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The Carmel and Howard Friesen Prize in Oral History Research

The Carmel and Howard Friesen Prize in Oral History Research recognizes scholarly achievement in using primary source material. The $500 prize will be awarded to a UC Berkeley undergraduate who submits the best essay in any discipline that draws upon Oral History Center interviews. 

About Carmel and Howard Friesen

The prize is named for Carmel and Howard Friesen, Cal alum who shared a love of the campus—which is where they met—The Bancroft Library, and undergraduate education. In 2015, the Friesens granted the Oral History Center a generous endowment that supports this prize, with the goal of encouraging and recognizing undergraduate student achievement in research. The endowment also supports oral history interviews, and Howard Friesen is a narrator of his own oral history, Howard R. Friesen: Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist of UC Berkeley. Carmel (Candy) and Howard were married for 64 years until Carmel passed away in 2015.

About Oral History Center Interview Topics

The Oral History Center has interviews on almost every topic imaginable — with a focus on the United States and a smattering of international interviews. A collection like Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, for example, can address issues including California’s coastal climate, food and wine agribusinesses, and the growth of multinational corporations. Interviews are easily accessible online.

Thematic areas include arts and literature; the environment, science, engineering, and medicine; social movements; community history; business and labor; politics and government; law and jurisprudence; food, wine, and agriculture; and the history of the University of California.

Major projects featuring multiple interviews include: the Berkeley Free Speech Movement; the marriage equality movement; Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front; venture capital; Kaiser Permanente and health care; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; mining and the environment; the law clerks of Chief Justice Earl Warren; the Sierra Club; the disability rights and independent living movement; Napa Valley; and the Japanese American Confinement Site, to name just a handful. 

Searching the Collections

If you know what you’re looking for, select Advanced Search and enter key words in the full text or search anywhere for features. Or you can browse our projects. After you’ve conducted your own search, you can contact Director Martin Meeker if you have an idea for a paper and would like some assistance culling through our collections. 

Eligibility and Selection Criteria


  • You must be a UC Berkeley undergraduate. 
  • The paper must be written for a credit course at UC Berkeley. 
  • Papers should have been written during the current academic year, the previous summer, or the previous spring. For example, for the spring 2021 prize, students can submit papers from a class taken in spring 2021, fall 2020, summer 2020, or spring 2020.
  • The essay should be no longer than 15,000 words and should contain appropriate citations. There is no minimum length.

Due Date and Submission Requirements

Deadline for the 2022 prize is Friday, May 13, at 11:59 p.m. The prize recipient will be notified over the summer. 

Submissions should be delivered via email to Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker. You may submit a paper at any time throughout the year. The prize recipient will be invited to our annual “commencement” event, where we honor all the narrators who gave oral histories over the previous year. This event may not take place in 2021.

Selection Criteria

The selection committee will evaluate the submission based on these three criteria:

  • How well oral histories are integrated within and essential to the overall essay
  • How creatively oral histories are used in the essay
  • And the overall quality and persuasiveness of the essay


Questions may be directed to Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker.

Financial Aid Regulations

Please note: Federal financial aid regulations require that all awards received by a student can not exceed their financial aid need as determined by a Congressional formula. It is possible, therefore, that the cash award for a Prize could reduce some component of a needy student's package of financial aid awards. In these cases, the Financial Aid Office attempts first to reduce loan or work aid; fellowships, grants or scholarships are only reduced as a last resort. For more information, please contact mmeeker@library.berkeley.edu.