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30 Years of UC Davis Students’ Prized Writing

By Jeffrey Day on October 8, 2019 in University

Quick Summary

  • The latest edition of “Prized Writing,” nonfiction works by undergraduates, will debut at 30th anniversary celebration Wednesday, Oct. 16
  • Some 600 works published over the years, by students in disciplines all across campus, from English to molecular biology
  • Writers reflect on their "Prized Writing" experience and how it shaped their lives and careers

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis, Liz Garone was among the authors whose works went into the university’s first book of Prized Writing (1989-90).

Her personal story, “Not Simply Pure — Olive Oil,” about how her grandparents brought along gallons of it when they immigrated from Italy and how it is her favorite moisturizer, would help launch her writing career.

Garone (B.A., American studies and English, ’90) will be a speaker at the Wednesday, Oct. 16, debut of the newest volume of Prized Writing (2018-19), a cause for double celebration as this year’s book is the 30th anniversary edition.

Prized Writing, published by the University Writing Program, or UWP, in the College of Letters and Science, showcases nonfiction works by undergraduates in disciplines all across campus.

“Being in Prized Writing definitely had an impact on my decision to become a writer,” said Garone, a journalist based in Alameda. “Writing was always something I enjoyed doing, but to receive recognition and see my name in a book gave me that extra push to continue with my writing and ultimately become a journalist.”

Chancellor Gary S. May, faculty and students also will address the Prized Writing celebration. UC Davis Stores will set up a table for book sales ($17.72) — and the book also will be sold in stores.

Since its inception, Prized Writing has published about 600 pieces by nearly as many writers from English, international relations, geology, economics, electrical engineering, art history, molecular biology, Japanese and many other majors.

Each issue contains about 20 works selected from nearly 500 submitted. Some are technical, complete with charts and graphs on topics such as the phototoxicity of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the starlet anemone, while others are personal and emotional.

Most are a mix of the writers’ experiences, reflections and research. Subjects in the 2018–19 edition include speech synthesis, feral boars, sex trafficking, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a day of skipping school in San Francisco, and Africa at the end of the last ice age.

“No other forum provides a more representative, wide-ranging and engaging experience of what our students are learning, thinking and writing about in classrooms throughout the campus,” said Gregory Miller, continuing lecturer in the UWP who is in his fourth year as editor.

“In addition to providing deeply satisfying reading experiences, many of these essays will, like those before them, find their way back into classrooms — at UC Davis and beyond — as writing models.”

Shaping careers

Erinn Kynt mugshot
Knyt

Erinn (Losness) Knyt (B.A., music, ’03) is another author whose Prized Writing experience proved to be an important factor in life and career. At the time she wrote her piece, about Bach and the Lutheran Chorale, Knyt wasn’t sure if she would pursue a career in piano performance or music history.

“My essay is clearly a student work, but it might have been my first paper that had original aspects to it, and as such, it represented a significant breakthrough for me as an author,” said Knyt, an associate professor of music history and graduate program director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I am not sure if the publication was central to my decision to pursue an academic career, but it probably boosted my chances of getting into a good graduate program.”

Students whose works appear in the 2018-19 edition have similar stories about how writing their pieces was a significant academic and personal experience. 

Although many of the students outside the humanities and social sciences delve into highly technical papers (an important part of the UWP curriculum), fourth-year math major Caleb Morin wrote about his father leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to a certain extent, his family.

“We've talked about his experience for as long as I can remember, but this class presented the first opportunity to look at it from a narrative perspective and put it into words,” Morin said. “I felt more validated by the insight the instructor offered me than by the fact it was selected, but both boosted my confidence in my writing.” 

Finding her voice

Garden
The new edition of “Prized Writing” includes Arisa Bunanan’s piece about UC Davis’ Native American Contemplative Garden.

Arisa Bunanan, a fourth-year double major in art history and studio art, wrote about UC Davis’ Native American Contemplative Garden, situated along the Arboretum Waterway near the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The garden is a memorial to the Patwin who once occupied this land, including 13 whose remains were uncovered during the Mondavi Center’s construction in the late 1990s. (On Sept. 26, the campus dedicated a Patwin history plaque outside the Mondavi Center.)

“Throughout the process of writing this paper, I found my voice as an art historian,” Bunanan wrote in her introduction.

Krista Keplinger, a fourth-year history major, tapped into her family’s experience for a lively and moving interview with a woman who had been incarcerated at a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

“Being able to talk to a survivor who had similar experiences to my grandfather’s was cathartic, as I never had the opportunity to ask my grandfather about his time in the camps before he died,” she said. “It was like finally getting answers — and closure.”

The story called for research and writing methods new to Keplinger. “I spend most of my time buried in books and primary sources, and history research is normally very solitary,” she said. “It was a huge change to actually interact with a human being and then contextualize her experiences through a historical lens.”

UWP highly regarded

UC Davis has long recognized the importance of writing instruction and in 1966 instituted an upper-division writing requirement, later replaced with a writing course. The Campus Writing Center was founded in 1981, offering discipline-specific writing courses and helping faculty integrate writing more effectively into their courses. Most of these were part of the English department.

The University Writing Program was established as an independent program in 2003–04. It offers a minor in professional writing and a graduate program with designated emphasis in writing, rhetoric and composition studies.

Since 2007, UC Davis has been ranked among the top colleges and universities in the nation for writing in the disciplines by U.S. News & World Report.

Authors and artist, 2018-19

 

Jeffrey Day is a content strategist in the College of Letters of Science.

Media contact(s)

Gregory Miller, University Writing Program, 661-808-0322, glmiller@ucdavis.edu

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