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Law and Public Policy Essay Contest

The Law & Public Policy Essay Contest is designed to encourage students to participate in discourse on state, national, and global legal issues by combining their research and writing skills to increase understanding on a law or policy matter and advocate for a position. Because the practice of identifying issues, applying rules to a set of facts, and making a well-reasoned conclusion is fundamental to the study and practice of law, the Law & Public Policy Essay Contest aims for participants to hone their writing and research skills in and outside of the classroom and pursue excellence in their work.


The contest is open to current undergraduate students enrolled at Montclair State University. Each submission must be an original, unpublished, academic work on a topic related to law and public policy. Essays written for a class assignment or exam are eligible.


Submissions must be emailed as Microsoft Word documents. Essays may be 5-10 pages (double spaced) and must include proper citations.

Judging Process:

A panel of Montclair Sate Advisory Board members, many of whom are lawyers, will judge the submissions based on quality of writing, research (as well as citations), and originality.

Winning Submissions:

Winners will be contacted by email. The first-place place winner will receive a $300 prize and the second-place winner a $200 prize (both in the form of gift-card to a vendor of their choice). Selected papers will be featured on the Pre-Law Program webpage.

Submission Deadline:

All entries must be submitted to by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 12, 2023.


Contact the Pre-Law Program Director, Isabelle Ramos,, with any questions

Meet our 2023 Essay Contest Winners

Photo of Sofia Acevedo Valencia

Sofia Acevedo Valencia is a Junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Communication Studies. Passionate about giving back to our community, Sofia is volunteer for the Office of Health Promotion and a sister of Sigma Delta Phi. Sofia is a staff writer and Assistant Opinion Editor for The Montclarion. You can find her articles in the newspaper webpage where Sofia discusses pop culture, politics, and personal experiences.

Essay Summary: “A Tale as Old as Time: The Effects of Coca and Narco-Trafficking in Colombian Politics” was written for Comparative Politics during the 2023 Spring semester. The essay discusses the beginnings of coca and narco-trafficking, why they are to blame for Colombia’s corrupt political system, and how American intervention influenced these events. The essay also explains the importance of Colombia’s recent election of a leftist president, as well as his plan to legalize coca plantations of rural impoverished farmers.

Photo of Emma Geoghegan

Emma Geoghegan is a senior at Montclair State University majoring in Policy Studies
with double minors in Sociology and Pre-Law Studies. Emma is president of the Pre-Law
Society and vice-president and co-founder of the MSU Sociology Club. She also works with The Borgen Project to help fight global poverty by making it a priority of her Congressmen’s foreign policy agenda.

Essay Summary: “Segregation in New Jersey Public Schools” was written for the class Public Policy Analysis during the Fall 2022 semester. The essay talks about both the past and present of the issue of the divide of students in schools based on race, and how this often leads to worse outcomes for Black and Hispanic students. The paper explores how other states have worked on solving this issue and provides solutions based on them to help fix the issue in New Jersey. Policies such as busing, assigning students to public schools based on socioeconomic status instead of geographical location, and improving and expanding on the state’s school choice program are all potential resolutions to close the racial segregation gap and provide better opportunities to minority students.

2022 Essay Contest Winners

Photo of Sam MacPherson

Sam MacPherson is a sophomore at Montclair State University double majoring in Political Science and Jurisprudence, pursuing an accelerated MA program in Law and Governance. Outside of class, Sam is a Vote Everywhere campus ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation and works closely with MSU’s newly founded Planned Parenthood chapter. Sam is also actively involved in her local town council and is passionate about civic engagement.

Essay Summary: “Consolidating Power: How Years of Sham Elections in Venezuela Act as a Vehicle for Corruption and Collapse” was written for Comparative Politics in the Spring of 2022. The essay catalogs the history of Venezuela’s corrupt election system, as well as the implications these practices have on the country’s economy and citizens. The essay also draws comparisons to corrupt election practices in the United States, highlighting the influx of misinformation during the 2016 election via the Mueller report.

Photo of Ash Steimle
Ash Steimle is a recent graduate of Montclair State University’s Master’s program in Social Research and Analysis. They have a variety of research interests including the LGBT community, social theory, and cultural studies, and believe in community-driven research and advocacy. They are currently working as an Americorp Member at the NYNJ Trail Conference and are considering their career goals. They enjoy going to ponds and looking for water birds, television and media analysis, and doing puzzles.

Essay Summary: The purpose of the paper “Gender-Related Cultural Competency Trainings: Analysis and Policy Recommendations” was to do study transgender cultural competency trainings to determine what educational strategies were being used, what cultural competency constructs were addressed, and what themes were present. This paper examined three cultural competency trainings and performed an in-depth content analysis on them. Findings showed that the trainings studied focused more on knowledge and skill than they did investigating bias and prejudice, and that cultural competency trainings in general have a very individual focus.