Flags on display in Washington, D.C.

Undergraduate Essay Competition

The 2021 Essay Submissions window is now closed. Winners are listed below. Check back Spring 2022 for the new Undergraduate Essay question.


The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy is pleased to announce its fourth annual undergraduate essay competition.  Each year, students are invited to submit essays on a timely question related to foundational freedoms and responsibilities in liberal democracies.

For 2021, we invite responses to the question:

Should the United States make military or national service compulsory?


All UW-Madison undergraduate students may apply.  Essays should be approximately 1,000 words in length.  Scholarship recipients are also invited to a dinner hosted by the Center.

1st place: $2,500
2nd place: $1,500
3rd place: $1,000

Deadline: Past Deadline

Essay Application

Previous Competitions

2021 Topic

“Should the United States make military or national service compulsory?”

Winners: Maxwell Ruzika, Dana Craig, Jonah Edelman, Ellen Stojak, Nicholas Carl

Ellen Stojak

2020 Topic

“Should patriotism be taught at UW Madison?”

Winners: Jacob Bernstein, Nils Peterson, Lucas Olsen, Cleo Rank, Tony Mattioli

2019 Topic

“Should social media platforms be permitted to censor controversial speech?”

Winners: Anitha Quintin, Lucas Olsen, Matthew Kass

2018 Topic

“Should the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—which states that ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside’—be repealed or modified to restrict more precisely the definition of who may claim citizenship?”

Winners: Dana Coggio, Ben Johnson, August Schultz

2017 Topic

“Should the U.S. Electoral College be abolished, reformed, or left to the states to determine?”

Winners: Ean Quick, Garrett McLaughlin, Joshua Gutzmann

2016 Topic

“Are the goals of fostering freedom of speech on campus and of fostering a welcoming environment for all students incompatible?”

Winners:  Joshua GutzmannRebekah CullumZawadi Carroll

2021 Topic: Should the United States make military or national service compulsory?