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Competition Encourages Students to Value Writing

By Jean K. Lee
staff reporter

Twenty-five cash awards were presented to 23 students at the annual Ilona Karmel Writing Prizes awards luncheon last Friday.

Initiated in 1985, the competition is named to honor the contributions made to the writing program by former senior lecturer and chair of writing prizes Ilona Karmel, who retired last year.

"The main purpose of the competition is to encourage students in writing and show that we value writing at MIT," said Alan P. Lightman, head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, which administered the contest.

This year, a total of 185 entries were submitted. Prizes were awarded in six competitions representing distinct areas of writing. Some competitions offered awards in subcategories, but in the absence of outstanding entries in a particular category, no award was made. Each writing category was evaluated by two or three faculty judges.

"This policy [on outstanding entries] not only ensures that winning entries are of a high caliber, but also makes winning an award that much more satisfying," award recipient August W. Chang '97 said.

Twenty-five prizes awarded

The Robert A. Boit Writing Prize was divided into three categories. In the category of essay, Minh H.T. Dinh '98 won first place and $250, Marwan M. Kazimi '96 won second place and $150, and Marsha F. Novak '96 won third place and $100.

In the poetry category, Brent A. Ridley '96 won first place, Stephanie A. Jenrette '97 won second place, and Lucius F. Lau '96 took third place, with similar monetary awards.

In the short story category, Esther S. Dutton '96 placed first, Yulan Liao '96 placed second, and Charolette D.W. Iverson '96 followed up with an honorable mention and $50 cash award.

Kazimi also received the single $300 Louis Kampf Writing Prize in Women's and Gender Studies for his entry entitled "Depression and Gender."

The Boit Manuscript Prize was presented in the categories of drama, fiction, and poetry for publishable works of substantial length. In the drama category, the $300 first place prize was awarded to Lawrence K. Chang '97, Ivana Komarcevic '96 placed second and received $150, and an honorable mention and $75 award went to Lin-Ann Ching '98.

Komarcevic also received first prize in the category of fiction, while Iverson won first place in the poetry category.

A separate category open only to freshmen awarded three prizes. First place in the Ellen King Prize for Freshman Writing went to Mark A. Meier '99 along with $150 for his short story. Jessica A. Nordell '99 placed second, receiving $75 for her poetry submission, and Timothy M. Murithi '99 received honorable mention and $25 for his essay.

Two other categories offered prizes for scientific writing.

"It's essential that the future leaders of science and technology have a social awareness and an ability to express themselves both scientifically and artistically," Lightman said.

The DeWitt Wallace Prize for Science Writing for the Public awarded three students for writing about issues and developments in science, medicine and engineering addressed to lay audiences. Patrick J. McCormick '98 received the $300 first place award, A. Arif Husain '97 received second place and $150, and Shelly-Ann N. Davidson '97 received honorable mention and $75.

The S. Klein Prize for Scientific and Technical Writing, the only competition open to both MIT undergraduate and graduate students, recognized interpretive writing in specialized areas of science. A $300 first place and $150 second place award went to August Chang and Karen V. Chenausky G, respectively.

Recipients enjoy creative freedom

Many students felt that the contest encouraged them to continue writing despite their busy schedule.

"It's a really different sense of accomplishment when you know that you've done a good job on something that came out of your own creative sense, not because you've memorized what they've wanted you to," Dinh said.

Some participants submitted material written as formal course work.

"Unless I take a class and am bound by its formal structure, I rarely find the time to write because I feel bound by the formal structures of my technical courses," Ridley said.

"I wish MIT would do more to emphasize the importance of good writing and liberal arts in general," Meier said.

"It's evident that there's a great interest in writing among students--there are plenty of creative and imaginative writers here," Lightman said.

Hodges awards also given

While the luncheon was given for the Karmel Writing Prizes, four students were awarded the Parke A. and Ann L. Hodges Prizes for their outstanding Phase I Freshman Essay Evaluations or Phase II papers, after the main ceremony.

Petra S. Chong '99 and Sachiyo Minegishi '99 took the Phase I prizes.

Debajit Ghosh '97 was awarded first place for his Phase II paper entitled "IHTFP: An Improved HyperText Filing Proxy." Seungtaek L. Choi '96 was awarded second place for "The Compound Action Potential of the Frog Sciatic Nerve."