeley campus of the University of California. Prizes awarded to faculty and staff are paid through the Berkeley payroll system and taxes are taken out of the disbursement. 

Please review the General Rules for Competitive Prizes. 

Prizes and Honors / Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry

Description. The Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry will be awarded for composition of the best original unpublished lyric poem. Each entrant may submit only one poem; the length should not exceed thirty lines. A lyric poem is a poem that sings. It is usually quite short. When the poem is read aloud, it should inspire and delight by its heartfelt thought and feeling and the beauty of its language.


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