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Liberal Education Initiative

LEAP Wisconsin is an initiative of the University of Wisconsin System that seeks to increase understanding of the value and purpose of liberal education for UW students and Wisconsin citizens.

Announcing the Ninth Annual (2013-14)
Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition

Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin System
Advisory Group on the Liberal Arts (SAGLA)

Download these guidelines as a pdf file.

View the winners for 2013-14

This Year’s Topic:

In his essay "Only Connect," William Cronon outlines ten qualities that distinguish a liberally educated person.  Describe a moment from your recent education when you have been most vividly aware of the importance of one of these qualities.

You may find the Cronon essay here: http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Cronon_Only_Connect.pdf

Strong student essays will invite reader engagement through description and reflection on personal experience, as well as demonstrate careful consideration of the Cronon essay.  To learn more about the goals of a liberal education, you may wish to check the liberal education learning outcomes at http://www.aacu.org/leap/vision.cfm.

NOTE: All submissions are to be original essays, 1,000-1,250 words in length, typed, double-spaced.  Each essay must include a title page with the following information:  title of essay, student’s name, major, institution, college and home address, e-mail address, telephone number, and the following statement: “I hereby affirm that this is an original essay and my own work.”


This year’s competition is open to any UW System undergraduate student in academic good standing.


Three awards for $2,000 each are available (one to a student from the UW Colleges and two to students from the UW comprehensive and doctoral institutions).


  • Students must submit their essays to their Provost’s Office (or, for UW College students, to the campus representative) and should consult their campus process and deadlines prior to submission.


  • Each UW institution will determine its own student essay submission and screening process, including the setting of institutional deadlines by which students will submit their essays to their Provost’s Office (or, for UW Colleges, to the campus representative).

  • Each comprehensive and doctoral institution may submit no more than three (3) finalist essays; the UW Colleges may submit up to 13 essays (one per campus).
The deadline for submission of finalist essays from the institutions to SAGLA is February 14, 2014.  These are to be made electronically via e-mail attachment to dwaters@uwsa.edu.

Final selection of winning essays will be determined by a group of judges from the UW System Advisory Group on the Liberal Arts (SAGLA).  Recipients will be notified in Spring 2014.

As part of the UW System’s partnership with the Association of American Colleges & Universities in the LEAP Campaign (Liberal Education and America’s Promise), this undergraduate essay competition aims to promote understanding of the purpose and value of a liberal arts and science education.

See Archive of Competition Winners

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Last Update: May 6, 2014