2015-16 Don Rothman Endowed Award in First-Year Writing

(L to R) Diana Rothman, Annalisa Rava (instructor), Jennifer Fullerton (award winner), Corolin Wahl (award winner), Vicente Lovelace (award winner), Writing Program Chair Heather Shearer, Brij Lunine (instructor), Tyler Stovall (Humanities Dean), VPDUE Richard Hughey, Veronica Flannagan (Rothman Committee Chair) Picture by: Yin Wu

 2015-16 Award Recipients

- First Place - 
Carolin Wahl
"Political Divisions in Europe-The Refugee Crisis"
(Instructor: Brij Lunine)

First Place

This essay was written as a research project in my writing 2 class. It is about the reasons that caused the refugee situation in Europe to become a major crisis, and the implications that this crisis might have on European politics. I chose the general topic of the refugee crisis because it was important to me and that I did not know as much about as I wanted to, because the news on it provided little background information. I think that when writing an essay, it is very important to find a topic that is interesting and that one can relate to, especially if it is a longer assignment. In my experience, it is very hard to write about something one does not care about, and almost impossible to produce good writing in the process. 

For me, the hardest part about writing an essay is usually to get started on it. This assignment helped me a lot with that, because it was broken down into several smaller pieces, which made the bigger problem a lot easier to tackle. I found that this can be a very useful thing to do, epecially if one does not know where to start. 
When I started the assignment, I had no idea about what specifically I wanted to write about, much less what my argument might be. So I started out doing general research on many different aspects of the topic, and by following the paths that sounded most interesting, I was able to narrow down my topic. In the process of doing that, I came across an article that I could build my argumentation on, and once I found that key point, it was easy to find related material and use it in my argumentation. 

This assignment showed me a different way of writing an essay. Instead of engineering an argument and then builing pieces around it to make it fit together, this essay was more like an exploration: Just get started somewhere and see where you end up. 


- First Place -
Jennifer Fullerton
"Bat Simulator: Discourse Edition"
(Instructor: Annalisa Rava)

First Place

This isn't exactly the most meaningful part of my essay--it's one of my main points, sure, but not the whole thing--but I feel like it highlights the two skills I really honed during my first year of writing: how to capture my own voice, and how to contribute to discourse in a way that is meaningful.
The thing that's interesting about college is that your writing is allowed to betray your personhood, which was a wild concept to me the first time I encountered it.  I, of course, took that new freedom and ran for the hills with it; if there's any writing "tactic" that I'm likely to abuse, it's voice.  I love getting colloquial, I love making jokes, I love italics, I love dramatic sentence structure; I love to talk.  I'm also no stranger to expressing myself through text: my closest friend lives an entire continent away from me, and I've been a part of the social-text-web for a very long time. It just wasn't until recently that I realized I could combine "real world" writing with the voice I already had.  Before I didn't even know I had a voice in academic writing, especially one that might be heard, and therefore, one that must be used wisely.
Of course, talking about bat simulators isn't exactly the most profound topic on the planet, but it was in the process of writing this that I realized I can actually contribute ideas that aren't Franken-stitched together from regurgitated texts.  In the past I might have blown off something like connecting anthropomorphism-discourse to video games as just another "stupid thought," and that I need to "quit making my life revolve around video games and go outside."  But it turns out, that's the fun part of college writing; it's about sitting your audience down, telling them "I know it sounds weird, but hear me out," and showing them a way to step outside the box previously didn't know.  Talk about what you know, because you do know something.

- Honorable Mention - 
Vicente Lovelace
"Boiling Point: The Tea Party from 2009-Present"
(Instructor: Catherine Carlstroem)

Honorable Mention
Writing is a sizably difficult subject to improve. What complicates improvement in writing more than any other subject, I find, is that the proper writing method and standards for a “finished product” vary almost infinitely. I have had professors who believe writing is a demonstration of one’s best effort, a demonstration of one’s best argument, a demonstration of one’s best prose, or sometimes all three. My advice to cut through the murk about improving writing skill is to write your own way. That is, write about your passions, your ambitions, and what you know. I know and I am passionate about the democratic process, so I wrote about its most salient threat: white supremacy and domestic terrorism masquerading as legitimate political discourse. The mechanics, such a proper citation, structure, and writer’s habits, will all come from writing about what you enjoy talking about. Thank you all very much for this award.

See Also