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Writing Contest

The Center for Urban Engagement (CUE) is sponsoring its annual Dr. Samuel H. Shellhamer paper competition. The competition is designed to recognize excellent writing and thoughtful engagement with topics related to cities and urban life.

The topic for 2018 will be announced in the spring of 2018. 

The topic for 2017 was “Vocation and Place.” CUE invited position papers that responded to the following prompt:

Vocation is an increasingly prominent topic in higher education and at Wheaton College. The newfound emphasis on the subject reflects a desire understand the relationship between our calling to live all of life coram deo, or “before the face of God,” and our desire to discern the significance of, make meaning from, and make a difference with the work of our hands (broadly construed to include both paid and unpaid labor, and even some aspects of leisure). As capacious as the discussion of vocation can be, it has often neglected the theme of place, the communities in which various aspects of our vocation take concrete form, the built and natural environments that surround us, the neighbors and institutions that shape and are shaped by our lives.

How should we relate place to questions and themes that are central to “vocation?” What would it mean to weave the thread of community into the broader discussion of calling that often focuses on “Christ + Career?”


The Center for Urban Engagement will award one prize valued at $300. The Center reserves the right to bestow additional recognitions on high-quality papers that do not win the top prize. In previous years, local sponsors have provided additional prizes.


Entries must be submitted to Kari Vandervelde, Office Coordinator, Urban Studies and the Center for Urban Engagement, via email (kari.vandervelde@wheaton.edu). The deadline will be announced in the spring of 2018.


Entries must take the form of a position paper related to the topic specified above. The paper should not exceed 12 double-spaced pages (Times New Roman font, 12-point type, one-inch margins all around). Page numbers must be included. References must be in the form of footnotes and formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style.


To be eligible for consideration a submission must be from a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at Wheaton College. No paper that has been previously published will be considered. Papers submitted as work for courses are eligible for consideration, provided they are the entrant’s original work.


Students must complete and sign a Contest Entry Form, which should be emailed or printed out and given to Kari Vandervelde. The paper itself should include no name or identifying mark. However, the title of the paper must be included in the header of each page. The paper itself must be emailed to Kari Vandervelde (). Only one paper may be submitted per student.

Rights of Publication

The Center for Urban Engagement reserves the right to use prize-winning papers for publication or promotional purposes and will in every case credit the author with the work.


Submissions will be judged anonymously by faculty readers from the Center for Urban Engagement. Criteria will include research quality, clarity, originality, and organization. The winning paper will be published at the Center for Urban Engagement website. The judges reserve the right not to award the prize if essays do not meet the minimum requirements or merit publication.