Kenan Moral Purpose Award

The Kenan Moral Purpose Award is given for the best undergraduate student essay on the role a liberal arts education plays in students’ exploration of the personal and social purposes by which to orient their future and the intellectual, emotional, and moral commitments that make for a full life.

Established in honor of the Institute’s 15th anniversary at Duke and subsequently expanded, the award represents a partnership with the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One winner from each school receives $1,000.

The 2017 winners are:


Grand prize:

  • Amulya Vadapalli, PPS ’19, Public Policy Studies – A Closed Mind

Honorable Mention:

  • Brian Wong, ’19,Political Science via a joint degree program with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore – For Liberty, and Love of Learning

2017 Entry Guidelines

This contest is open to all currently enrolled undergraduate students at both Duke and UNC. Essays of between 500-800 words should address either or both of the following questions:

  • In what ways have your core beliefs and larger aims been tested, transformed, or confirmed during your time in college?
  • How have you had to defend or challenge prevailing ideas, social norms or institutions and what lessons have you learned from doing so?

Students must submit their essay by 5pm, Monday, April 17 by emailing a Word or PDF document to

Past Winners