Writers find inspiration and motivation in many places—family, friends, the world around them. Over the past three years, a number of Union College students have discovered additional motivation to polish their writing skills for the annual Union College Board of Trustees Writing Awards.
“Last year I received the award for first-year research, and the feeling was exhilarating,” explained Aphelandra Messer, a junior English major who received the award for Creative Writing in 2013. “The prize wasn’t too bad either. After that I made it my goal to enter every year I’m here. The award serves as a great motivator to me because it gives me a tangible, worthwhile goal to work toward.
The Union College Board of Trustees Writing Awards were first introduced in 2011 to recognize Union students’ writing abilities and encourage further development. “Writing is the foundation for most careers,” explained Michelle Mesnard, chair of the Division of Humanities. “We needed to make it a more important part of the curriculum.”
The winners for the 2012-13 school year were announced this week, chosen by a panel of judges comprised of Union faculty, staff and alumni, as well as some writing professionals from the community, in four categories: First-Year Research Writing, Upper-Division Research Writing, Expository Writing, and Creative Writing. The winner of each category received a $1,000 cash award. “The Union College Board of Trustees Writing Awards inspire students to strive for excellence in writing in every genre throughout the curriculum,” said Jeannette Wetmore, the public services librarian at Union College and a judge for the awards. “Sometimes students just need a little extra push to fulfill their writing potential. They know they’re competing with their peers for an award. I think that really helps.”
“The writing awards emphasize to students the importance Union places on writing skills and scholarship,” said Serena Stevens, a 2011 Union graduate currently working on a Ph.D. in psychology, who also helped judge entries. “Students’ abilities in research and creative writing are recognized and rewarded, helping to instill in them a love for knowledge and self-improvement.”
This year the award for first-year research writing went to sophomore music performance major Oscar Enrique Quezada for his paper, “The 2012 Mexican Presidential Election: PRI’s Strategies to Regain Power.”
“I came to Union less than a week before the Mexican presidential elections took place,” said Quezada, who is from Mexico. “During the previous year I became really interested in the political situation and how the presidential election was going to affect everyone. When Enrique Peña Nieto won the election, I wanted to analyze and show the ways his party was able to regain power. Political parties find their way around democratic processes to do things the way they want, and that is not only in Mexico.”
The upper-division research writing award went to Tyson Kahler for his paper, ”Equality in Ministry: Expectations for Pastor-Teacher Relationships Within the Mid-America Union Conference.” Both Messer and senior international rescue and relief major Michael Rohm earned awards for research writing in 2012. This year, Messer’s story, “Stories My Mother Won’t Tell You,” earned the creative writing award, and Rohm’s paper, “Eastward Bound: A Journey from Oregon to Nebraska,” received the award in the expository writing category.
“My inspiration was my mom,” said Messer. “If God is a writer, my mother is one of His most colorful characters. I think she deserves a whole book written about her, but my seven vignettes will have to do for now.”
“I feel the writing awards are a great opportunity to see how my writing skills are evolving,” said Quezada. “It's hard to feel satisfied about a piece of writing, but this one came close to that feeling.”
Both students credit teachers with helping to motivate and encourage writers. “The professors in the Division of Humanities have been invaluable to my writing life,” explained Messer. “They've given me professional advice, feedback on my writing, and sometimes even books. Before coming to Union, I liked writing. Now I see it as part of my life and, hopefully, a future career.”
Details and submission guidelines for the 2014 writing awards program will be posted around campus in the near future, and all eligible students are encouraged to submit their work. “If you are interested in writing but are not sure about your abilities, this is a great way to check how you are doing and to be serious about it,” said Quezada.
For assistance with writing projects, consultants in The Studio for Writing and Speaking (library room 116) are available to help with ideas, editing and revisions. The Studio is open Monday through Thursday from 6-10 p.m. and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.