Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing
The 2017/2018 contest will be opening soon. All currently enrolled NAU students seeking their first undergraduate degree will be invited to submit essays for the
10th Annual Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing essay competition.
2015/2016 competition essay topic
During the 2015/2016 competition, students wrote essays on the topic of Contemporary Communication Tools. Information for this topic was:
- Technology has radically changed the way we interact socially. Everything from dating to voicing political opinions, from ordering food to sharing a ride or a home with someone unknown, can now be done in cyberspace. We have a plethora of ways to learn, spend free time, conduct business, and remain connected to others—whether family, friends, or people half a world away.
- Are there costs associated with this unprecedented connectivity and reliance on particular forms of technology? In your opinion, what are the most significant changes—on a personal or social level—that result from contemporary communication tools? Evaluate the personal and social impacts of these changes.
The competition is intended to encourage and reward students for writing about topics related to science and technology and is founded by three NAU alumni and one friend of NAU.
Official rules and regulationsAccordion Closed
Objectives of the competition
- The Louis Agassiz Scholarship Prize will be awarded annually to the winner of an essay competition, held for the purpose of recognizing outstanding writing skills of undergraduate students.
- The scholarship prize(s) will be awarded through LOUIE by a review board whose members represent the sciences and the humanities.
- The Louis Agassiz Award is $4,000. Up to three scholarship awards totaling $4,000 may be offered each year to encourage broad participation. Should the review board decide that there are not three essays meriting a prize, funds not awarded shall be carried over to the following year. The recipient will receive a check and will need to complete a W-9.
- All students currently enrolled in their first NAU undergraduate degree program are eligible.
- Judging criteria for essays include: originality of ideas, persuasiveness, clarity, and elegance of language. The audience for the essay is any well-educated, critical thinker. The review board will select a topic for each year’s competition based on current issues crossing disciplinary boundaries and impacting society. Essay format is required (rather than traditional scientific research paper structure).
- The review board will include donors of the prize monies and members from the sciences and humanities faculties of NAU. The board will define the rules of the competition and the award dates, and will determine the winning essays. Each board member will have a single vote in all matters. The review board will meet periodically as necessary, in person or by conference call, to discuss the judging of essays or any other business connected with the Louis Agassiz Prize.
Announcement of award and publicity
- Authors of the winning essays will be contacted via telephone and/or email. Winners will be invited to attend the CEFNS pre-commencement reception held in May, where they will be publicly recognized and presented with a framed certificate. Winning submissions will also be posted in their entirety on the CEFNS website.
Essay formatting requirementsAccordion Closed
- submissions are not to exceed 2,000 words (exclusive of footnotes and citations)
- essays must be the student’s original work
- entrants may use direct quotes, but footnotes should be kept to a minimum
- a bibliography of source material should be included, where appropriate, but is not required
- essays must be double-spaced, in 12 point font (Times New Roman or Arial), with 1″ margins on all sides
- submissions shall be sent electronically as a .pdf, .doc, or .docx attachment
- essay heading should include the essay title and author’s name
- authors retain all rights to their entries, but the NAU College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences shall have the non-exclusive right to print winning essays in its publications and on its websites
- essays not conforming to formatting requirements will be not be reviewed
- submissions should be emailed to Denise.Walters@nau.edu
The Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing is made possible through the generous contributions of both time and funding, from our esteemed founding donors Diana Gabaldon, Peter McClean, Jim Uhl, and Kurt Lefteroff. Not only do they provide the monetary means for the prizes, they also serve on the review board and read every qualifying essay submitted. The Founders of the Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing include:
Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics, and the Lord John Grey novels, which are only slightly more describable.” Dr. Gabaldon holds several advanced degrees in science, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction. Dr. Gabaldon received her NAU B.S. in Zoology in 1973 and Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology in 1978.
Peter McClean was President and CEO of Measurisk LLC, an independent provider of portfolio risk analytics for institutional investors, hedge funds, and mutual funds. Previously, he was Chief Risk Management Officer of the Bank of Bermuda Limited, where he oversaw credit and market risk policy, asset and liability management, internal audit issues, the general counsel’s office, and strategic planning. Mr. McClean served on several boards in the mutual fund, reinsurance, and alternative energy industries, and received his first degree from NAU in 1967, a B.A. in History. Sadly, Peter passed away in September, 2016.
Jim Uhl is the Founder, President and CEO of Agate, Inc-Construction and Agate Steel, Inc., located in Scottsdale Arizona. Mr. Uhl graduated from NAU in 1965, receiving a BA in English. During his time at NAU, he was captain of the wrestling team and a chain gang member. After college, Mr. Uhl served as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, and is a Vietnam Veteran.
Kurt Lefteroff has been the President and CEO of Pacific Ridge, Inc. since 1994. The Pacific Ridge group of companies (including Targeted Alternatives Group, Secured Private Capital, and Pacific Ridge Properties) invests in private equity, venture capital, and commercial real estate. Mr. Lefteroff is a CPA and RPA and has served on several charity boards including The Cajun Foundation and the NAU Foundation. Mr. Lefteroff has received advanced degrees in business administration and international business.
Previous award winnersAccordion Closed
2015/2016 $4,000 prize winner
- First place: “A Paradigm Shift: Indigenous Peoples in the New Millennium” by Kaitlyn Haskie
2014/2015 award-winning essays:
- First place: “The Re-Education of Education” by Ingrid Herrera
- Second place: “Education: By and For” by Markie Scheidegger
2013/2014 award-winning essays:
- First place: “The Human Right to Privacy in a Virtual World” by Tiffany Halvorsen
- Second place: “Privacy: Among the Most Fundamental of Liberties” by Amanda Robinson
- Third place: “The Institution” by Sarah Patterson
2012/2013 award-winning essays:
- First place: “Pure Science: The Pursuit of Things With No Forseeable Benefit” by Cory Cluff
- Second place: “Should Pure Science Be Publicly Funded?” by Joseph Preston
- Third place: “Mountains from Molehills: The Implications of Funding General Research” by Tiffany Halvorsen
2011/2012 award-winning essays:
- First place: “Too Meaningless for Discussion: Revisiting Turing’s Fundamental Question Regarding Artificial Intelligence” by James Schlittenhart
- Second place: “Second Thoughts” by Mark Plets
- Third place: “Synthesis versus Analysis: Why Machines Cannot Think” by Cory Cluff
2010/2011 award-winning essays:
- First place: “The Most Noble Gas” by Aaron (A.J.) Martinez
- Second place: “Riding the Information Wave” by Donald Palmer
- Third place: “Social Media in the Free Society” by Michael Gary
2009/2010 award-winning essays:
- First place: “Science vs. What? A Closer Look at Controversy in the Media” by Catherine Luse
- Second place: “How We Miss You, Mr. Cronkite” by Benjamin Wyatt
- Third place: “Conforming to Failure” by Brooke Weber
2008/2009 award-winning essays:
- First place: “Accepting Change or The Evolution of Common Sense” by Abraham Feinberg
- Second place: “Agassiz & Gray: A Recently Discovered Letter” by Branda Hooser