Rezendes Ethics Essay Competition

The John M. Rezendes Annual Ethics Essay Competition

All current undergraduate students at the University of Maine are invited to submit an 8- to 10-page essay that focuses on ethics, broadly construed. Papers on any topic of ethical concern are welcome, but see below for suggested focus. Please view other requirements and guidelines below. The submission period for the 2020 Competition is now closed, but check back for details about next year’s competition!


  • First Prize: $3,000
  • Two Finalists: $500 each

2020 Theme: Ethics and Food Systems

Click here to read about the winners of the 2020 Rezendes Ethics Essay Competition!

We encourage you to consider ethical issues surrounding Food Systems and how they relate to institutions, policies, economics, justice, politics and/or society. Some sample approaches might include, but are not limited to: what important ethical concerns arise through food access? Do animals have rights in food processes? If so, what kind of right do animals have; for example, do some (or all) animals have the right not to be treated as food resources?  How does accountability play a role in the relationships forged through food distribution? These prompts are merely examples of how you might approach the topic. Feel free to venture out and come up with your own questions, constructing essays according to the following guidelines:

Student participants should feel free to venture out and come up with their own question, constructing their essays according to the following guidelines:

  • Identify and describe a problem, along with the ethical issue at stake
  • Present an argument that shows how the ethical issue should be resolved.
  • Engage with an ethical theory to reach your resolution (for example, animal rights theory, social contract theory, bioethics, environmentalism, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics or feminist ethics)
  • Respond to prospective objections to your point of view

Winning approaches from past years include:

2020 – Theme: Ethics and Food Systems
Patrick Hurley (Ecology and Environmental Science):
“Zombie Fields: Ethical Concerns of Pollination in Industrial Agriculture”

2019 – Theme: Advocacy and Accountability
      Meghan Frisard (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Zoology): “Help, I’m Trapped: Ethical Patient Advocacy in the Age of TRAP Laws”

2018 – Theme: Age and Aging
      Rachel Emerich (Nursing): “Our Ethical Responsibility for Preventing Elder Abuse and Caring for those Affected”

2017 – Theme: Citizenship, Conflict, and Democracy
      Sarah Dean (International Affairs): “Ningún Ser Humano Es Ilegal: The Ethical Implications of the Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants”

For further essay examples and contest information, visit this link!

Check back in the future for details on next year’s competition!


Any paper related to issues in ethics will be considered. All undergraduate students at the University of Maine registered during the spring semester in which the contest is held are eligible, including those who will be studying abroad.

2019-20 Rezendes Ethics Essay Competition Timeline

  • Monday, December 9, 12:00, 4th Floor of Colvin Hall – Preliminary information session and ethics workshop (Pizza Provided)
  • Friday, January 31, 12:00, 4th Floor of Colvin Hall – Focused workshop on paper-writing, ethics and questions from prospective essay writers
  • Friday, February 14 by 11:59 PM – Essays due via Google Form (see below).

Submission Guidelines

  • Essays must be submitted electronically by Friday, February 14th, 2020.
  • No late submissions will be accepted.
  • No works of poetry or fiction will be accepted.
  • The following format must be used:
    • Submissions must be typewritten in 12 pt font, double spaced with one-inch margins saved in .doc or .docx format.
    • Submissions must be 8-10 pages maximum.
      • Note – reference and cover pages do not count towards the 8-10 page maximum
    • Submissions must include a reference page and proper in-text source documentation (MLA, APA or Chicago styles)
    • Only the title of the essay, and not the author’s name, should appear on the first page of the essay itself.
    • The first page of the document must be a cover page with the author’s name, title of the essay, local address and phone number, email address, year in school and major.
  • Submissions will not be returned.
  • No student may win the first prize more than once.

Click here to submit your entry!

Additional Information