Many have lamented the loss of civility and bipartisanship in political and public realms. Name-calling, attack ads, deliberate mistruths, and even overt violence towards members of the press and political opponents are now common features of public life.

Westminster University's Honors College—whose curriculum is designed around constructive conversation and collaborative learning—sponsors an annual essay contest for Utah high school students who want to engage in civil conversation about the crucial issues of our day, making arguments about hard topics in a reasonable, evidence-based fashion.

students sitting on a blanket and talking in Sugar House Park

Civility Essay Contest Details


Awards are underwritten through the generosity of WCF Insurance. Students do not need to plan on attending Westminster University to receive awards.

  • $2,000 cash award for the best essay
  • $500 cash runner-up award


All current Utah high school students are eligible for the essay contest.

Essay Topic

The Wasatch Front Regional Council recently reaffirmed a plan to spend $1.7 billion to widen the I-15 highway from Salt Lake City to Farmington. Write an essay (of 600 words or fewer) that either supports or disagrees with this expenditure of Utah tax dollars, using evidence to buttress your argument.

Essay Deadline

Essays are due Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 before midnight. Only 1 submission per student allowed. Results will be released in Jan. 2024.


The contest will be judged by a bipartisan panel of prominent Utah Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

Kim Adamson ('79) is a trustee of Westminster University. She received her bachelor's degree from Westminster in 1979 and is one of the university's most loyal supporters, donors, and volunteers. Kim entered the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1974 and retired in May 2013 as a chief warrant officer 5, having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also served as a law enforcement officer, specializing in mountain and swift water rescue operations, wilderness medicine, and hazardous materials operations. In addition to her career with the U.S. Marine Corps, Kim is currently an Inactive Utah Senior Justice Court Judge.

Richard Badenhausen is the founding dean of the Honors College at Westminster, as well as a past president of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), the membership organization of over 800 honors universitys and programs around the country. Over the past 30 years, professor Badenhausen has published widely on the work of T. S. Eliot and modernist literature. He is a winner of Westminster's Gore Excellence in Teaching Award and a 2-time winner of the Manford A. Shaw Publication Prize.

Kate Bradshaw ('03) is a graduate of Westminster University with a bachelor of arts degree in history and an Honors degree. While a student at Westminster, Kate was a member of the women's volleyball and basketball teams and a very lonely, possibly the only, member of the Westminster University Republicans Club. She is a past chair of the university's Alumni Board of Directors for 6 years. She serves the residents of Bountiful as a member of the City Council. Professionally, Kate is the director of government affairs for the law firm Holland & Hart. She assists firm clients with business concerns and issues before the Utah State Legislature, governor, state agencies, and local governments. For over 19 years, Kate has been deeply involved in government and public relations, campaign strategy, PAC fundraising, and media relations in Utah.

Chris Cunningham (‘15) works in federal government relations for California Life Sciences, a trade association representing the state's life sciences sector. He previously worked on Capitol Hill for over 6 years for 4 different members of Congress, including Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), advising legislators on health care and other domestic policy issues. Chris earned his Bachelor of Science in economics and finance with an Honors degree at Westminster. He lives in Washington, DC and previously served as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association.

Tamara N. Stevenson, EdD, is the vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and chief diversity officer at Westminster University in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this role, she provides direct oversight of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and leadership toward strengthening and sustaining, diversity, advancing equity, and cultivating inclusion in the university’s structures, policies, and practices. As a scholar-administrator, Dr. Stevenson’s research explores the internal and external communicative (rhetorical) practices of educational institutions as organizational sites of power through a critical race lens. Her research has been recognized by the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s National Center for Institutional Diversity with a 2009 Emerging Diversity Scholar Award given to acknowledge her “as a promising contributor to research, practice, or teaching related to diversity." Utah Business Magazine selected Dr. Stevenson as a 2020 honoree of the publication’s "30 Women to Watch” and she was chosen as 1 of 7 candidates to join Cohort 7 of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education’s Chief Diversity Officer Fellows Program for the 2020–21 academic year. She was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE).

Taylor Stevens ('18) is a freelance journalist and graduate of Westminster University. She recently returned to Utah after completing her master’s degree in investigative journalism at Arizona State University, then living and working abroad in Valencia, Spain. She's spent the last year working as a freelancer with The Associated Press’ Global Investigations Team on a national investigation into policing practices. Taylor worked previously at The Salt Lake Tribune, where she spent nearly five years covering all levels of government and was recognized as the Utah Society of Professional Journalists’ Best Newspaper Reporter in 2019. While at Westminster, she was an involved member of the Honors College and served for two years as the editor-in-chief of The Forum, the university's student-run news organization. 

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox Congratulates 2020–21 Essay Finalists

Previous Years' Winners

Westminster's Honors College

What if your classes were designed around the concept of helping you practice the habit of thinking? Of helping you develop an authentic writer’s voice so that—as Irish poet Seamus Heaney once remarked—your words have "the feel of you about them?" Of helping you challenge yourself to such a degree that you learn new things about yourself?

Westminster’s Honors College offers a distinctive course of study for academically and intellectually prepared students who want to challenge themselves in a supportive community of learners. Made up of one of the most comprehensive team-taught, interdisciplinary honors curriculums in the country, the Honors College guides you towards your best future self.

Learn more About the honors college


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