JoAnne Rafalson Memorial Essay Contest


The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce that Jacob Zimbelman has been chosen winner of the Rafalson Essay Contest for 2020. Jacob will present his prize-winning paper to the department in a colloquium on Friday, May 1st, at 3:00 p.m. The title of his paper is "The Benefit of the Doubt and the Presumption of Trust." Congratulations, Jacob, on a job well done!

Call for Papers for the 2021 Rafalson Essay Contest

This is the call for papers for the twentieth annual (2021) JoAnne Rafalson Essay Contest. The contest is open to all graduate students enrolled in, and pursuing the M.A. degree in, the Department of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. Papers in any area of philosophy are eligible. The author of the winning paper will receive a cash prize of $1,000, which will be awarded without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, handicap, or financial need. A departmental colloquium will be scheduled in Spring 2021 at which the author of the winning paper will present the paper to faculty, graduate students, and the interested public.

Contestants must submit their essays in accordance with the following submission guidelines. Each contestant may submit only one paper to the contest. Papers must employ gender-neutral language. Each paper must be double-spaced, with at least one-inch margins and page numbers. Each paper must be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 150 words. There must be a single cover sheet specifying title and author. To permit blind reviewing, there should be no self-references or other identifying elements within the papers; authors should identify themselves only on the accompanying cover sheet. Papers must not exceed a length that could be presented, reading at a moderate pace, in 45 minutes or less.

The deadline for submissions is February 19, 2021. Papers should be submitted by email to the departmental Office Administrator, Melinda Davis, at She will remove the cover sheet with the author's name, assign each paper a numerical code, and retain the identifying information until the winning paper has been selected.

Origin of the JoAnne Rafalson Memorial Essay Contest

The JoAnne Rafalson Memorial Essay Contest is funded by an endowment established by Bruce Rafalson to memorialize JoAnne Rafalson and to recognize and support outstanding achievement in philosophical essay writing by NIU philosophy graduate students. Mr. Rafalson is a graduate of NIU’s M.A. program in philosophy.

Rafalson Essay Contest Winners

2020 Jacob Zimbelman
2019 Benjamin Keoseyan
2018 Christopher Copan
2017 Margaret Fife
2016 Ben Cilwick
2015 Jason Farr
2014 Emma Duncan
2013 Griffin Klemick
2012 Micah Smith
2011 Dylan Black
2010 Ben Rohrs
2009 Bryan Chambliss
2008 Blake Roeber
2007 Blake Roeber
2006 Daniel Crow
2005 Brandon Warmke
2004 Peter Nichols
2003 David Tostenson
2002 Patrick Leland