First Place

Oakland University 
Team Members:
Kaitlin Farver 
Hayley Ostlund
Stefan Radke
(Dr. James Hansen, Advisor)

Second Place

University of the Cumberlands
Team Members:
Alicia Spomer
Pete Stern 
Beth Ball
Jennifer Hartman 
(Dr. Colleen Grunhaus, Advisor)

Third Place

Bowie State University 
Team Members:
Carolyn Thorpe
Emilia Henry 
Xiomara Medina
(Dr. Kimberly Mills, Advisor)

The American Counseling Association (ACA) Graduate Student Ethics Awards for Doctoral Degree Students recognize exceptional, demonstrable understanding of the ACA Code of Ethics, the foundation of ethical professional counseling practice.

January 31, 2024 | 11:59pm ET 

February 26, 2024

Members of the ACA Ethics Committee

The names of the team members and the names of the institutions of the winning teams will be published in Counseling Today and CT Online.

First Place Award:

  • $100 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.
  • Complimentary registration for the 2024 ACA Conference and Expo (April 11-13, 2024 | New Orleans, LA), and recognition during event. Winners will receive further information at the time of award notification. 
  • Essay will be posted online.

Second Place Award: $75 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Third Place Award: $50 honorarium and a certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Honorable Mention Award: Certificate of recognition for each student team member.

Sponsor:The American Counseling Association Foundation


  • Each student team member must be currently enrolled in good standing in a doctoral degree program in counseling or counselor education and must be enrolled for a minimum of three credits during the term when the competition will take place.
  • Each student and faculty member on a team must be a member of the American Counseling Association.

Expand lists below to read detailed criteria for doctoral student candidates

  • A counseling or counselor education program may have one team of doctoral degree students and one team of master's degree students in the competition.
  • Doctoral degree and master's degree teams will be judged separately. Teams must be made up of students in the same level of a degree program. This is not a mixed-level competition.
  • Counseling or counselor education programs with separate and distinct campuses may have a doctoral degree team representing each campus. Separate and distinct campuses are considered those that have stand-alone programs.
  • A single counseling or counselor education program that has multiple satellite campuses is not eligible for multiple doctoral degree team submissions. (These campuses would have one dedicated representative in an accreditation process, representing the multiple satellite campuses.)
  • Teams are limited to having either a minimum of three students or a maximum of four students.
  • Each team must have a faculty member who will serve as an administrative contact person for the counseling or counselor education program.
  • The role of the faculty contact person is to represent the team’s counseling or counselor education program only.
  • Faculty members should not act as consultants in the awards competition.
  • The faculty member’s email address must be their own, not that of a student.
  1. Identification of the Dilemma: The team clearly identified the ethical dilemma(s) including conflicting factors, dimensions and variables included in the professional quandary. The dilemma was described in relationship to ethical standards, laws and professional ideas or aspirations.
  2. Proposed Ethical Action: The team proposed action it would take including having: (a) clearly articulated professional interventions; (b) persuasive justification for proposed action; and (c) a description of the professionally recognized decision-making model or process used to arrive at decisions.
  3. Use of the ACA Code of Ethics: The team cited appropriate sections of the ACA Code of Ethics (2014) and, if appropriate, other ethical guidelines considered in rendering their arguments. In addition, the team provided a clear rationale regarding selected sections of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics and any other ethical guidelines cited.
  4. Use of the Proposed Model: The steps of the group's decision-making model were clearly followed and skillfully applied to the case.
  5. Overall: A thorough yet concise paper addressing details of the case and (a) the case study included proper citation of sources throughout the paper using the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association 7th edition for the reference list; (b) the paper was well organized and written, and information was presented clearly and concisely; (c) the paper cited the appropriate scholarly literature relevant to solving the ethical dilemma; and (d) the paper is no longer than 10 pages.


  • Submit an essay addressing this year's essay prompt, found below.
  • Each team member must provide their American Counseling Association member number at the time of submission to enter the awards program. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.
  • Registering on the American Counseling Association website to generate an ID number does not constitute membership. For information about membership, contact the membership department or call 800-347-6647.
  • By submitting an essay, teams and team members agree to allow their names and essay responses to be posted on CT Online.

Expand list below to read essay prompt for doctoral student candidates

Anna is a 30-year-old, fourth year, full-time doctoral student nearing completion of a CACREP-accredited counselor education and supervision program and is co-teaching an online (asynchronous) master’s level counseling theories and techniques course as a part of her doctoral internship.  Several weeks into the semester, one of Anna’s students in the theories course, Jinny Gomez, asks if she can meet with Anna to discuss something that is going on with her in her clinical practicum experience.  Anna schedules a virtual appointment with Jinny in order to listen to and support her as a student.  During the meeting, Jinny tells Anna that she is really enjoying the theories course and learning a lot but is concerned with the way that things are going in her practicum course.  Jinny goes on to tell Anna that her clinical site-supervisor has been sharing increasingly personal information during their supervision time.  Jinny indicated that at first it seemed fine because the supervisor would share in ways that related to Jinny’s experiences and some of what she was going through in her clinical work with clients.  Jinny went on to share that during the past few supervision sessions, the supervisor has openly discussed intimate details surrounding the hardships in her marriage, her parenting struggles, and her own traumatic experiences.  Jinny shared that during the most recent supervision session, the supervisor became emotional and started to cry when sharing upsetting personal details.  Jinny states that at first, she thought that this was just the supervisor’s way of connecting in supervision, she has become increasingly uncomfortable and not sure what to do.  While listening and showing empathy to her student over the course of the hourlong meeting, Anna made the connection that Jinny’s supervisor was Dr. Sanchez, who is also a faculty member in Anna’s doctoral program department and is the chair for her doctoral committee.  Jinny asks Anna for help to decide what to do because when she tried to talk to her Practicum instructor, she felt like the instructor minimized her concern and did not offer enough support or direction.  Anna is worried about how she should respond, as she is generally a student who does not cause problems or complain about anything, and as she is near completion of the doctoral program and does not want to jeopardize the completion or extend it by becoming involved in the issue.  Anna now feels like she is in a position to have to do something, but also unclear about what she should do, as she also does not want to get over-involved or put her relationship with Dr. Sanchez at risk.