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2023 Winner: Ismail Kurun

In recognition of Ismail Kurun’s outstanding research in the fields of philosophy, politics and economics, the Acton Institute will be awarding him the 2023 Novak Award.

Ismail Kurun is currently a graduate fellow in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, where he works on political philosophy and medieval philosophy and teaches various philosophy courses. His current research is on political epistemology, specifically, on understanding why and how political actors develop intellectual vices.

Ismail Kurun


Named after distinguished American theologian Michael Novak, this $15,000 award rewards new outstanding scholarly research concerning the relationship between religion, economic freedom, and the free and virtuous society. This award recognizes those scholars early in their academic career who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty, and freedom in economic life.


Current doctoral candidates or those who have received a doctorate in the past five years are eligible. Applicants should have studied theology, religion, philosophy, history, law, politics, economics, or related fields.

Strong academic performance is essential.

Scholar applicants must have a demonstrated interest in the relationship between religion, economic liberty, and the free and virtuous society. Important principles in this relationship include the recognition of human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty, and freedom in economic life.

Scholar applicants must display the potential to contribute to the advancement of a free and virtuous society.

The Novak Award is open to all qualified persons irrespective of race, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, religious affiliation, or disability.


Include the following to be considered.

A complete application is required to be considered for this award and includes the following: 

  • A signed application form [PDF] (must be completed in English). Applications are due on March 15.
  • A Curriculum vitae.
  • A 500-word essay that describes your intellectual development, future plans, and career goals. This statement should elaborate on the source and development of your interest in the ideas and principles listed above. Include how you expect to contribute to a better understanding or application of these ideas.
  • A research paper, refereed published article, or other scholarly work, such as a book, monograph, or a conference paper, on a theme relevant to religion and economic liberty or a related theme.
  • Two letters of recommendation from professors or other established scholars in your field.

The application period is now open. Completed applications must be mailed to the Acton Institute and postmarked by March 15

How to Apply

Mail the completed application materials to:

Acton Institute
Grants and Awards
98 Fulton Street E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 USA

Past Winners