30 Years of Student Writing Celebrated

Cover of 2018-2019 edition of Prized Writing
Cover art for Prized Writing 2018 - 2019
Cover of inaugural issue.
Cover of inaugural issue.

Liz Garone’s personal story about olive oil — how her grandparents brought along gallons when they immigrated from Italy and how it is her favorite moisturizer — published in the first issue of Prized Writing helped launch Garone’s writing career.

Garone (B.A., American studies and English, ’90) will speak at the 30th anniversary celebration of Prized Writing on Oct. 16. Prized Writing, published annually by the University Writing Program (UWP) in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, showcases writing by undergraduate students across campus have done for classes.

“Being in Prized Writing definitely had an impact on my decision to become a writer,” said Garone, a journalist based in Alameda. “Writing was always something I enjoyed doing, but to receive recognition and see my name in a book gave me that extra push to continue with my writing and ultimately become a journalist.”

The event, open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. in AGR Hall at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. Chancellor Gary S. May will speak along with faculty and students. The most recent issue will be for sale ($17.72) at the event and at the campus bookstore.

Hundreds of articles published

Since its inception, Prized Writing has published about 600 pieces by nearly as many writers from English, international relations, geology, economics, electrical engineering, art history, molecular biology, Japanese and many other majors. Each issue contains about 20 works selected from nearly 500 submitted. Some are technical, complete with charts and graphs on topics such as the phototoxicity of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the starlet anemone, while others are personal and emotional. Most are a mix of the writers’ experiences, reflections and research. Subjects in the 2018–19 edition include speech synthesis, feral boars, sex trafficking, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a day of skipping school in San Francisco, and Africa at the end of the last ice age.

“No other forum provides a more representative, wide-ranging and engaging experience of what our students are learning, thinking and writing about in classrooms throughout the campus,” said Gregory Miller, continuing lecturer in the UWP and in his fourth year as editor. “In addition to providing deeply satisfying reading experiences, many of these essays will, like those before them, find their way back into classrooms — at UC Davis and beyond — as writing models.”

An impact on students’ learning and lives

Being included in Prized Writing can be an important factor in students’ lives and careers.

Erinn (Losness) Knyt (B.A., music, ’03), wasn’t sure if she would pursue a career in piano performance or music history when she wrote an extensive piece on Bach and the Lutheran Chorale that appeared in Prized Writing.

cover of 18 - 18 Prized Writing
Cover art by Eriko Tominaga, design major.

“My essay is clearly a student work, but it might have been my first paper that had original aspects to it, and as such, it represented a significant breakthrough for me as an author,” said Knyt, an associate professor of music history and graduate program director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I am not sure if the publication was central to my decision to pursue an academic career, but it probably boosted my chances of getting into a good graduate program.”

Students in the 2018–19 edition have similar stories about how writing their pieces was a significant academic and personal experience. 

A math major on Mormonism

Although many of the students outside the humanities and social sciences delve into highly technical papers (an important part of the UWP curriculum), fourth-year math major Caleb Morin wrote about his father leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to a certain extent, his family.

“We've talked about his experience for as long as I can remember, but this class presented the first opportunity to look at it from a narrative perspective and put it into words,” Morin said. “I felt more validated by the insight the instructor offered me than by the fact it was selected, but both boosted my confidence in my writing.” 

Finding a voice

Arisa Bunanan, a fourth-year double major in art history and studio art, wrote about the memorial garden to the Patwin people that is located in the UC Davis Arboretum. The garden is located near the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts where burials of 13 Native Americans were uncovered during construction in the late 1990s. A plaque about the Patwin was installed near the Mondavi Center entrance in September.

“Throughout the process of writing this paper, I found my voice as an art historian,” Bunanan wrote in her introduction.

Exploring internment camps

tule lake internment camp
Tule Lake internment camp in the 1940s.

Krista Keplinger, a fourth-year history major, tapped into her family’s experience for a lively and moving interview with a woman who had been incarcerated at a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

“Being able to talk to a survivor who had similar experiences to my grandfather’s was cathartic, as I never had the opportunity to ask my grandfather about his time in the camps before he died,” she said. “It was like finally getting answers — and closure.”

The story called for research and writing methods new to Keplinger.

“I spend most of my time buried in books and primary sources, and history research is normally very solitary,” she said. “It was a huge change to actually interact with a human being and then contextualize her experiences through a historical lens.”

Writing Program highly regarded

UC Davis has long recognized the importance of writing instruction and in 1966 instituted an upper-division writing requirement, later replaced with a writing course. The Campus Writing Center was founded in 1981, offering discipline-specific writing courses and helping faculty integrate writing more effectively into their courses. Most of these were part of the English department.

The University Writing Program was established as an independent program in 2003–04. It offers a minor in professional writing and a graduate program with designated emphasis in writing, rhetoric and composition studies.

Since 2007, UC Davis has been ranked among the top colleges and universities in the nation for writing in the disciplines by U.S. News and World Report.

Past Prized Writing issues are online.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science

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