Each year one student is chosen to receive the Freshman Studies Writing Prize. Students may submit papers for consideration for this award to the Freshman Studies Director at the end of each term. Papers should not be substantially rewritten from their original submission to the student's instructor. Winning papers will demonstrate outstanding critical analysis and thoughtful articulation of a problem and its solution. A small committee of Freshman Studies instructors will select the winner each year.
Previous winners of the Freshman Studies Writing Prize include:
2020 Willow Higgins, Vancouver, Wash., for her paper I I I I: Louis Ironson in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. This insightful argument not only offers a comprehensive and sensitive analysis of a central character in Kushner’s play, but does so in a way that illuminates the political and emotional logic of the work as a whole. Committee members felt that in addition to teaching them something, this paper inspired them to read the play again.
2019 Qiuyu Fan, Chengdu, Sichuan China, for her paper, “The Larger Purpose Behind the Contradictions in the Bhagavad Gita.” She begins with the thoughtful claim that, properly understood, the logical contradictions in parts of the Bhagavad Gita actually enrich the work. Her argument then neatly unfolds through the presentation of specific contradictions regarding the fruits of action and the equality or inequality of individuals, deftly resolved through the recognition of the multiple perspectives required by the text.
2018 Andrew Meade Stelzer, Urbana, IL, for his paper "Spiritual Children: Role Reversals in Fun Home." With a keen eye for both textual and visual analysis, Andrew shows how Bruce and Alison play the roles of Daedalus and Icarus at different points in the text. More specifically, the paper argues that these role reversals occur through Bechdel's allusions to Ulysses. His arguments present the reader with a deeper understanding of Bechdel's characters of Alison and Bruce, and of Bechdel's construction of their relationship.
2017 Elizabeth Bridgwater, Fort Collins, CO, for her paper, “Approaching Understanding: A Double-Ended Method with Feynman’s Hierarchies of Ideas.” In a well written and carefully argued essay, Bridgwater examines an often misinterpreted passage from Richard Feynman’s fifth lecture in The Character of Physical Law. Through logical arguments and clear examples, her paper thoughtfully explains Feynman’s position that a deep understanding of the world requires us to think both scientifically and philosophically.
2016 Rohan Sheth Nair, Bangalore, India, for his paper, “Renunciation and the Man of Discipline in the Bhagavad-Gita.” In a sophisticated and carefully argued essay, Rohan resolves a seeming contradiction in the text by introducing a distinction between positive and negative renunciation. The exceptionally clear writing presents the reader with a powerful insight leading to a deeper understanding of the Gita.
2015 Emma M. Reading, Castle Rock, Colorado, for her paper, "Are We in Their Light?: A Discussion of the Portrayal of Women in John Adams’ Dr. Atomic as a Means to Analyze the Function of the Opera as Art." Arguing that the opera functions to expose injustice while promoting change, Emma makes a careful study of gender roles, developing a nuanced interpretation that balances the female characters' limitations against their empowerment. The paper is especially noteworthy for its close readings of the libretto, its use of the plenary lecture, and its compelling treatment of the opera as a work of music.
- Are We in Their Light?: A Discussion of the Portrayal of Women in John Adams’ Dr. Atomic as a Means to Analyze the Function of the Opera as Art (PDF)
2014 Andrew Gabriel Hill, Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, for his paper titled "Woolfin' it Down." With a keen eye for detail in its examination of both Virginia Woolf's prose and her appeal for gender equality, this paper explores Woolf's views on the interdependence of the writer's mind and body as seen through two contrasting meals. Andrew's sophisticated stylistic choices and perceptive textual analysis combine to create a compelling argument, one which is especially noteworthy for the fact that it was written during the first term of Freshman Studies.
2013 Meghan Alice Ethelyn Clark, Manchester, Missouri, for her paper, “Timelessness of Cultural Tension Towards Progress.” Miss Clark's analysis of both authors, comparing the "moral reasoning" advocated by West to that of the "androgynous mind" Woolf championed was fresh, well-written, and interesting. The thoughtful comparison of works across terms exemplified the goals of the Freshman Studies Program.
2012 Katherine P. Mueller from Broomfield, Colorado, for her paper, “A Labyrinth of Books: Jorge Luis Borges on the Implications of Infinity.” The essay interprets Borges’ exploration of infinity of time, space, and knowledge in his short stories, “The Library of Babel” and “The Garden of Forking Paths.” The paper was striking by its careful development of more and more sophisticated analyses of the stories. Katherine argues that Borges both mocks human attempts to construct significance from random events, even while he recognizes (and may be amused by) our persistence in the fruitless attempts.
2011 Nicole M. Wanner from Hudson, WI, for her paper, “The Protestant Cause: Natalie Zemon Davis“ Use of Religion in The Return of Martin Guerre.” The essay presents a well-organized, clear, and cogent argument that analyzes Davis’ interpretation of religion in the twists and turns of the 16th Century trial of a man accused of imposture. Through her analysis of Davis’ book, Niki leads readers to an understanding that the nature of doing history is inherently subjective.
2010 Abigail Amy Wagner, for her paper, "A Different Type of Rhythm," in which she clearly countered an early critic's argument about Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Her essay effectively describes how Stravinsky's music and Nijinsky's choreography invented a new rhythmic language that both evoked a primal past and challenged the modern audience.
2009 Emily Cook, for her paper, "Borges's Real Concern," a skillfully argued, clearly written essay, which challenges the reader to rethink stock responses to Borges. By the end of the paper, the reader realizes that Borges is concerned not with the secrets of the universe but rather with our human relationships to those secrets.
2008 Emily Koenig, for her paper, "Decisions, Decisions." Offering a sharp analysis of Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish,” this paper shares the virtues of its subject. The observations are particular and telling, the language precise, the conclusions strong and sound. In the paper, as in the poem itself, the author sharpens our vision and deepens our understanding.
2007 Daniel Parks, for his paper entitled "Critical Analysis and Milgram's Response," (PDF) a sharp, evenhanded analysis of the ethical issues raised by Milgram's famous experiment.
2006 Andrew Graff, for his paper entitled "A paper on Italo Calvino," an unconventional effort that skillfully borrows Calvino's style to argue that an author's original purpose remains forever his or her own.
2005 Alisa Jordheim for her paper entitled "Salvation for the Underground and Eden: Christian and Utopian Language in Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground and Leopold's A Sand County Almanac," (PDF) in which she skillfully argues both works employ spiritual language in similar ways and to similar ends.
- Salvation for the Underground and Eden Christian and Utopian Language in Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground and Leopold's A Sand County Almanac (PDF)
2004 Miriam Gieske for her paper entitled "Human Interaction with Nature in the Works of Aldo Leopold and Elizabeth Bishop," (PDF) a skillful integration and compelling analysis of two very different texts that concern the role of humans as interpreters of nature.
Margaret Helms for "The Weight of 'Disaster' in Bishop's 'One Art,'" (PDF) and extremely well-focused short essay that uses elegant prose while demonstrating a keen eye of detail and a sophisticated deployment of key theoretical constructs from Bishop's poem.
2003 Jon Horne, for his paper entitled "Socially Constructed Reality and Meaning in Notes from Underground" (PDF). The paper is a sophisticated and articulate response to literary criticism in which the student skillfully uses Dostoevsky’s text to provide an alternate view of the novel.
2002 Linda Shaver, for her paper on Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, "Compounded Irony: Reactions to an Over-deterministic Existence." (PDF)
2001 Anna Berkvam Corey for her comparative textual analysis entitled "A Matter of Circumstance," (PDF) in which she asserts that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein exemplifies the type of writing called for by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own.
2000 Clara Muggli, for her paper "The Scope of Woolf's Feminism in A Room of One's Own." (PDF)
1999 Angela D. Sarkissian, for her paper "Keeping Up Appearances: An Examination of Europe's Claim to Superiority in the Colonization of Africa as seen in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (PDF)
- Keeping Up Appearances An Examination of Europe's Claim to Superiority in the Colonization of Africa as seen in Conrad's Heart of Darkness (PDF)
Michal K. Trinastic, for his paper on Achebe's Things Fall Apart "External and Internal Causes of the Downfall of the Ibo"