Undergraduate Essay Prize 2021

Perry World House has selected four winners for its first ever Undergraduate Essay Prize.

The goal of the prize is to spotlight the most robust and insightful undergraduate writing and analysis about the ways policy can address contemporary world challenges. We encouraged students from each of Penn’s four undergraduate schools to apply. 

Prizes were awarded based on the overall excellence of the essay submission and its alignment with either or both of PWH’s two research themes, which are: 

Winning Essays

Graphic for the essay 'Polar Preferences: Authoritarian and Democratic Preferences in International Cyber Law'
Abby Baggini
Polar Preferences: Authoritarian and Democratic Preferences in International Cyber Law

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. 

Promotional graphic for 'River Deep, Dams High: China's Activities in the Mekong River'
Chonnipha (Jing Jing) Piriyalertsak
River Deep, Dams High: China's Activities in the Mekong River 

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.

Image for the essay 'Seeking Refuge in Detention'
Gabriella F. Rabito
Seeking Refuge in Detention

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.

Promotional image for 'Wixarika-Huichol Pilgrimage to Wirikuta'
Emrys Stromberg
Wixárika (Huichol) Pilgrimage to Wirikuta: Global Shifts Inclusive of Indigenous Voices in the Regional, National, and International Discourse on Land-use and Policy

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.