2013-2014 Don Rothman Endowed Award in First-Year Writing

(L to R) Erica Halk, Chancellor Blumenthal, Tanner Rose, Heather Shearer, Maxwell Sutton, Rebecca Hurdis, Danielle Williams, Humanities Dean William Ladusaw, Veronica Flanagan


2013-14 Award Recipients

Tanner Rose
"The Hidden Minority"

(Instructor: Lindsay Knisely)

Tanner Rose

            When I sit down to write a paper, I imagine that I don't go about it like a typical college student. I don't prepare two pots of coffee before opening my laptop, like one of my friends does. I don't like to make an outline, or even come up with a structure for my paper until I'm finished. What seems to work for me is to just sit down and type. Sometimes the first thing I get down ends up as my conclusion, or maybe as the middle of my essay, but when I write I like to focus on my content rather than my organization. Once I get all my ideas out is when I try to fit the pieces together as a coherent paper. Usually, this works, although I'm never 100% sure until I get the paper back.
            I guess the fact that I have the privilege to stand up here today is a testament to the fact that somewhere in my writing career, I picked up the necessary tools to succeed. Or, as one of my jealous friends tried to tell me, I just got lucky this time. But, I can definitely say that I wouldn't have won this award if I hadn't had the opportunity to be in Professor Lindsay Knisely's class fall quarter last year. Her feedback in writing group and the novels of text she wrote on my essays were invaluable to me as I worked to become a better writer. There were times when I felt like Knisely had more to say about my essay than I had to say in my essay. It made me honestly look forward to receiving a paper back, because her thoroughness meant I never felt like I had been graded unfairly. Not only that, but Knisely's ability to allow open discussion and debate about important issues of race, gender and equality made core class a place where I heard everybody's opinion, allowing me to have a much broader perspective on these issues. So thank you, Professor Knisely, for everything you taught me last year. I learned not only how to improve my rhetoric, voice, and grammar, but I think even more importantly, I had my eyes opened to the institutionalized racism and sexism that pervades our country.
            It was through this new lens of understanding that I wanted to write about my story, a story of a how a white male can feel like a minority his entire life. When I discovered that I am gay, I felt... Honestly, I can't really think of the right word. I felt angry. Angry, because I felt like I didn't deserve it. I hadn't done anything wrong. I felt hopeless. Hopeless, because my dreams of being somebody worth anything, had been crushed at the age of 13, and I hadn't done anything. But more than anything, I felt scared. Scared of going to hell, scared of never going on a date or having a first kiss, scared of not being able to get a job one day, but more than everything else, I was scared someone would find out. This warped view of homosexuality came from my brainwashing--I'm sorry I mean education--in evangelical Christian schools. In my paper, “The Hidden Minority,” I wrote about my experience growing up in a highly bigoted environment where I was made to believe that homosexuality is a choice and that all gay people are destined to burn in hell.
            Today, I'm not angry anymore, because I know that sexuality isn't a punishment from god or a curse; it's biological. I'm not hopeless anymore, because I've seen how people like me have succeeded against all odds, and I know that they have made the path a little bit easier for me. And I'm not scared anymore, because I had that first date, I got that first kiss, and I lived to tell about it. But even more importantly, I'm no longer scared because I realized that the people who truly love you, and who truly matter in your life, will always be there to support you no matter what. So I want to say thank you to my Mom and to my Dad, whose love and support have given me the strength to keep going through the hardest times. Thank you.

Full Text of "The Hidden Minority"

Maxwell Sutton
"Critique of 'Voting Democracy Off the Island': An Argument That Won't Hold Water"

(Instructor: Erica Halk)

Maxwell Sutton
Challenge can complicate everything. If there is one thing I learned from Erica Halk’s Writing 2 course, it is the importance of examining, questioning, dissecting and then reexamining everything no matter how simple it seems. Erica’s course focused on reality TV, an element of culture that is seemingly as simple as they come. I’m a film major so engaging in a complex discourse about the craft and implications of visual media is a large chunk of my academic life. That being said, I was wholly unprepared for the kind of lessons I would learn about media analysis, literary critique, and effective writing strategies in a class that required me to deeply engage with and analyze TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I entered the class with a false sense of confidence about my understanding of media critique and exited with a more critical eye and invaluable writing skills that I’ll forever take with me in the industry that I love and in my future as a writer. I want to thank Erica Halk for her guidance and incredibly impressive hands-on approach as an educator. I think her entire class would agree. I’d also like to thank the entire Don Rothman Committee. I am honored and humbled to be receiving this award.
Full Text of "Critique of 'Voting Democracy Off the Island': An Argument That Won't Hold Water"

Danielle Williams
"Identity Thief"

(Instructor: Rebecca Hurdis)

Danielle Williams

At the beginning of college, I expected a new start and a sudden burst of knowledge to be laid upon me. However, sooner rather than later, I discovered that college expanded my mind with profound analytical thinking. When I first arrived at UCSC I knew nothing but the fundamentals of writing. I used writing as a function of work and not as a creative expression. I have always been an excellent student in all my classes and worked hard but I did believe that I was never a great writer. My focus entering the University was Business Management. It still is my intended major but I have discovered the art of writing and it has also discovered me. Professor Hurdis’s Oakes Core Course petrified me when I first read the syllabus. The overwhelming amount of coursework and the expectations of critical thinking about the society around me took me by surprise. I was not always the most talkative student in class, but my ears were always ready to listen to my classmates and professor. Oakes Core opened my eyes to not only a new world, but a new reality, by inviting me to engage in social and cultural topics involving issues of race, class, and gender. As all of this new information entered my mind, the experience that my essay is centered upon occurred (it was in my second week here at UCSC). I was extremely upset, and my anger was internalized until Professor Hurdis gave us the prompt for a narrative essay to examine our race and identity. It was hard to condense both those topics into only five pages of writing, but after reading bell hooks and Omi and Winant, I went to my dorm room and began to type furiously, unleashing the mad woman I was. I released the pressure, and a passion of anger I have never felt before. The experience of typing “Identity Thief” was as if another person was taking over my being and finally claiming a voice. It was a voice that I never used, and it felt amazing. My first draft of the narrative essay was originally called “Just a Joke” but as I kept revising my paper I realized that this wasn’t just about college kids joking around, but it was more serious than that. It became about the fact that the University only has 3.7% black undergraduate students and the attempt of assimilation happened carelessly. My essay became about how a joke was not so simple and ultimately how my identity was at stake. This helped me realize and appreciate who I really am as an individual, which is a textured, driven, and passionate black woman. The title of my essay changed from “Just a Joke” to “Identity Thief” as I peeled back the layers and unmasked the deeper meaning of my identity as a black woman.  Being black is a great part of my identity, and it is more than some pigment of color: it is embedded in every part of my surface and I embrace it wholly. It is only my second year here at UCSC and I am still learning aspects of myself and the society in which I am becoming an adult. I have also chosen to take a creative writing class to continue writing this quarter and enjoy it. As I deal with the ups and downs of college life not once did I think I would be here before you all accepting such a prestigious award. I would like to thank Jessica Neasbitt and the Westside Writing Center for the very helpful critiques and improvement of my writing skills. Lastly and foremost, I would like to thank the Don Rothman Endowed Award Committee for granting me with this honorable award and Rebecca Hurdis for recognizing my work and listening to what I had to say. This is a great honor and thank you all very much.

Full Text of "Identity Thief"

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