This is the 10th anniversary of the annual prize recognizing research papers by first-year students on topics of identity, gender, and race.
On September 27, the College Writing Program celebrated the winners and finalists of the Dean James E. McLeod First-Year Writing Prize.
The prize was created in 2013 to encourage first-year students to engage in research early in their undergraduate careers. The late Dean McLeod, the prize’s namesake, was passionate about helping young students see scholarly potential in topics they care about. Any first-year student can submit an original research paper that explores some aspect of identity, gender, or race.
Two prizes are awarded each year: one to a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, and one to a student in the McKelvey School of Engineering, Olin Business School, or Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Along with a winner, the prize also recognizes a runner-up and an honorable mention in each area.
Aileen Waters, lecturer in the College Writing Program and co-chair of the prize, emphasized the importance of continuing McLeod’s legacy. “It’s about telling students who might not otherwise think it — either because they are a first-year student or because they’re interested in topics that aren’t talked about as much in scholarly research — that their voices matter,” she said.
Ten years on, the College Writing Program continues to try to grow the visibility of the prize on campus. This year, students submitted more than 180 papers. Waters said that with the student authors’ approval, they publish each of the finalists' papers on Open Scholarship. This allows their work to reach a larger audience and serve as an example for future first-year writers. (The 2023 essays will be posted soon.)
Nina Todreas, a sophomore majoring in psychology, won first prize in the Arts & Sciences category with her paper on body positivity on TikTok. She wasn’t thinking about the prize when she wrote the paper, but her professor, Eileen G’Sell, mentored Todreas throughout the writing process and encouraged her to apply. “I think it’s great that they recognize that research can be applied to more than your typical academic fields,” Todreas said. “It’s not exclusive to a certain type of person.”
Arts & Sciences winners and finalists
First prize: Nina Todreas for "Is it Really #bodypositive? Examining the Effectiveness of the Body Positivity Movement on TikTok"
Runner-up: Amelia Wang for "The Paradox of 'Sad Girl' Music"
Honorable mention: Isatou Sey for "Black Women in Film: The Film Stereotypes, Cliches, and Tropes that Negatively Influence Perceptions of Black Women"
Other winners and finalists
First prize: Rosy Almazan from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts for "Coerced Sterilization of Mexican Origin Women: The Marginalization of Their Rights by Rosy Almazan"
Runner-up: Christine Jung from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts for "Conversion Therapy: Recovering from Attempts to 'Repair'"
Honorable mention: Dorian Marr from the McKelvey School of Engineering for "The Disabled Lens: Viewing Gender Performance"