SHASS Departmental Awards

The following is a list of awards and prizes available to MIT undergraduates from the MIT SHASS academic disciplines:  

Ancient and Medieval StudiesAnthropology | Comparative Media Studies / Writing | EconomicsGlobal Languages | History | Literature | Music | Political Science | Science, Technology, and SocietyWomen's and Gender Studies | School Awards and Opportunities


Ancient and Medieval Studies

The Steven Ostrow Prize in Ancient and Medieval Studies
To acknowledge outstanding achievement by undergraduate students in all topics related to the premodern world, the Program in Ancient and Medieval Studies is pleased to announce a $300 prize for the best undergraduate work on an AMS topic produced in any MIT subject in the current academic year. The prize is named in honor of Steven Ostrow, in recognition of his many years of service to MIT as a brilliant educator and colleague in Greek and Roman History.



MIT Anthropology James Howe Prize

The annual James Howe Prize honors the contributions of Professor of Anthropology James Howe, who retired in 2012. Professor Howe's scholarship has focused on the history and political struggles of the indigenous Kuna population in Panama. A renowned photographer and political activist, not only has Howe's ethnographic work supported the rights of the Kuna people, as a longstanding board member of Cultural Survival — an organization that provides support to and advocates on behalf of the linguistic, cultural, and property rights of indigenous populations around the world — Howe has promoted human rights throughout his distinguished career. The James Howe Prize is awarded each spring.


Comparative Media Studies / Writing

Ilona Karmel Writing Prizes

The Ilona Karmel Writing Prizes are awarded every May by MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing program. This competition was named in honor of the late Ilona Karmel, novelist, poet and Senior Lecturer in the writing program. Throughout her teaching career, Karmel’s outstanding contributions to creative writing at MIT were her inspirational teachings and relationships with students.

Ellen King Prize for Freshman Writing

Writing by freshmen at MIT in any category is eligible; e.g., short story, poetry (must contain at least three poems), essay, and drama.

Enterprise Poets Prize for Imagining a Future

Essays, short stories or poems, that convincingly imagine a future human enterprise are eligible. The word enterprise is used in the broadest possible sense to cover products, processes, companies, industries, forms of government, social movements, artistic forms – any human endeavor. This prize is open to undergraduate and graduate MIT students.

Robert A. Boit Writing Prize

Writing by MIT undergraduate students in the categories of essay, poetry and short story is eligible.

S. Klein Prizes: Scientific Writing

Manuscripts should be intended for non-specialized but educated audiences and show evidence of publishable quality. Open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students.

S. Klein Prizes: Technical Writing

Manuscripts should be intended for an audience of peers and professionals. Open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students.

DeWitt Wallace Prize for Science Writing for the Public

Writing of any length addressed to lay audiences on issues and developments in science, medicine, and engineering. Open to MIT undergraduate students only.

Boit Manuscript Prize

Awarded for longer works and collections, in any category mentioned above, which give evidence of publishable quality. Both completed manuscripts and those in progress are eligible. Works of substantial length by MIT undergraduate students are eligible in the categories of fiction, poetry (minimum length of 200 lines or 10-15 poems), essay, and drama (a play in one act or equivalent).

Writing and Humanistic Studies Prize for Engineering Writing

Manuscripts should be intended for an audience of engineers and other professionals who are knowledgeable about the subject matter. Writing from any engineering discipline is welcome. Types of papers may include design documents, engineering lab reports, literature reviews focused on a particular technology or engineering problem, design reports or proposals, and analyses of testing or other experiments. Group- written reports are acceptable if all authors are MIT undergraduates at the time of submission.

Prize for Writing Science Fiction

Writing by MIT undergraduate students in the category of science fiction short story.

Vera List Prize for Writing on the Visual Arts

Open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students. Writing should demonstrate unusual and thoughtful expression on some aspect of contemporary visual art. Works can be prose, poetry, or graphic format. Sponsored by the List Visual Arts Center.



Undergraduate Economics Association Journal Prizes

To acknowledge excellence in writing in the field of Economics, the Undergraduate Economics Association prints the MIT Undergraduate Journal of Economics at the end of each academic year.  Three cash prizes are given for the best three papers submitted.  The best five or six papers are printed in the journal. For more information, please email Gary King.


Global Languages

Award for Excellence in Global Languages

Awarded annually, the MIT Awards For Excellence in Global Languages is presented to outstanding students who best reflect the unit’s goals for achievement of proficiency in language, cultural understanding and enthusiasm in language learning. Entries are judged by a panel of Global Languages lecturers.

German Studies Excellence Award
The German Studies Excellence Award at MIT, sponsored by Global Languages and MIT-Germany / MISTI, was started in 1997 to honor students of German in each academic year who exhibit unusually strong skills and effort in the study of German language and cultures in classes at MIT. The awards are decided by a jury of German Studies faculty and instructional staff.

Isabelle de Courtivron Writing Prize

The Isabelle de Courtivron Writing Prize recognizes high-quality undergraduate writing (creative or expository) on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or mixed-race experiences. The prize, awarded annually, is open to all MIT undergraduate students. Prize-winning submissions will be featured on the Global Languages website. The prize was established to honor Professor Emerita Isabelle de Courtivron on the occasion of her retirement in 2010.

Miyagawa Japanese Prize
Initiated in 2019, the Miyagawa Japanese Prize recognizes students who have excelled in their study of Japanese, and encourages MIT students to study Japanese language. The award is named in honor of Professor Shigeru Miyagawa. The award is open to MIT undergraduates with a declared HASS Concentration in Japanese.



Undergraduate Writing Prizes in History

The Undergraduate Writing Prizes in History award excellence in historical research and writing in honor of MIT Historians John Dower, Pauline Maier, and Bruce Mazlish.



Peter S. Donaldson Prize for Excellence in Literary Studies

Awarded to a literature major each spring who excels academically and is an engaging participant in the literary community at MIT.

John Hildebidle Poetry Prize

The Poetry Prize is awarded to students who excel academically in 21L.004 “Reading Poetry” and enrich the poetry community at MIT more broadly.



MIT Emerson/Harris Program for Private Study

Funded by Mr. Cherry L. Emerson, Jr. (SM, 1941) in response to an appeal from Associate Provost Ellen T. Harris (Class of 1949 Professor Emeritus of Music), the Emerson/Harris Program offers merit-based financial awards for private study in music to students of outstanding achievement on their instruments in classical, jazz or world music. Each academic year, the Emerson/Harris Program awards scholarships and fellowships to approximately 50 students who commit to a full year's study and participate in the musical life of MIT. Private teacher selections, made in consultation with the music faculty, may include instructors from MIT staff and throughout Greater Boston.

Concerto Competition

An MIT student soloist will be selected each spring to perform with the MIT Symphony.


Political Science

Pressman Awards

Talented MIT undergraduates are recognized annually with the Jeffrey L. Pressman Award for research or internship in U.S. government, politics, policy, law, or education. Pressman Awards include stipends in support of special summer projects or internships in issues related to American politics. The project should focus on a legal, political, institutional, or policy issue. All MIT undergraduates returning to campus as undergraduates in the fall semester are eligible to apply.


Science, Technology, and Society

The Benjamin Siegel Prize

The Benjamin Siegel prize was established in 1990 by family and friends of the late Benjamin Siegel (S.B. 1938, Ph.D.). The Prize of $2500 is awarded to the MIT student submitting the best written work on issues in science, technology, and society. It is open to undergraduate and graduate students from any school or department of the Institute.  Submissions must be a single-authored work of no more than 50 pages written within the last two academic years.


Women’s and Gender Studies

The Louis Kampf Writing Prize in Women's and Gender Studies

The writing prize, sponsored by The Program in Women's and Gender Studies (WGS), was started in 1995-96 to honor Louis Kampf, distinguished professor emeritus of Literature and Women's Studies, and to reward high quality undergraduate writing in women's and gender studies. The Prize is judged by faculty from WGS. MIT students can submit entries in different genres of academic writing as well as fiction and poetry. Submissions should provide thoughtful reflection using gender as a central category of analysis.


School Awards and Opportunities

Burchard Scholars Program

The Burchard Scholars Program brings together distinguished members of the faculty and promising MIT sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, or social sciences. The format is a series of dinner seminars that reflect the vast range of inquiry and research in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Science.

The Kelly Douglas Fund

The Kelly-Douglas fund supports projects that enrich our understanding of one or more of the fields comprising the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT.

Kelly-Douglas Essay Prize for Excellence in Humanistic Scholarship

To acknowledge outstanding achievement by undergraduate students intellectually committed to fields of study that fall under the purview of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT, the Kelly-Douglas Fund awards two cash prizes to the best essays in any field of study within SHASS.

Kelly-Douglas Fund IAP and Summer Travel Fellowships

An important dimension of the Kelly-Douglas Fund is the support for and encouragement of undergraduate education in the humanities, arts and social sciences. A portion of the Fund is reserved for Traveling Fellowships for MIT pursuing an endeavor of their own devising either during IAP or the Summer. All MIT sophomores, juniors, and seniors wishing to travel during IAP or Summer to deepen their understanding of a field in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, or to contribute to a humanitarian project are eligible to apply. Students need not belong to the School of HASS, though majors and minors in the School will be given preference.