Civility Essay Contest

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.

The Honors College at Westminster—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.

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


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


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


Kim Adamson ('97) is a trustee of Westminster College. She received her bachelor's degree from Westminster in 1979 and is one of the college'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 immediate past president of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), the membership organization of over 850 honors colleges and programs around the country. Over the past 25 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 College 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 College Republicans Club. She is a past chair of the college's alumni board, serving on the board 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 15 years, Kate has been deeply involved in government and public relations, campaign strategy, PAC fundraising, and media relations in Utah.

Chris Cunningham (‘15) works for Congressman Ben McAdams (D-UT) in Washington, D.C., advising the congressman on domestic policy issues including health care, education, and civil rights. After completing his bachelor of science degree in economics and finance with an Honors degree at Westminster College, he moved to D.C. and has worked on Capitol Hill for 5 years for 3 different members of Congress. He previously served as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association.

Roger Livingston is an attorney and former senior advisor and counsel to U.S. Senator Orrin G. Hatch. Roger Livingston is also a former judge for the third district court of Utah. He served 2 terms as a representative in the Utah State Legislature and is a colonel (retired) in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was also a director of the Utah Division of Risk Management and a director at WCF. He is one of the 2 co-founders of the popular Westminster Honors College seminar entitled “Presidential Elections,” which follows each presidential election in real time and is always team-taught by a democrat and republican.

Tamara N. Stevenson, Ed.D., is the vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and chief diversity officer at Westminster College 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 college’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.

Taylor Stevens ('18) is a politics reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune, where she has covered city and county politics and now reports on state government, including the Utah Legislature. She first joined The Tribune on a single day's notice in January 2017 as an intern and was hired on as a staff reporter before graduating from Westminster College in 2018 with a bachelor of arts in communication. She is the winner of the Utah Society of Professional Journalists 2019 Best Newspaper Reporter award. While at Westminster, Taylor was a member of the Honors College and served for 2 years as the editor-in-chief of The Forum, the college's student-run news organization.

Kael Weston served a 2-year term as Honors College writer-in-residence at Westminster. The author of the acclaimed book The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, Weston represented the United States for more than a decade as a state department official. Washington acknowledged his multi-year work in Fallujah with Marines by awarding him one of its highest honors: the Secretary of State's Medal for Heroism. He has published in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. He is currently the democratic nominee for the U.S. Congress in Utah's second district.


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

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

Enter the Contest

Essay Topic

In January 2021, Utah will have its first new governor in 12 years. If you were able to meet for an hour right before they started the job to discuss what you feel is the most important issue facing the state, what advice would you give the new governor and why? Write an essay (600 words or less) that addresses this question.

Essay Deadline

Essays are due Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, at midnight. Only 1 submission per student allowed.

students sitting on a blanket and talking in Sugar House Park

Learn More About 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.

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