LA&PS reinvents writing contest with new name, new focus

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) has re-launched its annual writing competition for 2016 with a new name: the LA&PS Writing Prize.

Tom Traves
Tom Traves

The competition formerly known as the LA&PS Essay Award began in 1986, and was first created by Tom Traves, former dean of the Faculty of Arts. As its name suggested, the competition was originally intended specifically for essays. But, to commemorate its 30-year anniversary, the Faculty wanted the competition to reflect the changing nature of its role within the University.

“We really wanted to signal that the competition was open to all 21 departments and schools within LA&PS,” said Associate Dean, Students, Peter Avery. “Essays are always very welcome, but both the LA and PS sides of the Faculty are producing a lot of innovative, professional work. Calling it a ‘Writing Prize’ was one way to encourage participation from both sides of the ampersand.”

Any course director in LA&PS may nominate a student paper (one per course) in the appropriate category, and every course director in LA&PS is encouraged submit and entry to the 2016 competition, no matter what department or school they are from. This year, the contest has also moved online to a new website, and now accepts digital submissions in Word or PDF format. There, course directors from across the Faculty can review the contest guidelines and submit papers or assignments. As the website notes, this year, the deadline for Writing Prize nominations is June 1. Any course director in LA&PS may submit a paper composed in any style except creative writing.

The submissions are collected by Writing Department staff and organized by year levels (first to fourth year), with a special category for major research projects and undergraduate theses included.

SIDEBAR LA&PS Writing Prize FlyerThen, small teams of full-time Writing faculty (each responsible for a category) will review the submissions. Using criteria of originality, research, expression (style, structure, etc.) and overall significance, the teams select a winner and a runner-up for each level of the competition.

“We know that different disciplines have different conventions and expectations for effective communication within the discipline,” says Writing Department Chair Ron Sheese. “With the prize we hope to acknowledge a wide variety of formats, styles, and approaches. We are really eager to receive and celebrate many different sorts of work.”

The Writing Department then forwards the 10 winning submissions to the Office of the Dean in LA&PS. The Faculty organizes a reception and public recognition ceremony for the winners in the fall term. A cash award also goes to the winners of the LA&PS Writing Prize.

Submissions with “creative, interdisciplinary, and relevant approaches” were what got the attention of the different teams in 2015, said Writing Department faculty member Jon Sufrin.

“But, the competition jurors consider the assignment goals as well,” he said. “In general, we’ve tried to make the 2016 competition both easy to enter and welcoming to good writing of all kinds.”

For more, visit the contest website at or contact Jon Sufrin at