McLeod first-year prize winners announced

The annual prize, named for Dean James E. McLeod, recognizes original research papers by first-year students on the topic of race, gender, or identity.

This year, six members of the Class of 2024 were named finalists for the eighth annual Dean James E. McLeod First-Year Writing Prize. 

At the WashU Writing Showcase held Sept. 29, the College Writing Program provided an opportunity to celebrate exceptional writing and talented writers from the Class of 2024. In addition to highlighting writing from the newest edition of REMAKE, the CWP’s literary review, and Emerging Voices, a regular reading of student work, the event recognized the winners of the eighth annual Dean James E. McLeod First-Year Writing Prize.

The McLeod prize was created to award first-year students who engage in research that explores some aspect of race, gender, and/or identity. Dean James McLeod, the namesake for the award, was a great supporter of intellectual engagement and the transformation that can occur when students immerse themselves in the study of subjects they passionately care about.

This year, finalists for the McLeod prize were chosen from an unprecedented nearly 200 entries. Students or instructors from any discipline could nominate an original research paper for the award. Two winners, two runners-up, and two honorable mentions were recognized in the 2021 selection process.

McLeod prize winners Shriya Penmetsa and Lily Coll with Clara McLeod.

Lily Coll, now a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, is one of the two overall winners of the 2021 McLeod prize. Her winning essay “A Civil Rights Law of Our Own,” examined “intersectionality and the disability-race analogy” in the trailer for the 2020 documentary Crip Camp.  

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write my essay about something related to disability; I grew up being very close to my aunt who has Down Syndrome and was really interested in exploring the field of disability in an academic setting,” Coll said. “I had watched the documentary Crip Camp with my family and thought there was so much depth to it, especially regarding how disability intersects with race. I chose to write specifically about the trailer because I think it's very interesting how a producer chooses to market a film and what they think the audience would want to see.”

Coll credits both her experience in the College Writing Program and her courses in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with helping her approach race and identity in the research paper. “Because so many WGSS classes focus on issues of intersectionality and identity, I think it was the WGSS classes I had taken so far (as well as my College Writing course) which helped me think critically about intersectionality in the trailer,” she said.

“I feel extremely honored to have won the McLeod Prize and to be able to recognize the great achievements and legacy of Dean Mcleod,” Coll shared. “It has definitely inspired me to keep working hard and to keep writing!”



Lily Coll for "'A Civil Rights Law of Our Own': Intersectionality and The Disability-Race Analogy in the Trailer for the Documentary Crip Camp" 

Shriya Penmetsa for "Stagnant Prejudice Against Dark Skin in South Indian Cinema"


Runners Up

Kaden Chaudhary for "WashU Undergraduate Admissions: Portrayal of and Catering to Economic Diversity"

Renata Shen for "Illustrious or Illegitimate? Defining Youth Taiwanese National Identity"


Honorable Mentions

Dylan Mack for "Social Determinants of Health: Gender Identity"

Jessie Wills for "'My Adidas:' The Wins and Losses of Hip-Hop Fashion in a Prejudiced America"