Essay Contest

Our second annual student essay competition featuring the Common Read! CSUSM’s top three winners will receive cash prizes and their work will be published online in the Library’s Institutional Repository. The first place essay will go on to compete at the county level.


Congratulations! First place goes to Emilee Ramirez for her essay entitled, “Landfill: The Breakdown.” Second place goes to Melinda Lopez for her essay entitled, “Genetically Modified Humans.” Thank you to all who participated.

Essay Prompt

Rachel Carson’s controversial book, Silent Spring, mobilized people the world over—and in a way no other comparable work of twentieth century nonfiction had.  Besides raising our consciousness about ecology and launching the modern environmentalist movement, Carson’s sobering exposé of the pesticide industry’s campaign of disinformation inspired a 1972 ban that brought an end to the use of DDT in the United States.

In addition to the book’s content, the context of the publication— Carson’s own history as a woman in the sciences and in the academy, as well as the institutional backlash surrounding the book’s controversial messages—is also part of the rich (and often contentious) moral and ethical history of this country’s experience of science, gender, political economy, and social courage.

With a specific argument, consider a modern social challenge with direct relationships to issues raised by the content and/or context of Silent Spring.  Explain the central ethical concern related to this issue; outline the stakes of this issue, and consider who the primary stakeholders are.  Finally, offer (at least) some general thoughts on how best to navigate this issue.  As part of your argument, you may wish to discuss Silent Spring directly, but it is not a requirement for submission.

Submission Requirement

You may cite outside sources, but it is not a requirement. Submissions may be Individually authored or group-authored.

Your essay should be 1200-1500 words.

The winning essay from CSUSM will automatically be submitted for consideration in the regional competition, which will also include essayists from UCSD, SDSU, USD, Grossmont College, and Point Loma Nazarene College.

CSUSM essays due December 14, 2012 by 5 pm. Submit your essay online here.

Judging Criteria

Essays that meet the Submission Requirement will be scored on the four general criteria listed below.  For a more detailed rubric of judging criteria, download the Silent Spring Contest Judging Rubric (PDF). CSUSM’s judging panel to be announced. Regional essay winners will be announced in Spring 2013.

1. Significance: Identify and address a challenge that is of significant concern in the area of science and/or social justice stemming from your reading of Silent Spring.

2. Social and/or Ethical principles: Explicitly identify the principles that are relevant and important to your consideration of the issue(s).

3. Stakeholders: Identify those who are directly or indirectly affected by the conduct or products in question, and explain why.

4. Solution: Explore one or more solutions (general or specific) to the ethical/social dilemma(s), (at least) briefly detailing some of its/their likely implications.


Prizes will be granted to the top three campus essays and the top three regional essays. 

CSUSM Awards

  • 1st Prize – $300
  • 2nd Prize – $150
  • 3rd Prize – $50

Regional Awards

  • 1st Prize – $600
  • 2nd Prize – $300
  • 3rd Prize – $100


In 2011-12, CSUSM participated in the county-wide essay contest with UCSD, USD, SDSU, Point Loma Nazarene, and Grossmont College. Our first place essay entitled “Recent Disputes in Biomedical Ethics Involving Human Tissue for Research” was co-authored by CSUSM students Sarah Bloomer, Alma Perez, and Thomas Ebert.

See Resources for more information.