2012-2013 Don Rothman Endowed Award in First-Year Writing Recipients

(L to R) Jeremiah Tsyporin, Alma Morales, Briana Bernstein, Marisol Medina-Cadena, Robin Somers, Celia Fong, Humanities Dean William Ladusaw, Writing Program Chair James Wilson, Sarah Edelstein, Chancellor George Blumenthal, Veronica Flanagan, Magie Amis, Sarah Amador, Maggie McFarland.

Alma Morales

First Place

Alma Morales, for "Nina de Mexico, Student of America--Daughter of Nowhere"
(Steve Carter, Instructor)

Alma Morales and Chancellor George BlumenthalThroughout my many years as an avid writer I have always found my greatest struggles have arisen when the subject of my discourse is myself. To be frank, the mere prospect of embarking on a long paper full of self-examination has always been a rather daunting task for me, one that usually requires the enticement of many sweets to get me through. Such was the process for this paper. It was the end of winter quarter and all that stood between the sweet freedom of spring break was this one paper. Yet neither that nor the bag of Reese’s cups sitting on my desk served as sufficient inspiration to get me started.Describe your experience straddling two cultures; share what it is like to be a Mexican, an American, and a woman. Basically explain what it is to be me. There really was no structured way for me to approach this paper. I simply sat and I wrote; I didn’t stop until the looming word limit forced me to take a breath. I was perfectly at peace with the realization that my response to this prompt would be as messy and complicated as its subject matter. Writing “Nina de Mexico, Student of America- Daughter of Nowhere” resurfaced many old memories, insecurities, and inner conflicts. Like a cheesy movie review I must say I laughed and I cried while writing this paper. Like every great prompt should, Professor Carter’s forced me to examine myself and, on a deeper level, the labels that I subconsciously strive to fulfill. Mexican American Woman: the three fundamental labels that structure my identity. Uing the insight of Gloria Anzaldua and Jean Paul Sartre I found myself questioning: do we strive to fit the mold of the narrow labels that are placed upon us or do we actively define the general terms that we ascribe to ourselves?Thanks to Professor Carter and this complicated paper I took a step towards answering that question. Winning this award and receiving this recognition has been a great honor for me. I have always feared that I possess only the limited skills of a simple small town writer, but standing here now I can honestly say I am proud of my work and I am confident in my writing capabilities.Thank you Professor Steve Carter and the Don Rothman Endowed Award committee for bestowing me with this honor and for enjoying this paper as much as I did.—Alma Morales

Full text of "Nina de Mexico, Student of America,--Daughter of Nowhere"

Second Place

Jeremiah Tsyporin, for “The Mega University”
(Maggie Amis, Instructor)

Jeremiah Tsyporin

In high school I had the attitude that if I did well in mathematics and sciences, there would be no need to be able to write well. I shudder when I imagine my old mindset. I remember receiving my first C, which was, believe it or not, in english, and on a progress report I once received a D- in history because I failed the main writing assignment, I barely made it out of AP composition alive, and I utterly failed the college entrance writing exam. Anytime writing was asked of me, I would curl up in a ball of stress, put it off until the last minute, and eventually put together something with a thimble full of coherence. At the end of my high school experience as a research career in science was becoming something of a vocation to me, I had to face the facts: no more could I ignore writing, and if I wanted to pursue even a minimally interesting career I would need to learn to communicate effectively. After coming to UCSC and wholly involving my life in my freshmen writing class, I discovered something that was, for me at least, life changing: that the humanities are vitally important, fascinating, relevant to many important aspects of being a human being, and writing about it is actually a hell of a lot of fun once you actually put effort into it. And it took me 18 years to try it. I have to attribute much of my success in writing to my Porter Core instructor, Shannon Hayes, as well as the organization of the freshmen writing program. Without working closely with my instructor, peers, and teaching assistant, I would have never moved beyond a rudimentary analyses of art. After my wonderful experience in Porter Core I entered Maggie Amis’ class enthusiastic and confident about writing for the first time in my life. I began writing about issues that interested me, and in very novel ways. I was able to take my newly found writing skills from Shannon Hayes’ class and apply them to material that truly interested me. By working closely with Maggie I was able to develop my own unique writing voice and style. My experiences in writing at UCSC fostered a love for academics, and the way the humanities are taught in college. When I read about massive online education the fire was really ignited in me. For how can the humanities be taught without person to person discussion, and live feedback from a professor? I found a topic I was passionate about, in a subject with a new found joy, and these were the ingredients for a kick ass paper. I truly want to thank my freshmen english professors Maggie Amis and Shannon Hayes, as well as Devon Kelley, the TA in my Porter Core class, and the University system as a whole. —Jeremiah Tsyporin

Full text of "The Mega University"


Honorable Mentions

Celia Fong, for "The Quran, Translation and Controversy"
(Veronica Flanagan, Instructor)

Celia FongIn my Linguistics-based Writing 2 class, my eyes were opened to the power of language and the relationship between words and their meanings. Never before had I critically thought about the profound influence of language, semantics, and lexicography in everyday life, but thanks to my writing 2 teacher—Veronica Flanagan—a little light bulb was switched on in my head regarding the matter.
After studying several short essays that dealt with the idea of translation, I was intrigued by the notion of language, specifically words and the meanings pinned to them. I thought about the many times I had tried to translate one language to another on Google, and was presented with a sentence that literally made sense, but was not comprehensive contextually. As the quarter went on and the research paper assignment drew near, I knew I wanted to write and explore the idea of translation. Eventually I specified my research to Arabic-Quranic translation, as it is an issue that is disagreed upon by many people. After researching the topic, I became enlightened on the many viewpoints regarding the issue, and the reasoning behind each opinion. From gathering this evidence, I was able to formulate an opinion of my own, relating it to translation and its importance. After finishing the paper, I discovered the issues and detriments of translation, as well as the benefits it can have. I learned that there are many lenses through which translation can occur, and while doing so may warp the original meaning of a given text to one individual, it could clarify a text’s meaning to another individual even further, especially across cultures, social issues, and generations. Overall Writing 2 was a very illuminating and informative class. Having learned what I did last quarter I almost think language rules the world, especially the way it used by our world leaders and the media. I am now very critical to the way words are used, and I attribute this to what I learned in Writing 2.
Celia Fong

Full text of "The Quran, Translation and Controversy"

 Marisol Medina-Cadena, for "The Master of  Disguise: Fast Food Chains and Their Influence"
(Robin Somers, Instructor)

Marisol Medina-CadenaI am truly grateful to accept this Honorable Mention. In doing so, it is necessary to give proper thanks to the inspiring professor who has helped me become the writer I am today. I had the opportunity to learn and grow from Professor Somers in her “Meaning of Food” Writing 2 course. For she not only taught me writing principles, but empowered me to believe in my ability as a critical thinker and writer. She provided me with a whole new lens for examining our world through food. Through writing assignments, discussions, and readings I became immersed in the politics of food. I reexamined the way food functions in our society and how food is connected to a larger system of labor, economics, and politics. With each new reading I became even more passionate about food justice and became genuinely excited to learn that throughout the summer I continued to seek resources to continue exploring this topic. I can honestly say I’ve never been so enthused to write an essay because it’s one of those things that often seem like a burden. I often fret about word choice and paragraph structure, which constrain my flow of thought, but for this class I didn’t approach my assignments in such a way. While my writing process is slow--draft, revise, repeat--I really felt I blossomed in this class because I focused on my thoughts rather than the grade. With that attitude in mind I pushed myself to continually improve. Finishing the page requirement was not my goal; instead I felt obligated to unpack my ideas imagining that my writing was crucial to convincing an audience that food justice matters! I was able to do so with the inspiring words I had remembered spoken by Don Rothman. During my first quarter at UCSC, I had the wonderful privilege to hear Don Rothman speak as part of the Oakes Core plenary sessions. He spoke about writing as a tool for change, something that had not always been part of my high school education. So when Rothman said, “We write to avoid the humiliation of silence in the face of cruelty and injustice,” I was moved by his belief that writing can produce change--and in my paper, “The Master of Disguise: Fast Food Chains and Their Influence On Youth” that is what I strove to do. —Marisol Medina-Cadena

Full text of "The Master of  Disguise: Fast Food Chains and Their Influence"

Maggie McFarland, "Mixed Blood, Mixed Emotions: Interpreting a Biracial Experience in America"
(Sarah Amador, Instructor)

Maggie McFarlandGood reading makes you question the world and more importantly yourself, how you are affected by opinions, truths, behavior. It makes you form new ideas, pathways, thoughts every single time you read it; it never gets old, but renewed with each rereading. This is how I view my biracial essay. It's good reading, for me. It is the culmination of all my thoughts, queries and worries revolving around my racial identity and me. With each read, brand new questions and concerns are raised. I feel that this paper can never be finished, because it is the recording of a present understanding of racial identity. A growing internal archive, this paper embodies my ever-expanding conceptions of race, life, culture and me. An epic thank you to the incredible Professor Amador, whose time, perspectives and guidance were invaluable in the shaping a confused and unstable idea into an academic reality. Since writing, editing and reading this paper many times, I realize that I had never known that academic writing had the influence to instill such wonder and self examination within its author. For that lesson alone, I am forever grateful. —Maggie McFarland

Full text of "Mixed Blood, Mixed Emotions: Interpreting a Biracial Experience in America"

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