Excelling with Integrity: A Contest Spotlight

NOTE: the featured image to the left is the 2018 Excel with Integrity contest winner by Yumi Lin.

At the University of California, San Diego, we try to honor and celebrate integrity. We do this in an attempt to counter the often negative way in which people approach academic integrity (as if it WERE cheating instead of the OPPOSITE of cheating). There are two main public ways in which we do this: 1) an annual Integrity Awards Ceremony held every April in which we celebrate “integrity champions” among our faculty, staff, students and alumni; and 2) an annual “Excel with Integrity” Contest in which students submit art (written, video, song, visual) to explain how or why they excel with integrity or why excelling with integrity is so important. Here are just a few of my favorite samples of the winning entries over the last few years.




In 2016, Ashley Cartwright treated us to a wonderful rewrite of the famous opera song – Carmen.

In 2017, Kimberly Diaz brilliantly took the famous Gorillaz album and rewrote the lyrics of some of the songs to create an “Integrity Days” Album.

And in 2018, Amanda Chong wrote a poem to express the importance of academic integrity.

There are many more winning entries displayed on our UC San Diego Academic Integrity website, but here are the lessons I think that any institution can draw from our spotlighted experience.

Lesson #1 – Celebrate Integrity. Don’t let a cheating scandal be the first time people hear about the importance of integrity on your campus. Be proactive and be positive – integrity is something to be desired and developed, not feared.

Lesson #2 – Spend a little to get a lot. We give $250 to the winner of our contest and $150 to the runner-up. You can adjust that amount to suit your campus. We have found cash to be the most attractive draw to the contest. One year we had a bicycle donated (worth far more than $250) and we received fewer entries! So, it may be the usefulness/convenience of the prize is more important than the dollar amount.

Lesson #3 – Involve students. Students should be involved in the designing/creating of your proactive and positive integrity efforts if you want them to attract students. They should also be involved in judging/picking winners – for example, the adults in the room never would have picked the Gorillaz album entry since most of us didn’t know what the “Gorillaz” were!

Lesson #4 – Showcase the results. The fruits of your efforts shouldn’t just be noticeable for the one day or event. Build your website to highlight your awards, your contest and your other positive-proactive approaches on a daily basis. This can help feed the culture, changing hearts and minds until they believe that the institution cares about integrity and that integrity is something for which we should all continually aim.



About the Author
Tricia Bertram Gallant, Ph.D. is the author of Academic Integrity in the Twenty-First Century: A Teaching and Learning Imperative (Jossey-Bass, 2008), co-author of Cheating in School: What We Know and What We Can Do (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), editor of Creating the Ethical Academy: A Systems Approach to Understanding Misconduct & Empowering Change in Higher Education (Routledge, 2011), and section editor for the Handbook of Academic Integrity (Springer, 2016). She is the Director of the UC San Diego Academic Integrity Office and Board Member of the International Center for Academic Integrity, and has been an ethics lecturer with the Rady School of Management. When Tricia blogs, the content is hers and should not be attributed to her employer or ICAI.