WCI Writing Contest

Each semester, the Writing and Critical Inquiry Program holds a writing contest for students currently enrolled in WCI. The winners and finalists are honored at an end-of-the-semester celebration where winners read from and discuss their work to an audience of UAlbany students and faculty.

The WCI Writing Contest at UAlbany is special in that it’s not just a few professors picking the “best” essays from a batch; it’s a collaborative effort between a core group of WCI faculty and their students who, together, read, discuss, and debate in order to come to a collective decision. Faculty members read all submissions and select a small batch of promising essays to bring into their WCI classes. Students, who serve as the final judges, then discuss the submissions and vote for a winner.

The collaborative nature of the judging process provides a unique opportunity for faculty members to reflect on their own writing pedagogy by reading student work from a sampling of classes and discussing with their colleagues how they see the writing demonstrating the core concepts valued by the WCI program. Subsequently, it also provides students an opportunity to fully participate in the process of critical inquiry by identifying the rhetorical moves used by the student writers and by engaging in intense discussion with their classmates to determine how these sampling of essays have achieved or attempted to use writing to pursue sophisticated and complex thought. It’s not just about honoring good writing—it’s about determining together what effective writing looks like and how it’s used to deepen inquiry. By selecting several finalists, the contest also honors the idea that there is no one way to write and that two pieces of “good” writing can be drastically different from one another.

WCI faculty members who choose to participate in the contest are giving their students a chance to partake in an activity that reaches beyond the walls of the classroom by serving as judges for the contest. This helps to make the writing real to students, in that it empowers them to see themselves and their peers as independent and capable writers and thinkers. The contest gives student writing meaning beyond fulfilling an assignment for the professor; it makes apparent that our writing can profoundly impact others. In the best way, then, students can realize writing’s importance in our lives. The end-of-the-semester celebration is attended largely by the students who have served as judges, and such students often reward winners and finalists with letters detailing how these writers have changed their own thinking and writing process.

To read the past winners, finalists, and honorable mentions and what faculty and students had to say about them, please visit our WCI Writing Contest Winners and Finalists pages on the left. For students interested in submitting to the contest, please visit the How to Submit page through the following link: submission details.