MLK Essay Contest launches, offering cash prizes to faculty, staff and students

To mark the annual Case Western Reserve University Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, all students, staff and faculty are encouraged to enter the MLK Essay Contest. Participants must submit an essay of no more than 750 words that critiques, reflects and/or applies King’s values and visions to contemporary domestic and global social, political and economic issues.

The competition will run until Jan. 17. The authors of the best faculty and staff essays each will be awarded prizes of $1,000. One graduate or professional student and one undergraduate student will each receive first place prizes of $500. In addition, undergraduate and graduate student runners-up each will be awarded $300.

Participants may select any one of five excerpted works by King as prompts for essay. The five prompts are passages selected from his speeches/writings on globalization, religion, education, poverty and social justice, and leadership and civic engagement.

This year’s MLK Essay Contest is made possible by the generous support of a record number of stakeholders across the university, including the President’s Advisory Council on Minorities; the Office of Inclusion, Diversity & Equal Opportunity (OIDEO); the Center for International Affairs; Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities; Cleveland Hillel Foundation; Interfraternity Congress; Panhellenic Council; the Office of Housing, Residence Life and Greek Life; Undergraduate Student Government; Share the Vision; University Programs and Events; and Kelvin Smith Library.

“The enthusiastic level of collaborations among different units within the university in support of this crucial celebration of Dr. King shows that our mission for advancing diversity through inclusive thinking, mindful learning, and transformative dialogue is reaching a broad base of influential stakeholders and constituencies,” said Marilyn Mobley, vice president for OIDEO.

Winners of the essay contest will be recognized during the MLK Convocation Jan. 21 at 12:30 p.m. at Amasa Stone Chapel. Lani Guinier, lawyer, scholar and civil rights activist, will headline this year’s MLK convocation as keynote speaker. Guinier is the first Jewish/African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School.

An exhibit is planned to display selected essays at various places around the university in the spring semester.

“We are honored to continue a CWRU tradition of using this essay format for encouraging and empowering university members to leverage and channel their diverse personal reflections towards persuading, educating, or contesting social constructions of meaning,” said Obie Okuh, inaugural OIDEO postdoctoral fellow and coordinator of the Essay Contest.

Visit or email for more information on entering the contest and/or submitting an essay.