Application Process


Given the extensive mentoring involved over the course of a recipient’s final two years of study, involving the mentor at the earliest stages is vital. To this end, the member of the Elon faculty or staff serving as mentor shall nominate the applicant. (Typically the mentor will be a member of the faculty or staff with faculty rank, though applicant may make case for exception if proposal warrants; in all cases, nominator/mentor shall be on long-term contract with the institution.)

The letter of nomination should provide the selection committee with information that addresses the various selection criteria, and that affirms the nominator’s willingness to serve as a mentor to the applicant over the course of the proposed work. (An applicant’s proposed program of study may involve a particular component that calls for additional mentoring; for example, supervising an internship outside of the primary mentor’s area of expertise.) The letter of nomination serves as one of the two letters of support applicants are required to submit. Along with all other application materials, it is due by the posted application deadline.


Applications are to be submitted to the Lumen Prize program office by 12:00 noon on the Wednesday prior to Spring Break. All application materials are to be submitted electronically to the program e-mail address The application form and all additional materials are available for downloading using the links to the left.

Interested parties [primarily the potential applicants, but mentors as well] are invited to attend an informational session conducted by the Lumen Prize director each February. This will be an opportunity to discuss the quality of application the selection committee seeks, as well as to answer questions.

In addition to the basic personal information, the application addresses several areas:

    • Background – applicants will describe prior experiences (both academic and non-academic) that have led them to the interests they wish to pursue in the subsequent years. They will also address the issue of their intellectual curiosity and passion, as well as how their proposals will help prepare them for what they hope to do after graduating Elon.

    • Proposed experiences – applicants will map out their vision for their junior and senior years (including summers). In setting forth their overarching interests and goals, applicants must be able to articulate a serious and clear focus. However, while there should also be adequate specificity at the level of particular experiences, it is understood that proposals may evolve as recipients (in consultation with their mentors) move through the two years. Experiences may include, but are not necessarily limited to, course work, research investigations, creative productions or performances, scholarly-informed service projects/internships, travel, summer workshops or institutes, and international study/internships.

    • Proposed products – the application shall address what specific products will emerge from the proposed experiences. These may include but are not limited to work such as: research reports and/or presentations; artistic productions with accompanying “program notes”; project reports (outlining the basis for and evaluating the outcomes of a service project); technical creations (such as computer programs or computer/electronic hardware) with accompanying description; interviews with accompanying analysis; personal journals. Applications may focus on one major product or multiple related products.

    • Feasibility statement – the application shall also address specific details such as projected needs in terms of materials, equipment, and travel. An overall projected timeline and proposed budget should be included.

In addition to the letter of nomination, the applicant shall arrange to have a letter of recommendation submitted. Applicants are advised to select an individual who can best speak to their accomplishments and scholarly/creative potential. A strong second letter does more than reiterate the identical points made in the letter of nomination.  At times, a recommendation coming from someone in a different department or program within the university than the mentor, or from outside of Elon, can provide such a supplementary perspective. The letter should address both the accomplishments the applicant has already demonstrated and those qualities of mind (intellectual passion, originality, persistence, breadth of interest, openness to intellectual and personal inquiry and reflection) that demonstrate outstanding potential.  While personal character is of course a virtue, both letters should primarily address the applicant's promise for the scholarly/creative work being proposed.

In submitting an application, students thereby give consent to the selection committee (1) to retrieve their Elon transcript to verify their cumulative grade point average and (2) to check with the judicial hearing officer concerning any significant history of violations of the academic or social honor codes.  Applicants chosen for the final round of consideration will be interviewed.


The selection committee reviews applications and decides upon awards. The following criteria were designed to be reasonably clear, but not so prescriptive as to constrain creative, original, or diverse proposals. Overarching criteria include:

    • Quality of intellectual inquiry and integration – application articulates a set of goals that are clear, focused, and of high intellectual caliber; proposed activities/experiences clearly relate and cumulatively support the pursuit of the applicant’s goals; there is a balance between breadth/diversity of experiences and depth of engagement to support an exceptional undergraduate experience

    • Intellectual curiosity and reflection –applicant conveys an intrinsic and impassioned engagement with proposed area of inquiry and expression, and an active openness to discovery and reflection

    • Originality/distinction –application makes clear how the proposed experiences sets this apart (this might be seen in proposals that cut across multiple disciplines, that are innovative within a particular discipline or program, or that bridge traditional modes of academic inquiry with experiences outside the academy)

    • Feasibility –proposed experiences seem plausible in light of availability, timeline, and proposed material and financial supports.


Although the Lumen Prize program is awarded to truly exceptional students, young people even of this caliber, when engaged in a set of experiences as envisioned herein, need close and active mentoring throughout the process. Two types of mentoring are highlighted:

   • The primary mentor who nominated the applicant will be that member of the faculty or staff with a background closely related to the goals and experiences constituting the proposed program of study. He or she will (1) provide guidance and support as the recipient engages in the proposed program of study, (2) consult with recipient about possible new directions for inquiry, and (3) engage recipient in ongoing reflection. (For interested faculty and staff, more information for mentors, including compensation, expectations and responsibilities, is available under the designated link at left.)

    • A second type of mentoring reflects the program objectives aimed at celebrating the recipient’s achievements and supporting the recipient not only in his or her remaining years at Elon, but also beyond – in pursuing graduate education and national fellowships and awards. Dr. Myers, in her role as Director of National and International Fellowships, will work with awardees, providing mentoring, support, and recognition for these pursuits.  Lumen Prize winners are expected to give strong consideration to pursuing fellowships appropriate to their educational and career goals.  

Each prize is for $15,000, to be used over the recipient’s junior and senior years at Elon. A maximum of $10,000 may be used as a tuition scholarship.  No more than $5,000 of that $10,000 shall be used in the junior year.

Recipients will submit reports on a semester basis updating their activities and accomplishments, as well as their reflections on their work. The full report shall be available to the mentor, Lumen Prize selection committee, and appropriate administrators.  Highlights of ongoing activities and accomplishments shall be made available to a broader audience via postings here on the program website. While balancing a respect for scholars' intellectual property, broad dissemination is encouraged.  Hence, recipients are encouraged to seek out opportunities such as SURF, departmental colloquia, guest lectures in classes, and related means of sharing their work with the campus community.  

Although successful applications will entail focused and well-articulated proposals, the nature of such intellectual discovery means that unforeseen experiences, opportunities, and potential detours may emerge over the course of the junior and senior years. Recipients will be encouraged to explore such possibilities with their primary mentor and, should a significant new development emerge, notify the Lumen Prize Director in a timely manner, at a minimum through their regular semester plans and reports. However, as the purpose of the Lumen Prize is to support the intellectual and creative explorations of exceptional students, the general orientation is to be receptive to such developments.   Although flexibility in the direction the project takes exists, it remains the expectation that Lumen Scholars remain actively engaged in pursuit of their proposed work throughout their junior and senior years.  Hence, it is expected that Scholars enroll in a minimum of 8 semester hours of either LUM 498: Thesis Research or HNR 498: Honors Thesis, as appropriate to their individual situation, over the course of the junior and senior years.  These hours may be spaced out as best fits the scholar's program of study and should be planned in consultation with his or her mentor.  Some recipients may already be in other programs [e.g., Honors Program, Elon College Fellows] that require such hours.  The same hours may simultaneously fulfill both programs' expectations; however, even if the other program sets a lower number of required hours, Lumen Scholars are to complete 8 hours of such work.  

To foster a sense of connection among prize recipients, to have recipients benefit from one another’s interests and work, and to celebrate important accomplishments, Lumen Scholars are invited to a Spring dinner. This will include the most recent awardees as well as Lumen Scholars in their junior year.  A separate reception will be held in honor of Lumen Scholars in their graduating year at which their families will be invited.  

Being awarded a Lumen Prize is independent of all other prizes and programs for which the student might be eligible.

While the Lumen Prizes are designed to support the exceptional promise of students who are intrinsically motivated to pursue excellence, there remains a set of baseline expectations that recipients must meet in order to continue receiving the financial support offered by the prize. It is expected that recipients will continue to uphold the academic and social honor codes, that they maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.50, and that they demonstrate appropriate progress in meeting the activities and accomplishments proposed in their application. Recipients will be asked to sign a Letter of Agreement indicating their understanding and acceptance of these expectations. Although a violation of any of these terms will not necessarily result in automatic termination of the award, the recipient will be required to meet with the Lumen Prize director to discuss how the problems will be redressed. Repeated violations of expectations or egregious ones may be grounds for terminating the award. In such cases, the unused balance of the award will be frozen.

For More Information

Dr. Ann J. Cahill
Professor of Philosophy
Spence Pavilion 111
2340 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244
Phone: (336) 278-5703


Elon senior awarded UK Fulbright to research political communication

Mary Rouse, a political science major from Charlotte, North Carolina, will study strategic narratives next year at Royal Holloway, University of London, as she works toward a graduate degree in media, power and public affairs. 

Lumen Scholar recognized for research at national conference 

Elon University senior Taylor Davis traveled to Boston in March 2015 to present her research at a national biochemistry conference. The Honors Fellow received a student travel award and was recognized in the undergraduate poster competition.

Students and faculty participate in physics conference

Elon Lumen Scholar Helen Meskhidze '16 and Associate Professor Anthony Crider each presented at a regional meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers at Wake Forest University from March 27-28.

Lumen Scholar sheds light on impacts of microfinance

Research by Elon University senior Kate Smith-Lin finds that citizens of Indonesia don’t necessarily save more money after a bank opens in rural areas, but they do change the way they save, making it easier to protect their families in times of crisis.

Lumen Scholar's work gives voice to African immigrants

Elon University’s top prize for undergraduate research and creative achievement assisted senior Omolayo Ojo in her efforts to share why people from Senegal move to the United States, and what effect those moves have on families left behind.

Elon senior uses Lumen Prize to write first novel

Brianna Duff used the university's top award for undergraduate research and creative achievement to combine her love of physics and writing into a story driven by scientific principles.