Undergraduate Essay Prize
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The prize spotlights robust, insightful undergraduate writing about the ways policy can address contemporary world challenges. Read this year's winning essay.
Perry World House (PWH), the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for global policy research, is accepting submissions for the 2023 Undergraduate Essay Prize. This $1,000 prize recognizes outstanding student writing on how policy can be used to tackle global policy challenges.
We encourage students from all of Penn’s four undergraduate schools to apply. Students should submit original essays in response to the prompt provided below. The essay should not have been previously published or accepted for publication elsewhere.
2023 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winner
by Meheer Commuri
In his winning essay, Meheer Commuri discusses the shift in US foreign policy priorities from the Middle East to China. He explains consequences of this shift, and why the US should consider reengaging the Middle East. He argues that the region should remain a foreign policy priority for countries around the world for economic reasons, and to avoid giving China space to further engage with the region.
Meheer Commuri is a rising junior from New York studying International Relations in the School of Arts and Sciences. When not discussing foreign policy, he writes for Punch Bowl, Penn’s satirical magazine. He is also a member of the Philomathean Society.
2022 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winners
by Julia Esposito
This essay looks at efforts to reduce global carbon emissions to mitigate climate change, which have proven relatively ineffective. Given that the impacts of climate change are already being felt, especially in developing countries, she suggests focusing on adaptive climate policies that can protect communities from severe weather events and rising sea levels.
Julia Esposito is a senior studying Physics and Astronomy with a Biological concentration. She is originally from Connecticut and currently works as a research assistant in a cosmology lab. She is the Word on the Street section editor for 34th Street Magazine, is a co-founder and board member for the Penn Astronomical Student Association, and is on the executive board for Penn's Social Deduction Club.
by Sachit Gali
This essay explores how to weaken China's control of the global supply of rare earth elements. These highly valuable elements are vital for manufacturing a range of products, from consumer goods to advanced military technologies, and there is an urgent need to diversify their production and improve global access.
Sachit Gali, a junior from Florida, studies Economics with a minor in Consumer Psychology. He is passionate about the intersection of economics with fields such as sustainable global development, international security studies, and human rights. Gali is the Business Manager of the Penn Masala a cappella group, a social impact consultant for 180 Degrees Consulting, and a research assistant for the Penn Development Research Initiative.
by Noah Sylvia
This essay looks at how militaries deploy asymmetric weaponry - weapons that are smaller than, but still effective against, adversaries' weaponry. It sets out how the Ukrainian army has made use of portable Javelin missiles to target Russian tanks, and why this could be relevant to future invasions of smaller states by larger neighbors.
Noah Sylvia, a rising senior, studies International Relations and Russian and Eastern European Studies and is a Perry World House Student Fellow. He is interested in power dynamics in post-Soviet states and how violent non-state entities develop and operate over time. Noah researches Military Technology and Civilian Victimization, and is the head managing editor for the Sigma Iota Rho Journal of International Relations.
2021 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winners
by Abby Baggini
This paper aims to make clear the discrepancy between the international internet law preferred and endorsed by authoritarian regimes and liberal democracies. Ultimately, this paper argues that fundamentally, authoritarian and democratic governments have distinct preferences for the content and design of emerging internet law, resulting in competing visions for an international cyber legal regime.
by Chonnipha (Jing Jing) Piriyalertsak
China’s dam construction and hydropower activity in the Mekong River has exacerbated drought in downstream regions, threatening the livelihoods of 60 million people across five Southeast Asian countries. The conflict shows how Southeast Asian countries have been bound to China’s economic investments, resulting in greater leeway for China to develop the Mekong as it wishes— if the U.S. wishes to counteract Chinese influence, it must support its Southeast Asian allies in negotiating for more agency over water governance.
by Gabriella F. Rabito
30.4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, in compliance with international refugee law, are exercising their right to seek asylum in a country other than their country of origin. This paper investigates the treatment of refugees in detention centers in countries hosting the most refugees in their respective regions: Turkey (Middle East), Colombia (Latin America), Uganda (Africa), Germany (Europe), Bangladesh (Asia), and the United States (North America). Through this analysis, it is evident that many detention centers worldwide deprive refugees of liberty and safety.
by Emrys Stromberg
The Huichol are the oldest surviving culture in Mexico who continue to practice their traditions much as they have for centuries. Each year they conduct a pilgrimage of over 400km from their communities in the western sierras eastward to the semi-desertic high plateaus of the Sierra de Catorce which they call Wirikuta. This paper is about the current conflict between the Huichol and the Canadian mining company First Majestic Silver over the landscape of the Wirikuta/Catorce region.