Philip Whitcomb Essay Contest

All current undergraduates at the University of Kansas are invited to enter the annual Philip Whitcomb Essay Contest.

$500 is awarded for the winning essay.

Submit your essay by Friday, April 21, 2017.

Essays should be no longer than 3,000 words. Uploaded essay should contain student initials on the top right hand corner of every page and title on the top center of the first page. Do not put your name on the essay.

The guidelines state that essays should address "the relationship of knowledge, thought, and action in public affairs and public policy". The Contest committee interprets this broadly. Topics may be political, for example, but they may just as well be intellectual, artistic, literary, scientific, or technological. What is important is that submitted essays make plain the importance of their topic, that they be written for a wide public, and that they deal, in one fashion or another, with knowledge, thought, and action. Essays on an appropriate topic, and derived from an honors essay, a term paper, a research project, would be welcome.

Entries will be judged by a faculty committee. The author of the winning essay will receive a cash award of $500 and recognition on the Whitcomb Plaque (mounted at Nunemaker Center).

Whitcomb Essay Contest Submission


Philip Wright Whitcomb, born in Topeka in 1891, received his B.A. from Washburn College in 1910. He went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1911-1914, eventually receiving an M.A. From 1914 until 1978 he served as European correspondent for several major U.S. newspapers and wire services. In 1978 he returned to Kansas to study philosophy, which had long been an interest of his. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Kansas in 1981.

Throughout his life Philip Whitcomb demonstrated a deep commitment to intellectual honesty and accomplishment, to the integration of diverse fields of knowledge, and to the task of relating fundamental knowledge to problems of broad human concern. The purpose of the Whitcomb Essay Contest is to commemorate his life and to promote the values he held dear.


2016 winning essay by John (Ike) Uri (pdf)

2015 winning essay by Jeffrey Carmody (pdf)

2014 winning essay by Joshua Luthi (pdf)

2013 winning essay by Rebecca Mandelbaum (pdf)

2011 winning essay by Luke Brinker (pdf)

2009 winning essay by Brenna Daldorph (pdf)

2008 winning essay by Andrew MacDonald (pdf)

2007 winning essay by Annie McEnroe (pdf)

2006 winning essay by Sridhar Reddy (pfd)

2005 winning essay by Rebecca Evanhoe (pdf)

2004 winning essay by Matthew Gertken (pdf)


Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty
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