Female students

Commission on the Status of Women

Essay Contest 2021

PSU’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Diversity Action Council offer an essay award to support undergraduate and graduate students who will be enrolled at PSU during the fall term of 2021.
One award of $1,000 to an undergraduate student and one award of $1,000 to a graduate student will be made. To qualify for the award you must be a student at PSU in the fall of 2021. The award will go towards tuition or other student fees. Winners will be notified by May 25, 2021.


The events of 2020 brought forth a widespread awareness of the urgent need for social and structural change. From the demands to address the capitalist roots of climate change, to calls to defund the police and address police violence, to questioning immigration policies & practices, to shedding light on the need for greater survival resources outside of what the government provides, the movements all focus on justice. Mutual aid, community self-determination, prison industrial complex abolition, the eradication of anti-Blackness, local climate justice action, and stronger public health resources have become just some of the key topics in thinking about the future. Black and Brown futurism underscores the importance of understanding that we only create what we have imagined possible. Government bodies often only allow "solutions" which do not challenge their power.

Please expand upon the theme by considering the following:

  • How can we create long-term structural change that shows an imaginative justice perspective regarding these issues and topics?
  • What is an example of a structural change that you believe would help us move closer to addressing the social conditions that 2020 brought to mainstream attention as urgent issues?

Minimum Qualifications

Essay contest is open to all students regardless of gender. Applicants must be enrolled as a student at Portland State University for the fall 2021 term.

  • Submissions must include the entrant’s contact information and PSU ID number
  • Submissions must be in MS-Word format, double-spaced with 12-point font including:
    • A 3-5 page (maximum) essay based on the above theme, and  
    • A separate 150-word paragraph about how the award will advance your education and confirmation of  your student standing for fall 2021.
  • Students may enter only one essay.
  • Essays written in a non-English language should be translated into English prior to submission.

Entries must be received by 11:59pm on April 18, 2021, by emailing entry to diversity@pdx.edu with the subject line of the email as “Commission on the Status of Women essay.”

Entries will be evaluated based on: originality, argument, persuasiveness, organization (clarity of concept), style (use of grammar), and how the award will advance the entrant’s education.
Any questions may be directed to the committee at diversity@pdx.edu.

The 2021 Essay Contest Winners:

Jeanette Mmunga, Undergraduate Winner
Public Health Studies, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health

Read Jeanette's essay.


Brigid Bello, Graduate Winner
Master of Social Work, School of Social Work

Read Brigid's essay.

Special Thanks to the Commission on the Status of Women Essay Committee

  • Ericka Kimball, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
  • Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., Assistant Professor, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Cory Lira, Assistant Director, Women’s Resource Center
  • K Keith, Director, Queer Resource Center