The application for the 2024 Lumen Prize is now live.


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 recommend the applicant. (Typically the mentor will be a member of the faculty or staff with faculty rank, though the applicant may make a case for an exception if proposal warrants; in all cases, the mentor shall be on long-term contract with the institution.)

The Mentor’s Letter of Recommendation should provide the selection committee with information that addresses the various selection criteria, and that affirms the mentor’s willingness to serve as in that role 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 Mentor’s Letter of Recommendation 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. After applicants begin the on-line application, mentors will receive an email with instructions for submitting their letter through the on-line portal.


Applications are to be submitted via the on-line portal (going live before Feb 15) by 5:00 pm on the Wednesday prior to Spring Break. All application materials are to be submitted via the on-line application portal. The application instructions 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:

  • Focus: The application will provide a clear statement of the guiding intellectual/creative question, issue, or problem that motivates and directs their proposal.
  • Scholarly process: The application will provide a clear description of the disciplinary frameworks, intellectual and/or creative tools and skills, and research methodologies that will allow them to address their central questions in an intellectually meaningful and effective way.
  • 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 Mentor’s Letter of Recommendation, the applicant shall arrange to have a second 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 mentor’s letter of recommendation.  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. The recommendation writer will receive an email with instructions for submitting the letter, which is due on the same day as the application and mentor’s letter, via the on-line portal.

In submitting an application, students thereby give consent to the selection committee to check with the Dean of Students regarding the student’s current status (applicants are required to be in good standing at the time of application) and any significant history of violations of the university honor code (which may disqualify the applicant).  Applicants chosen for the final round of consideration will be interviewed.


The Lumen Prize program seeks to create close, collaborative relationships between Lumen Scholars and their mentors, and generally expects each Lumen Scholar to have a single mentor to provide consistent guidance and feedback throughout the two-year term. However, in some rare cases, a co-mentoring model is more effective for the success of the Scholar’s project and their intellectual development. If the Lumen Scholar is proposing a co-mentored model, an additional statement, no longer than 3000 characters (approx. 500 words), must be co-authored by the mentors. This statement must provide an explanation for why the co-mentoring model (as opposed to including supplementary mentoring in the form of specific classes or one-time 499 credits) is necessary as well as a detailed plan for how the co-mentors will participate in different aspects of the project.

The committee will value co-mentoring proposals that:

1) include both mentors throughout the entire project (for example, proposals that suggest that one mentor will do all the mentoring for the first year, with the other mentor taking over in the second year, will not be favorably reviewed);

2) provide detailed plans for ensuring that the co-mentors will do all evaluative work together, ensuring that the Lumen Scholar does not receive inconsistent or contradictory guidance;

3) provide evidence that the mentors are well matched for collaborative mentoring (for example, by referring to a history of collaboration between the co-mentors, or describing the collaboration associated with the development of the Lumen application); and

4) provide detail regarding the timing and division of the LUM or HNRS 4998 hours.

All co-mentored applications must be signed by both mentors, and each mentor must submit a letter of recommendation. Should the application be accepted, both co-mentors will receive the total amount of the professional development funds for mentoring (i.e., each will have access to $1200 to support their professional development as mentors), but they will divide the 8 LUM or HNRS 4998 hours required over the two-year period. Please contact the director in advance of the application if you have any further questions about the co-mentoring possibility.



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 of 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. Cahill, 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 Lumen Prize provides $20,000 to be used over the recipient’s junior and senior years at Elon. A maximum of $15,000 may be used as a tuition scholarship.  No more than $7,500 of that $15,000 may 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 4998: Thesis Research or HNR 4998: 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.