Academic contests

Academic Awards Forum 2024

Academic awards are presented during the annual spring Academic Awards Forum. Not every award is presented every year.


Academic competiton

Do you have a paper or project for which you are especially proud ? Enter it in an academic contest. Win cash prizes. Strengthen your resume. All while gaining knowledge.

Essays and research papers Naomi Brenneman/Mary Ann Sullivan Literary Essay Contest
John D. Unruh Jr. Award (humanities/social science research paper)
Visual art Annual Juried Student Exhibition:
Gregg Luginbuhl Awards, President Choice Award
Oratorical presentation C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest

Outstanding student Awards

In addition, faculty select exemplary graduating seniors for recognition.

Creative writing Bluffton Creative Writing Award
Criminal justice Criminal Justice Merit Award
Education Dr. Elizabeth Hostetler Outstanding Educator
Peace studies Jim Satterwhite Award in Peace Scholarship and Activism

Naomi Brenneman/Mary Ann Sullivan ESSAY CONTEST

Win $200 cash for an outstanding research or interpretive essay on a literary topic written for a course or independent study at Bluffton. 

Deadline: March 31


  • The essay must be written for a course or an independent study at Bluffton University during this academic year. Honors papers are not eligible.
  • Creative writing projects and papers on grammar are not eligible.
  • The essay, 3-30 pages in length, must be typed.
  • Two copies of the paper should be submitted to Cynthia Bandish, box 131, chair of the English/Language department, by the last day of March.
  • Any student at Bluffton University is eligible.
  • The winner will be selected by judges outside the English faculty and will be recognized during the Academic Awards Forum.

Alumni and friends have established a fund to fund this award in honor of Naomi Brenneman, Bluffton English professor from 1918-61 and Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton English professor from 1972-2006.

John D. Unruh Jr. Award

Win cash for an exceptional research paper written for a humanities and/or social science regular class assignment. Up to two $200 awards are presented annually.


  • The paper should result from regular course work taken at Bluffton University in the humanities and/or social science disciplines. Papers completed as part of an honors project or independent study will not be accepted, because they are perceived as having an unfair advantage over a regular term paper.  However, any Senior Seminar papers are eligible.
  • Submission procedure:
    • Electronic copy submitted to Martina Cucchiara, history and religion department chair. Prior to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, 2025. Submissions should indicate the course or program for which the paper was written. If you have any questions, please contact Martina Cucchiara, .
  • An evaluation committee will evaluate each submission in terms of originality, research and clarity of expression. 

  • Any currently enrolled student at Bluffton University is eligible.

  • The winner will be recognized during the 2025 Academic Awards Forum. 

This annual competition is offered in honor of  John D. Unruh, Jr., professor of history at Bluffton College, 1962-64, 1967-76. The John D. Unruh, Jr., Memorial Fund was organized to promote undergraduate research and scholarship. 

Annual Juried Student Visual Art Exhibition

2022 Juried Exhibition

The spring exhibition showcases work created in the past academic year by students in university art classes or supervised independent studies. 

Recipients of the Gregg Luginbuhl Awards, which includes a total of $550 in cash prizes donated by the Luginbuhl family, are selected by an outside juror. A best of category award is designated in each category along with honorable mentions made at the juror’s discretion.

A special award, the Gregg Luginbuhl Award in Ceramics, is chosen directly by the Luginbuhl family. A $100 prize for President Choice Award is selected by Bluffton’s president.


C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest

C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest 2024

Students are given the opportunity to compose and deliver a 10-minute speech that applies Christian principles of peacemaking to contemporary social issues. Cash prizes of $500, $400 and $300 are awarded to participants placing first, second and third.

The winner of the Bluffton competition advances to compete with winners from other Mennonite-related colleges and universities for an additional cash prize. Winners of the bi-national contest receive:

  • 1st prize: $500 (plus a $500 scholarship to attend a peace-related conference)
  • 2nd prize: $350 (plus a $350 scholarship to attend a peace-related conference)
  • 3rd prize: $200 (plus a $200 scholarship to attend a peace-related conference)

The C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest is hosted each spring by the communications department and the peace and conflict studies program. To participate, contact Gerald Mast, professor of communication, at or 419-358-3208.

The competition is administered by the Mennonite Central Committee and was established in honor of C. Henry Smith, who was on the Bluffton faculty from 1914-46. Smith is well-known for his particular attention to the peace commitments of the Mennonite tradition.


Jim Satterwhite Award in Peace Scholarship and Activism

This annual award is presented during the Academic Awards Forum to a graduating student who is:

  • a student of senior status at Bluffton University (having completed at least 88 semester hours)
  • a student with an overall GPA of 3.0 and above
  • a student with a demonstrated commitment to peace scholarship, either someone with a minor in peace and conflict studies or some other, equally serious way
  • a student with a demonstrated commitment to peace activism, which can be conceived as within these four areas (as described in Lisa Schirch's The Little Book of Peacebuilding, 2004)
    • addressing conflict nonviolently (e.g., protest & human rights advocacy)
    • transforming relationships (e.g., trauma healing & restorative justice)
    • reducing direct violence (e.g., preventing victimization & creating safe spaces)
    • and building capacity (e.g., peace education & economic development)