2021 Calling and Character Prize

The Institute for Leadership and Service is soliciting submissions from Valpo students for an essay/video contest, which invites applicants to reflect on questions related to the theme of calling and character. The inaugural “Calling and Character Prize” will be awarded to one student in the amount of  $1000. Up to four runner-up prizes of $500 may also be awarded.  

The contest is framed around a series of questions. In anxious times, we might want to ask: What really matters? What sort of person should I be, in order to provide justice to my neighbor? What sorts of ideals should I pursue, and what good habits should I cultivate in my personal life, even when everything seems uncertain and unstable? What am I called to do, personally and professionally, when things beyond my control have placed a giant question mark on so many things that used to be assumed?

Submissions for the prize may be in the format of a written essay (800-1000 words) or a creative video (suggested length: 5-10 minutes). A committee of Valpo faculty and staff will judge the submissions. 


The essay or video project should engage substantively with at least one other important source that touches on the themes of calling, character, and leading lives that matter in these uncertain times. Some excellent options for source material include: 

  1. The university’s mission statement 
  2. Ann Lutterman-Aguilar’s “Ecumenical and Interfaith Understandings of Vocation” 
  3. Howard Thurman’s “The Sound of the Genuine”
  4. Kedron Bardwell’s “Questions for Vocational Reflection”

A complete application will include:

  1. A cover letter summarizing the submission.
  2. The essay or video project
  3. A nomination of a Valpo faculty member for Virtues of Vocation Award. In your nomination (minimum 100 words), please explain why this particular faculty mentor is an excellent example of mentorship around the above theme of “calling and character.” How has this person inspired you to lead a life that truly matters?

Please submit all three components of the application via email to Aaron Morrison, Assistant Director, Institute for Leadership and Service at aaron.morrison@valpo.edu no later than April 1st, 2021, 5:00 p.m. 

Formatting: The cover sheet is to include your name, your Valpo I.D. #, a current mailing address, Valpo email address and telephone number. 

Essay format must follow these guidelines: A minimum word count of 800, and a maximum word count of 1000 (the word count must be noted at the end of the essay); the pages should be numbered; double-spaced with 1” margins, 12 pt. Calibri or Times New Roman font, and submitted in .docx or .pdf format. The essay should include citations, and those citations should be in MLA, APA, or Chicago style.

Video format must follow these guidelines: The video should be 5-10 minutes in length, carefully crafted, and well-organized, so that you clearly introduce your listeners to the topic, discuss the relevance/meaning/or complexities of the topic, and leave the audience with a take-away. Videos should maintain a respectful tone. Keep in mind that you are presenting to the Valpo community and potentially also the outside world.  You will want to present yourself well. Use technology and resources creatively and rigorously to produce a high-quality video that is the result of careful reading and research as well as editing and execution. Clarity is key. You must craft your script with an audience in mind, making sure that your sentences are meant to be heard, not read. The degree and quality of editing of the script will make an impact on your audience! Additionally, the script should mark citations from any included readings, though it is not necessary to mention these directly in the video. Visuals are encouraged but not required. 

Suggested Video/Audio Resources:

Audacity: free audio editing software (http://www.audacityteam.org)

iMovie:  video editing software available for use in many VU computer labs

All winners will be notified by their Valpo email. The winning submissions will also be announced via the institute’s social media accounts and featured on the Institute for Leadership and Services’ web page. 

For additional information or questions, contact Aaron Morrison at aaron.morrison@valpo.edu or 219-464-6914

Good luck, we’re excited to see what you come up with!