2011-2012 Don Rothman Endowed Award in First-Year Writing Recipients

Writing Program Chair James Wilson, Grace Lukach, Maggie Amis, Jacqueline Tejada, Farman Robinson, Humanities Dean William Ladusaw, Endowment Founder Don Rothman

Don and Grace

First Place

Grace Lukach, for "Living Beside the Shadow of Death,"
(Maggie Amis, Instructor)

Grace Lukach

The presence of my grandparents has lingered since their deaths, both memories of their lives and how they passed. My grandfather died after months of grueling hospital care; my grandmother died unexpectedly and peacefully. Trying to make sense of their deaths left me confused by our culture’s obsession with prolonging life despite suffering and our anxiety around letting go. These thoughts became charged within me, but I was never encouraged to articulate these feelings until I had the privilege of working with Maggie Amis and the good fortune of finding physician Atul Gawande’s piece, Letting Go, in the New Yorker archives. The product of my reflections was my essay, Living Beside the Shadow of Death, which examines our relationship as living beings to our inevitable deaths.

This paper meant more to me than anything else I have ever written. While it gave me the opportunity to grow as a writer, it also pushed me to more deeply reflect on the passing of my grandparents. It was not easy for me to write, but conversations with my family and with Maggie helped me better understand my emotions. Ultimately, writing this paper revealed to me some personal truths, both how I choose to live and how I hope to die. The entire process was as much a challenge as it was enlightening, and I am so grateful to have been graced with the wisdom and support of Maggie, along with the constant memory of my grandparentsGrace Lukach

Full text of "Living Beside the Shadow of Death"

Second Place

Jacqueline Tejada, for “Sovereignty and the Self-Made Superman: Deconstructing Nietzsche’s Ubermensch”
(Edward Kehler, Instructor)


Entering college was a pretty nerve-wracking experience for me. I never felt confident as a writer growing up.  I knew how to write to a rubric, but I never felt like I truly had the voice my audience was looking for to captivate them. I’d always gotten straight A’s, but I had no idea what kind of grades to expect coming into college. So when I got to Santa Cruz and heard about the rigorous Stevenson Core Course I had gotten myself into, I was scared. I remember the first day of my Core Course, I told my professor at the time - Jerome Frisk - that I couldn’t wait to be able to confidently say that I’m a good writer. He told me I’d come to the right place. Only now can I see that it was the combination of both courses that led me to be the kind of writer to receive this award. To illustrate this, I’ll tell you that back in Fall quarter I had a boyfriend who was an English major. I’d spend countless hours devoting time to writing my core essays, but he’d always be the one to edit them for me and make me feel truly confident that I had a good essay ready to be submitted. Then, after I came back from winter break and entered Edward Keller’s core class, my boyfriend broke up with me. I can honestly say that in all of the heartbreak that I felt, I was honestly afraid to write an essay without his help and encouragement. The essay that I submitted entitled Sovereignty and the Self-Made Superman that received this incredible award was the second essay I ever wrote without his help. The grade I received on it along with the honor of this award are both symbols to me of my growth not only as a writer, but as of the kind of strong, independent person that I’d always strived to be. I also owe quite a bit of thanks to my core professor during Winter quarter, Edward Keller. I always meant to thank him in person for being the best English instructor I’ve ever had. Never before have I had an instructor write an entire paragraph of constructive criticism on every single student’s essays. His detailed notes guided me towards finding the voice I always thought I lacked and compelled me to expand on my ideas. In hopes of not sounding overly cliché, I would like to say that because of my experiences during my winter quarter, along with professor Keller’s excellent course and the honor of receiving this award, I feel like I can finally say that I’m a good writer. Thank you again. —Jacqueline Tejada

Full text of "Sovereignty and the Self-Made Superman: Deconstructing Nietzsche’s Ubermensch"


Honorable Mentions

Farman Robinson, for "Through the Looking Glass by Charlie Parker and Jackson Pollock"
(Roxi Hamilton, Instructor)

Jack and DonI was upset when I was forced to take my writing 2 requirement at the end of my sophomore year.  Being an Electrical Engineering major, I was frustrated that I had to take a chunk out of my valuable academic schedule to comply with some writing class which I felt had no meaning.  I actually picked my class based solely on the fact that it was at Merrill (where I was living) and I wouldn’t have to walk across campus to reach a class that I didn’t even like.  But then when I learned that it was writing about the arts, my frustration was eased a little bit.  And when I went to class, I found that the discussions which talked about creativity and expression were far from what I had become accustom to for the past two years. 

Instead of hard mathematical facts and solid proof, I found that writing an essay can be used as an art form of expressing ones thoughts and feelings.  I drew a parallel between the art we were studying and the poetry I loved in high school.  When it came time to write an essay comparing two forms of art I went all out in my artistic expression.  I painted in words, the scene I saw in my head of Jackson Pollock and Charlie Parker, both struggling to create and produce something we call art. But it was the way I could set the mood and create the scenes that really intrigued me.  I almost didn’t even want to continue writing the analytical part of the essay which I felt I had to include in order to get academic credit.

Then, knowing that every essay has a deadline, I turned it in, hoping at best a passing grade.  The so called “correct prose” of english essays was turned inside out and made into a story in my mind and I was really hoping I could turn out a C in the class and escape from all of the chaos which was language structure and continue with my major.  Then a few days later in class, Roxi Hamilton pulled me aside when we were in small groups having discussions, to talk about the essay that I had turned in.  My heart felt like it melted.  Not in the good way, but in the “Oh no, I’m going to community college next year to satisfy some dumb GE.”  As I waited for the reprimand and shame to come out of Roxi’s mouth I heard “Jack, this essay was fantastic.”

All I could mutter were a few thank you’s as I tried to piece together what was happening.  I’m not to sure what I did, but from what I can gather, I guess I hit the nail on the head with regards to writing about art.  It wasn’t meant to be some prim proper essay which I had written in my Core Course or High School English class.  It was about taking an idea about artwork, and using words to convey that idea to an audience.  I guess that what I really pulled from that class was how to have fun in writing again.  Throw prose, grammar, and every other rule I had been force-fed through my years in the public education system, and take ownership over what you write.Farman Jack Robinson

Full text of "Through the Looking Glass by Charlie Parker and Jackson Pollock"


Ephraim Margolin, "A Letter to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels"
(Jessica Samuels, Instructor)

Ephraim and JimI am honored to have my essay awarded the honorable mention consideration. I was motivated to write my essay by trying to understand how a modern day Marxist would approach a post-2008 financial crisis world. By writing this essay from a perspective I did not share I really expanded my writing skills by challenging myself to construct thorough arguments and consider other viewpoints. I would also like to thank my teacher, Jessica Samuels, who has constantly encouraged and challenged me to be the best writer I can possible be. —Ephraim Margolin

Full text of "A Letter to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel"