Design Your Future: Enter Elon’s 2021 Carret Essay Contest

The American Studies Program invites students to think about the United States Capitol in relation to Thomas Jefferson, who played an important role in its design and construction. The contest is open until April 26, 2021.

2021 Prompt
In January 2021, the United States Capitol was stormed by supporters of President trump and two weeks later served as a backdrop for President Biden’s inauguration. Consider these two events addressing their objectives, rhetoric, and/or visual imagery.

How is it possible to make sense of President Trump’s speech to his supporters and the events on the Capitol on January 6th and Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20? How might both events dovetail with the American values articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and/or in his vision for the Capitol Building?

Contest Guidelines 
Elon University students from any class and major can participate. Entrants may address the prompt in a well-researched argumentative essay of 2,000 words or any other written genre.

Academic essays must include an abstract. Other genres must include an artist’s statement.

It is highly recommended that students work with a faculty mentor. If mentors have any questions about their mentoring role, please direct them to Dr. Cassandra Kircher, coordinator of the Carret Essay Contest (

Please put your name only on the cover page to facilitate a blind review. The contest is run by the American Studies Program and judged by faculty members in various academic departments.

The deadline for this contest is Monday, April 26, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. Carret Essay Contest submissions are due electronically to Samuele Pardini, coordinator of the American Studies Program (

The student whose work receives first place will receive $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid overnight trip to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Second place will receive a $500 award. Third place will receive a $100 award.

History of Carret Essay Contest
The Phillip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition is an endowed contest created in 1997. Carret, a longtime New York investor, fell in love with Elon University after he visited the campus in 1996. The contest was created to encourage students to reflect on the ideals and principles embodied in Thomas Jefferson’s life and career.

Full guidelines and additional information are available at these links:
The Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition
Download this one-page PDF poster