The Georgetown University Writing Center is expanding its awards program to include four awards categories, each with a $1000 prize. The program, sponsored by US News & World Report, is in its second year; last year there were $500 prizes for the top essays in two categories.
The theme is articulating complexity and the deadline for submissions is April 5. The awards are for the categories of natural and physical sciences, social sciences, data and computer sciences, and public policy. Sara Carioscia (COL ’17), the center’s undergraduate staff director, said explaining complex ideas is a crucial and practical skill.
“The ability to communicate really specific and complicated ideas without jargon is going to be important in any work environment,” Carioscia wrote in an email to the Voice. “Many companies prioritize writing over quantitative skills at this point–because so many intelligent and capable people lack effective and efficient communication skills.”
David Lipscomb, director of the Writing Center, said US News works to explain complex topics in areas such as technology, science, and healthcare, and make them understandable.
“We together, US News and the Writing Center, saw this as an opportunity to reward that kind of writing here since it’s so important, especially when you’ve got sometimes a gap between academia and the community, the larger general public,” Lipscomb said.
In summer 2015, Writing Center employees discussed which groups of Georgetown students did not use the Center as a resource. One group they discussed was students who believe that their writing skills are strong enough that they would not benefit from the center’s resources. Carioscia said she proposed an awards system to incentivize those students to take advantage of the center.
The co-head of the Writing Center Awards, Isabella Perera (SFS ’19), said the awards are also a chance to encourage all students of all skillsets and abilities to use Writing Center resources.
“We are not just a place for students of the humanities, which is what people traditionally think of when they hear about the Writing Center, but also those of the natural sciences, quantitative subjects, etc.,” Perera wrote in an email to the Voice. “We believe that no matter your major or career path, being able to clearly explain complex topics is a requisite skill.”
The awards also aim to recognize aspiring leaders and writers who challenge themselves to develop their writing skills. Lipscomb said communicating complex ideas will be crucial for twenty-first century leaders.
“We want to reward good writing that is able to take sometimes difficult, important material that is well-known within a discipline and explain it. Make it come alive. Make it clear and compelling for a more general educated audience. Not dumbing it down. Not distorting it. Not being reductive and simplistic in any way,” Lipscomb said. “And that’s the important thing, and that’s the real challenge.”
In addition to the monetary award, the Writing Center will publish the winning works on the Writing Center’s website. The winners will also have the opportunity to meet US News & World Report employees at its D.C. headquarters. Applicants may submit an essay ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 words. Instructions can be found on the Writing Center’s website.