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Prizes & Awards

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Prizes for Students

Undergraduate writers may not submit the same essay to more than one prize.

Awards of $300 each are offered for excellent expository writing in First-Year Writing Seminars, Expository Writing, and Writing in the Majors sections. To be eligible for these awards, essays must have been written in response to a teacher's assignment. Student essays are eligible for possible submission in Discoveries, the Knight Institute's annual magazine of student prize-winning essays. Every student submitting an essay for prize consideration must fill out an application  and must send the essay, if a winning entry, to in an electronic format (editable text, not a PDF).


Prizes for Students in First-Year Writing Seminars 

Fall 2017 submission deadline – Thursday, December 14, 2017

  • Elmer Markham Johnson Prize
    This prize is given in memory of Elmer Markham Johnson, who taught first-year English at Cornell and served as Chancellor of Telluride House. (Fall) [Application]
  • James E. Rice, Jr. Awards
    The generosity of the Adelphic Cornell Educational Fund allows us to offer two James E. Rice, Jr. '30 Awards of $300 each. Honorable mentions, if any, will receive $100. Publication of winning entries in next year's Discoveries is also possible.  Judge Rice, a leader in civic and philanthropic activities in Tompkins County for over fifty years, was a student of Elmer Markham Johnson. (Fall and Spring) [Application]
  • Adelphic Award 
    The Adelphic Award is sponsored by the Adelphic Cornell Educational Fund. Each semester an award of $300 is made for the best essay written in a First-Year Writing Seminar by a student whose native language is other than English. Honorable mentions, if any, will receive $100. Publication of the essay in next year's Discoveries is also possible. (Fall and Spring) [Application] 
  • Gertrude Spencer Prize
    The Gertrude Spencer prize of $350 each will be awarded to a graduate student instructor and his/her student for work together that led to the student's finished essay. The teacher may, for example, have designed a sequence of readings accompanied by journal entries, one-paragraph analyses of texts, a rough draft, and a revision, culminating in a student essay. The essay itself may well be one that is significant not because it is "perfect" but because it shows that the student improved significantly in understanding of the discipline and in ability to write within the discipline. (Fall and Spring) [Application]
  • Gertrude Spencer Portfolio Award
    This prize, in the amount of $350 to the graduate student instructor and $350 to his/her student, is given in memory of Gertrude Spencer and will be awarded each semester to a student and instructor in recognition of excellence in the development of a portfolio of the student's essays. (Fall and Spring). A portfolio (including a minimum of four essays and no more than seven) might display the growth in the student's writing ability over the course of the semester; it might show the excellence of the student's work in a variety of modes of writing; it might display the excellence and development of a student's work with a particular topic. [Application]

Prizes for Upper-level Students

Fall 2018 submission deadline – Thursday, December 14, 2017

  • Expository Writing Prize (English 2880/2890)
    Given each semester, courtesy of the Knight Fund, to the student who writes the best essay in English 2880 (Fall) and English 2890 (Spring). [Application]
  • Knight Prize for Writing in the Majors
    Offered each semester for the best student paper written in a course affiliated with Writing in the Majors. (Fall and Spring) [Application]
  • Neil Lubow Prize 
    Through the generosity of the Riger Potash Family Fund and with the sponsorship of the Cornell Program on Ethics and Public Life, this prize is given in memory of Neil Lubow ?66, who was a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. It is awarded for an outstanding essay in ethics, including moral philosophy and ethical issues in public policy, science, business and personal life. 

    An award of $300 is made for the best essay submitted from a First-Year Writing Seminar, English 2880/90 (Expository Writing), Writing in the Majors, or classes participating in the University Courses Initiative. Publication of winning essays in Discoveries is also possible. [Application]

Prizes for Instructors

Fall 2017 submission deadline – Thursday, December 14, 2017 unless otherwise noted. 

  • Knight Award for Writing Exercises
    The Knight Award for Writing Exercises, each semester in the amount of $350, recognizes instructor excellence in short exercises designed to improve student writing. Appropriate topics may be drawn from the whole range of writing issues, large to small scale, such as development of theses, use of primary sources, organization of evidence, awareness of audience, attention to sentence patterns (e.g., passive/active voice; coordination/subordination), attention to diction, uses of punctuation, and attention to mechanics (e.g., manuscript formats, apostrophes). Exercises may be developed for use in and/or out of class. (Fall and Spring) [Application]
  • James Slevin Assignment Sequence Prize
    The James Slevin Assignment Sequence Prize of $500 will be made to the teacher submitting the best sequence of writing assignments used in a First-Year Writing Seminar. (Fall and Spring.)
    Assignment sequences in a writing course are built around a series of essay topics, but submissions should also include a rationale and a description of your plans for eliciting and responding to student drafts and revisions. You might also describe your ideas on how you ready students for each essay assignment, for example by engaging them in preparatory writing exercises, including informal writing designed to help students understand the material on which they subsequently write formal essays. Reflections on what worked well, and why, and on what you would change another time would be welcome. [Application]
  • Information Literacy Assignment Sequence Prize
    This prize of $500, awarded by the Olin and Uris Libraries, will go to the instructor submitting the best sequence of information literacy assignments used in a First-Year Writing Seminar. Assignment sequences must incorporate information literacy as a key component of a research assignment. The sequence should also include a collaboration with a librarian. Examples of such collaboration include interacting with an instruction librarian through the assignment design process and/or a library instruction session. Submissions should also include: a rationale and a description of your plans for eliciting and responding to student research performance; a description of how you prepare students for each assignment, for example by engaging them in preliminary exercises; and a brief reflection on what worked well and why, and on what you would change another time. [Application]
  • The Teaching Portfolio Award for Graduate Student Instructors of First-Year Writing Seminars

    Each spring the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines will give two awards of $750 for outstanding achievement in reflective pedagogy, as embodied in a teaching portfolio submitted by a graduate-student instructor of a First-Year Writing Seminar. An Honorable Mention, if any, will receive $250.  All worthy submissions will receive a Teaching Portfolio Certificate from the Knight Institute. Applications for the award must be submitted to the Knight Institute office (M101 McGraw Hall) by Thursday, June 28, 2018.  [Application]


Teaching Fellowships

  • The Buttrick-Crippen Fellowship provides a full year of support during which the Fellow can devote him- or herself to the study and practice of teaching composition within and beyond the context of his or her discipline. Supporting materials should be submitted (101 McGraw Hall) by January 10, 2018. [Application]



The winners will be announced to the Cornell community, and copies of winning submissions will be made available to interested persons.