Get Your Keyboards Ready

The African American Studies Program is holding its first-ever essay competition, open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Essay subjects must be related to African American studies and be between 10 and 12 pages for undergraduates and between 18 and 20 pages for graduate students. The first place undergraduate winner will receive $150, and the first place graduate student winner will receive $250. The winning essays will be displayed in the African American Studies office.

The essay deadline is April 15; however, students can submit a paper already written for a class as long as it meets the subject matter criteria, says competition coordinator Maryanne Boelcskevy, a College of Arts & Sciences senior lecturer in African American studies. The essay committee will be made up of faculty members from the African American Studies Program and judging will be completed before the end of the semester.

Although essays should focus on African American studies, Boelcskevy expects to see many different topics. “Since our program offers courses in literature, history, sociology, political science, international relations, economics, and art, we are looking forward to papers on a wide range of subjects,” she says.

The African American Studies Program, the first such program in the country, began in 1968 with just four students enrolled. Today it offers a minor concentration for undergraduates and a Master of Arts. Organizers of the essay contest hope that it will bring the program more visibility.

“Certainly two major goals of the competition are to motivate students to write a topic in African American studies and to give our excellent program more exposure campus-wide,” says Boelcskevy. “Since good writing is crucial in the University and beyond, the competition fosters that goal as well.”

Boelcskevy anticipates that the essays will take many forms. “There’s no easy formula, such as ‘five things that make a good essay,’ given that each field that African American studies encompasses has its own format,” she says. “In general, an interesting topic, clear organization, and persuasive writing are parts of what every college student should bring to an essay.”