The SAGES University Seminar Essay Awards highlight the best student writing produced in SAGES University Seminars each year.  The essays recognized here were selected from those nominated by SAGES faculty for this award in academic year 2016-2017.  Student essayists receive a cash award and are recognized at the Spring Writing Program Awards.

The three essays selected for the award this year represent excellent research projects that formed the culminating assignment of the University Seminar experience. Though they all fit the generic bill of a “10-12 page research paper” they also showcase the rich variation in the way meaningful research is conducted and shared across disciplines and genres at CWRU. The writing in each demonstrates creative and critical inquiry—from a thoughtful exploration of current trends in the gender make up of computer science to an application of an old theoretical concept to illuminate new meaning in a current film to a revelation based in personal experience about the way in which doctors construct female patients’ pain. These essays inform, inspire, and transform the reader and writer through processes of meaning-making and sharing.

While these essays each have a unique perspective, they share several hallmarks of successful academic writing: they make claims about relevant and debatable issues, support those claims with evidence from sources as well as their own experiences, and develop clear and compelling arguments based in reasoning and logic. Readers looking for effective models of persuasive writing and close readings will profit from these pieces.We encourage instructors to read and share these essays with student writers as models for effective writing in SAGES University Seminars.


“Investigating Women in Computer Science”

Dina Benayad-Cherif

Written for USNA 287P: Women and Science; Barbara Burgess-Van Aken (Seminar Leader)

This persuasive essay reveals the current experiences of women in computer science. Her argument that culture and sexism are driving women out of the computer science field is thoroughly supported by various sources.


“Post Early Modernism: A Humoral View of Barton Fink”

Michael Neuhoff

USSY 292U: Problems of Genre in Shakespeare and Film; James Newlin (Seminar Leader)

Michael’s close reading applies an old Greek theory to reveal new meanings in the modern film, “Barton Fink.” He uses quotations and examples from the movie to demonstrate his insightful interpretations.


“Adding Insult to Injury: How Physicians Fail Women in Pain”

Halle Rose

Written for USSO 234: Questions of Identity; Gail Arnoff (Seminar Leader)

In this essay, Halle uses her own personal experiences to describe the ways in which women’s complaints have been dismissed by healthcare professionals. Her use of her personal experience throughout the essay, as well as her use of outside evidence, makes this a captivating read.

USEM Essay Prizes (2015-2016)

Whether it’s a social commentary, a persuasive essay, or close reading, these four prize-winning student essays are useful examples of how to effectively use research and evidence to develop a claim in a variety of disciplines. Readers will find that these essays contribute to larger conversations about our culture and how our social constructs have an impact on diverse groups of people living within our society.

Erin Camia’s persuasive essay, a commentary on the social implications of “RBF,” explores the use of the controversial term “resting bitch face” to make several eye-opening statements about how women’s anger is perceived by society and the stereotypes that complicate women’s lives as a result.

Jessica Nash wrote an informative essay on the lack of women in the computer programming field, titled “Re-fashioning the Field: On Gender and Computer Science.” Using a variety of sources, she argues that the social construct of what a computer scientist looks like has impacted the number of women involved in the computer programming field.

Ondrej Maxian wrote a persuasive essay titled “Conserving Culture: CBPR as a Framework for Group Research” on how researchers should go about completing experiments on different cultural groups. He argues for his proposed solution by providing evidence on how it can succeed and also addresses possible opposing viewpoints.

Lastly, Katherine Steinberg’s “Translation in Paradise” is a close reading of the novel “Paradise” and the use of translation within the text. By providing background on the role of translations and what it reveals within the novel, she concludes that translations have a greater purpose than what is visible to the eye.


“RBF and the Reluctance to Accept Women’s Anger”  by Erin Camia

Written for USSY 289J: Beauty Myths Today; Megan Jewell (Seminar Leader)

Assignment Description: 10-12 page argumentative researched essay on a topic that addresses the cultural politics of beauty.

“Re-fashioning the Field: On Gender and Computer Science” by Jessica Nash

Written for USNA 287P: Women and Science; Barbara Burgess-Van Aken (Seminar Leader)

Assignment Description: 10-12 page research paper in which students identified and explored a question related to assumptions about gender in a selected scientific paradigm. Examples of such questions included: How have prevailing scientific beliefs about male and female anatomy affected the struggles of a specific female scientist? What were/are the cultural, political, and scientific factors that facilitated (or are currently facilitating) the shift from one scientific paradigm of gender beliefs to another? What are some current competing perspectives regarding the science of gender?


“Conserving Culture: CBPR as a Framework for Group Research”

 by Ondrej Maxian 

Written for USNA 287K: Human Research Ethics; Michael Householder (Seminar Leader)

Assignment Description: Students read a collection of instructor-selected journal articles that address the controversy that resulted from a study of blood specimens taken from members of the Havasupai American Indian tribe. Based on their understanding of the debate (and adding at least one source they found), students articulated what they thought should be done to ensure that human subjects research is done ethically, especially when scientific values conflict with the cultural values of the research subjects.

“Translation in Paradise” : The Intersection of Languages and their Impact in Gurnah’s East Africa” by Katherine Steinberg

Written for USSY 285V: Castaways and Cannibals: Stories of Empire; Kristine Kelly (Seminar Leader)

Assignment Description: 10-12 page, researched analysis on an issue raised in one of the novels assigned in class (Defoe, Conrad, Coetzee, or Gurnah)

In previous years, SAGES and the Writing Program published the prize-winning essays in booklets. You can find previous SAGES University Seminar Essay Award recipients here in these archives.