Undergraduates at Duke and UNC Can Submit Essays for the Kenan Moral Purpose Award

Kenan Moral Purpose

Deadline: March 16, 2018 

The Kenan Moral Purpose Award is given for the best undergraduate student essay on the role a liberal arts education plays in students’ exploration of the personal and social purposes by which to orient their future and the intellectual, emotional, and moral commitments that make for a full life.

Established in honor of the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ 15th anniversary at Duke and subsequently expanded, the award represents a partnership with the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One winner from each school receives $1,000.

2018 Entry Guidelines

This contest is open to currently enrolled undergraduate students at both Duke and UNC (U.S. citizens or permanent residents). Essays of between 500-800 words should address either or both of the following questions:

  • In what ways have your core beliefs and larger aims been tested, transformed, or confirmed during your time in college?
  • How have you had to defend or challenge prevailing ideas, social norms or institutions and what lessons have you learned from doing so?

Students must submit their essay by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 16, 2018 by emailing a Word or PDF document to amber.diaz@duke.edu.

Past Winners


Duke Grand Prize: Amulya Vadapalli, PPS ’19, Public Policy Studies – A Closed Mind

Duke Honorable Mention: Richard Phillips, PPS ’17, Public Policy Studies with Ethics Certificate – A Bridge for When Walls are Torn Down; Alexandra Zrenner, Trinity ’17, Economics and Mathematics – The Education of a Young Liberal

UNC Grand Prize: Brian Wong, ’19, Political Science via a joint degree program with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore – For Liberty, and Love of Learning


Sofia Manfredi (Trinity ’15) and Erik Augustine (UNC-CH ’15) for Passions and Jokes and Ethics Is Hard but Should Be Happy


Lauren Carroll (T ’14) and Daniel Pigeon (UNC-CH ’15) for Split Loyalties and Mandatory Modesty


Joy Liu’s (T ’14) Ambition and Elizabeth Henderson’s (UNC-CH ’13) On Open Mindedness


Sophia Staal’s (T’ 15) Different Strokes and Darius Love’s (UNC-CH ’12) Little Fish, Big Pond


Rae Dong’s (T’ 11) Purpose, Not Perfection and Bethany Horstmann’s (T’ 13) When Service Isn’t Enough, Building a New Understanding of Morality