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Undergraduate Writing Colloquium Awards

The annual undergraduate writing contest recognizes and celebrates outstanding student writing and shares that writing with the University of Rochester community.


2020 Award Winners

HUMANITIES

Award Winner

Tess Perry
“America’s Opioid Massacre: Rename. Reframe.”
Written for Climate Species Justice (FMS 303), Professor Leila Nadir
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor Anna Rosensweig in Modern Languages and Cultures


“America’s Opioid Massacre: Rename. Reframe” is an insightful and powerfully-written analysis of the current “opioid massacre.” This piece deftly makes the argument thatthis public health event should be termed a “massacre” rather than a “crisis,” or an “epidemic” by highlighting how the histories and connotations of those more frequently used terms obscure the economic and political forces that have produced this massacre. Only when we shift the language around the massacre, HUM43 demonstrates, will we be able to hold accountable those responsible for the production and distribution of opioids. Through its careful analysis of language, its breadth of research, and its combination of personal and analytic registers, this piece offers an excellent example of how urgently we need humanistic inquiry.

Honorable Mentions
Serah-Marie Maharaj
“A Trinidadian’s Perspective on American Society’s Relationship with Food”
Written for Food, Media and Literature (ENG 267), Professor Leila Nadir
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Sarah Murphy
“Black and White and Green All Over”
Written for Advanced Feature Writing (ENG 281), Professor Melissa Balmain
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Professor Anna Rosensweig in Modern Languages and Cultures


“A Trinidadian’s Perspective on American Society’s Relationship with Food” blends humor and trenchant social critique through its analysis of how neoliberalism shapes Americans’ patterns of consumption and attitudes toward food.

Professor Anna Rosensweig in Modern Languages and Cultures


“Black and White and Green All Over” offers a nuanced look at community gardens in the Rochester area by foregroundingvoices of organizers and gardeners to reveal the racial politics marking these projects’ past and present.


MULTIMODAL PROJECT

Award Winner

James Sheinbaum
“How the Player Can Drive the Story: A Look into Agency and Open-World Narrative”
Created for Advanced Writing and Peer Tutoring (WRT 245), Professor Stefanie Sydelnik
Watch Video  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor Stephanie Ashenfelder the Interim Director of DMS and Studio Arts Program Manager


The idea of player control, or agency, has become central to video games and produced interesting debates concerning how we play and access video games. In “How the Player Can Drive the Story” the author contributes to this debate through thoughtful in-depth research. The method of communicating the research issuper effective, the quality of the presentation of the research (video and audio) was excellent. Great Work!

Honorable Mentions
Catherine Ramsey
“Caged Bird”
Created for Incarceration Nation (PSC 224), Professor Joshua Dubler
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C. Daniela Shapiro
“Fault”
Created for Comics and The Moving Image (ENG 119), Professor James Rosenow
View Cover  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor Stephanie Ashenfelder the Interim Director of DMS and Studio Arts Program Manager


The tragic facts of the history of incarceration in America are now widely recognized and this piece of original choreography does an excellent job of capturing the prison industrial complex in America. This is a thoughtful, well-constructed piece of work that expresses the tragedy of American incarceration well.

Professor Stephanie Ashenfelder the Interim Director of DMS and Studio Arts Program Manager


In the comic genre offensive and lazy depictions of sexual abuse far outnumber authentic representations. Like anyone who experiences oppression or trauma, survivors of sexual violence deserve comics that can help them with their personal struggles. This work is poised to help others who have suffered abuse. The narrative and illustrations are well executed and accessible.


NATURAL & APPLIED SCIENCES

Award Winner

Julian Maceren
“Reducing Poly(ethylene glycol) Immunogenicity via Triblock Nanoparticles with an Internal Vinylacetylene-PGMA-N3 Cross-Linked Barrier”
Written for Polymer Chemistry (CHE 476), Professor Wyatt Tenhaeff
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor David Goldfarb in the Department of Chemistry


The author of the winning submission should be grateful they were not judged solely on the readability of the title, “Reducing Poly(ethylene glycol) Immunogenicity via Triblock Nanoparticles with an Internal Vinylacetylene-PGMA-N3 Cross-Linked Barrier.” Necessary jargon and arcane nomenclature aside, for this is an original synthetic chemistry research proposal, the writing is transparent and the organization of the article into sections, Introduction, Background Proposed Work, etc. divides the scientific prose into easily chewed and digested portions, even for the non-specialist. The author writes mostly in reasonably short declarative sentences, the title notwithstanding, and is but a draft or two away from being professional quality. The outstanding feature of this submission is its originality. The author proposes a novel and seemingly powerful solution to a significant biomedical problem in the field of drug delivery using sophisticated chemical synthetic approaches. The argument is supported throughout by original graphics that illustrate key concepts with a level of clarity and readability often reserved for professional graphic artists. The science is well sourced. The requisite synthetic chemical scheme, which could well be Greek, is presented concisely and quite elegantly. The rationale, concepts and chemistry of this proposal are fully developed. As is the case for all well-presented and tightly organized research proposals, the argument feels to the reader like a no-brainer that should have already been tried. I am sold. Let’s make PEG-VA-PGMA-Phe!

Honorable Mention
Nicholas Baronowsky
“Mechanics of the Trumpet”
Written for Classical Mechanics I (PHY 235W), Professor Frank Wolfs
View Paper


SOCIAL SCIENCES

Award Winner

Briana Cahill
“A Holistic Examination of Body Worn Cameras: The Facts, the Pros, the Cons, and the Unknown”
Written for Public Defender Internship (PSC 394), Professor Lynda Powell
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor Reis in the Department Psychology


The paper is timely and original, and is based on the writer’s first-hand experience in the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office. The paper nicely blends the writer’s personal observations with insights from published articles and comments from local officials. The prose is clear and straight-forward, with a good blend of the writer’s thoughts and sourced material. The arguments are sensible and thoughtful, taking into consideration multiple perspectives on the use of these cameras. The paper comes to a well-reasoned conclusion about the need for further consideration about how body worn cameras can best benefit the criminal justice system.

Honorable Mentions
Amina N'Gambwa
“When the Black Woman Stares Back”
Written for The Black Body (ANT 235), Professor Kathryn Mariner
View Paper

Paola Isabel Rodriguez Tiel
“Dependent insular territories and prospects for independization”
Written for Foundations ofModern International Politics (PSC 278), Professor Hein Goemans
View Paper


WRT

Award Winner

Jacen Emerson
“Back to the Stone Age: The Horrifying Darwinian World of The Walking Dead”
Written for Horror of the Graphic Novel (WRT 105), Instructor Zachary Powell
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Professor Molly Ball in the Department of History


What set this submission apart was its ability to combine a clear, well-researched and original argument with an engaging and approachable writing style. The skillful argument placed Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead at the forefront of horror, pushing the genre into the realm of psychological horror and asking readers to grapple with their own selfish tendencies. Integrating both textual, visual and scholarly analysis, this paper demonstrates time and again how humans serve as the real monsters in Kirkman’s Darwinian zombie apocalypse.

Honorable Mentions
Adira Blumenthal
“Effect of Creativity in Computer Science Education on the Gender Gap”
Written for Creativity, Innovation, and Imagination(WRT 105), Professor Denise Malloy
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Needle de Carvalho Wang
“The Gay Accent: Fact, Fiction, and Identity”
Writtenfor Language, Power, and Identity (WRT 105), Professor Justin Coyne
View Paper  ∣ View Comments By Faculty Judge

Professor Molly Ball in the Department of History


A clear thesis, concrete and relatable examples, straightforward writing and an integration of a number of scholarly studies make this a standout paper. It convincingly argued that introductory computer science courses should emphasize creativity more than coding and outputs to create a more inclusive environment and minimize the gender gap in computer science. The argument was not just persuasive, but inspiring and capable of making a reader reconsider their own capacity for computer science.

Professor Molly Ball in the Department of History


I truly learned a lot about the perceptions and implications of “gay” speech in reading this paper. The varied approach was a particular strength, as the author’s writing style flowed smoothly between an evaluation of linguistic studies of multiple languages, primary sources and studies of self perception. Well-researched and thought-provoking, the author successfully challenges the reader to be “less prejudiced, less presumptuous, and to embrace everyone.”



Submission Process

Each spring we accept submissions from students in five categories:

  • Humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Natural and applied sciences
  • WRT 104, WRT 105, WRT 105E, WRT 105B
  • Multimodal Projects from any discipline (e.g. websites, podcasts, video projects)

Submissions should be academic work and may have been created any time during your undergraduate career at UR. Please limit papers to twenty-five pages.

Submissions are reviewed by graduate student writing tutors and faculty members from across the disciplines.

Prizes are awarded for the winning and honorable mention papers/projects in each of the five categories. First-prize winners are invited to present their work at the Writing Colloquium Awards Dinner in order to share their outstanding work and be recognized for their contribution to the excellent student writing produced at the University. This year the awards dinner will be held on Thursday, April 2.

Entries should be submitted using our writing colloquium awards form.

If you would rather email your submission as an attachment, please send it to writingcontest@lists.rochester.edu.

For email submissions please create a title page for the paper that includes the following information:

  • Your name, student ID, e-mail address, and phone number
  • Your class year and major
  • Title of course (if this paper was written for a course)
  • The category for which you are submitting the paper

If you have any questions about the contest please contact the Writing and Speaking Center director at stefanie.sydelnik@rochester.edu.


Past Winners

List of recent past winners and their essays:


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