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The W. Donald Bowles Award

Economics Professor Emeritus Donald Bowles established the W. Donald Bowles Award for undergraduate or graduate students at American University. The goal of this award is to give students the opportunity to fund their academic efforts to address income inequality.

In Dr. Bowles', own words: "Widening income disparities and deep inequalities of wealth holdings highlight a classic source of friction in our democratic republic-namely, the need for continual reassessment of balancing collective government efforts to improve the human condition relative to private efforts toward the same end. How to achieve this appropriate balance is a question dating to our very founding as a nation."

This award is given each year by the University Library to a student conducting research on income inequality in the United States through empirical, theoretical or artistic efforts. Following evaluation by the review committee, comprised of AU teaching faculty and librarians, a $1,000 is awarded annually with a $500 runner-up award.

Application Process & Requirements

Please send an email to with the following content/attachments:

  • A description of your research or planned course of study (maximum 2 pages, double-spaced).
  • AU Faculty Member Recommendation Letter.
    • A brief faculty letter in support of your research topic. Faculty members should send an email with letter directly to
    • Subject line: Bowles Award Recommendation - Student's lastname
  • Resum√© (two pages or less with AUID, Address, and Department/Major)

Timeline and other considerations

  • Student must be conducting research on income inequality in the United States through empirical, theoretical, or artistic efforts including but not limited to addressing productivity, income, or poverty.
  • Completed applications accepted through Friday, March 23rd, 2018, 11:59PM.
  • There are no restrictions on the Awardee's use of the funds.
  • Funds may be taxable and may impact financial aid
  • Students who have received a Bowles Award in the past are not eligible to re-apply.

Research Paper Awards

Papers written during spring and fall, 2017 and spring, 2018 semesters will be accepted for consideration. Students may submit more than one paper, but only one award will be granted per individual.

Note: Funds may be taxable and may impact financial aid.

Application Procedure

To apply, students must submit the following to no later than March 23rd, 2018.

  1. Completed application cover sheet with student name, title of project, title of course, name of professor, date of submission to competition.
  2. Letter of recommendation from the faculty member who taught the course for which the paper or project was prepared. (Refer faculty to the list of evaluation criteria)
  3. A brief 500 to 700 word reflective essay describing research strategies, application of library tools and resources in completion of the project.
  4. A bibliography or other listing of sources consulted, if not already included in the paper.
  5. A final version of the project. Written papers should be double spaced and may be of any length. Digital projects should be submitted on a DVD or CD. For other formats, please contact us.
  6. All documents must be submitted in MSWord or equivalent (no pdfs please).

Evaluation Criteria

  • Substantial use of library resources and collections in any format, including but not limited to printed resources, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media;
  • Ability to locate, select, evaluate, and synthesize library resources and to use them in the creation of a project that shows originality and/or has the potential to lead to original research in the future;
  • Evidence of significant personal learning and the development of a habit of research and inquiry that shows the likelihood of persisting in the future; and
  • Originality of thought, mastery of content appropriate to class level, clear writing and a high quality of presentation.

Deadline Approaching!

The deadline to apply for the W. Donald Bowles Award is Friday, March 23rd, 2018 at 11:59PM.

Submit an Application

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Research Awards are available to current graduate (including PhD) and undergraduate students of American University in good standing.

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