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The Emmanuel College English Department honored the work of three students’ research papers written in “Introduction to Academic Writing,” as part of the seventh annual iteration of the First-Year Writing Prize.

On Wednesday, March 27th, first-place winner Erin Shea – ‘27 and honorable mentions Molly Sandborg ’27 and Libby Tenant ’27 received recognition from their professors and attendees on their research papers, which were judged and selected by a panel of volunteer faculty members. 

The purpose behind the event, explained Senior Lecturer Whitney Wilson – also the Director of “Introduction to Academic Writing” has been to “show first years [their] hard work is recognized,” and that they can then build upon that early success in their college careers. 

Emmanuel students who take the course come from a variety of majors and are able to develop a baseline for writing and researching at a college level that they can apply to any course they take in the future. 

“The prize is something that’s really important to the [English] program and showing the work we do with and for first-year students,” said Wilson. 

The honorees received a shout out from their professors and shared a valuable takeaway from the course, including practice with time management, the chance to learn and research about something they’re interested in and building up their confidence as students. 

Even for first-place recipient and biology major Shea, the research and writing process helped to solidify her confidence as a writer. “I think I spend a lot of time doubting myself, especially in writing – thinking about what to write or thinking my words don’t sound good enough – but this whole experience has really helped me be a more confident student going forward,” said Shea. 

Her paper, titled “The Importance of Creative Writing in Higher Education,” focused on the decline of creative- writing curricula in higher education. Associate Professor Layla Zeitouni, praised Shea’s work in narrowing down a very broad subject and having strong research from the get-go. 

The two honorable mentions went to English major Sandborg, for her paper, “Making a Queer Friendly Classroom,” and Tenant, who wrote “The Dreaded Phenomenon Amongst Freshmen.” 

Sandberg found that focusing on one piece of the paper at a time helped her to get through the process efficiently with a minimal amount of last-minute stress. Sandborg received high praise on the paper from Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Young as well. 

“Across the board, this was an excellent paper,” Young said, “it hit me at my core and made me a better instructor.” 

Tenant’s professor and Dean of the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Lisa Stepanski, applauded her time management on the paper between balancing her first-year courses as a nursing student and time as a student-athlete. She also said she gained a lot of insight about the “freshman 15” and why first-year college students tend to experience weight gain. 

“Like you [Tenant], I felt like I learned a lot from your paper that was helpful to me as a faculty member and as an administrator – there was some really important information in there – as well as that it was uniquely written, so I could tell you put some time into it,” Dr. Stepanski added. 

Completing the research paper was an important step for Tenant because she said it will help her thrive in situations where she’s outside of her comfort zone in the future, especially in her nursing major. 

“After writing the paper, I learned that I could do hard things. I know that sounds silly, but I had a lot of trouble writing a research paper because I’d never done it before. It taught me that I’m able to strive in those uncomfortable positions and grow as a student,” she said.