Awards & Honors

The Social Policy Analysis Program has two awards for outstanding undergraduate students. Deadlines for all awards are the last day of spring semester classes and nominations/applications should be sent to the Director and Undergraduate Advisor, Melissa Marschall ( (where they are required).

Joseph Cooper Award for Outstanding Social Policy Student ($350)

The Cooper award is in honor of Dr. Joseph Cooper, who became a member of the Rice faculty in 1967 and served as the founding dean of the School of Social Sciences from 1979-1988. In addition to his scholarly work on Congress, Cooper was also a member of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Congressional Records from 1995-2010, a longstanding Board Member of the Dirksen Congressional Center, and a member of the academy advisory council for the Congress Center at Indiana University.

The Joseph Cooper Award is given to a SOPA graduating senior with an overall GPA of at least 3.75 who has a demonstrated commitment to social policy via exemplary engagement in coursework; demonstrated leadership and outstanding contributions in the SOPA Capstone experience; and participation in social policy-based research, internships, leadership positions or student-based, policy competitions (such as the Houston Policy Challenge or Houston Area Research Teams). The recipient of this award will be selected by the SOPA advisory committee, who may also choose to share the recognition between two outstanding recipients.

Social Policy Best Paper Award ($150)

The Social Policy Best Paper Award is given to a SOPA student who wrote an outstanding research paper on a social policy topic in a 400-level research seminar or other relevant course at Rice within the current academic year. Students may nominate their own papers or seminar instructors can nominate outstanding papers. To nominate a paper, please email a cover letter along with the nomination packet to Prof. Marschall.

The nomination packet must include the following:

  1. A cover letter that includes:
    • The name of the student
    • Name of the course instructor
    • Contact information for the student
    • A description of the nature and extent of the student’s contribution to the paper
  2. A copy of the paper
    • Papers will be judged based on independence, originality, incorporation of social policy, soundness of design and analyses, and quality of writing.