The University of Rhode Island’s Writing Across URI program has developed a new undergraduate award that will give students the chance to win a $1,000 prize, whether they’re traditionally writing-savvy or not. 

The award is divided into three categories: science writing, advocacy writing and research writing. Students will submit their work into one category where their writing will be judged by a panel of readers. All submissions will be judged blindly without names attached. A student from each category will be chosen as a winner and a $1,000 prize will be awarded to each of the three winners.

The panel is comprised of faculty throughout various colleges at the University. The panel is dedicated to stronger writing advocacy across campus and will oversee the submissions and awards process.

Director of Writing Across URI Heather Johnson and her advisory group developed the award with students of all majors in mind. According to Johnson, the award offers broad categories purposefully to encourage students of all different specialties to apply. 

“We want to broaden the perception of writing on campus to include a variety of purposes,” Johnson said. “Writing is strong. It has different purposes and different audiences and different media and genres. This is not about ‘the paper’ or ‘the essay,’ it’s about what the writing is doing.”

The purpose of the award is not for students to write new works for submission; Writing Across URI created the award to get students to submit their writing from various classes, internships and jobs. Students should update their work and correct any errors before submitting, but writing a new piece for one of the three categories is not the emphasis of the award. 

“We are encouraging students to revise further, polish further, so that when they’re submitting something it’s of really good quality,” Johnson said. “The Writing Center is a group of readers and is not a remedial service. For me, the strongest writers will go and avail these really good readers who can say what’s working and what’s not working. Even if you got an A in a class, it’s always worth looking at it again.”

Writing Across URI encourages students to appreciate their own writing and how important it is in education and professional fields. 

“I would love URI students to feel proud about the writing that they do, whether it’s in class or out of class and this is one platform for that,” Johnson said. 

Submitting to the award also requires providing a context statement for the committee to review before reading the pieces. According to Johnson, the statement will help explain what the piece was written for, why it was written and how it speaks to the category being applied to. 

Writing Across URI is supported by the Office of the Provost at URI, and this award is sponsored by them. 

If the award is well-received, Johnson and the advisory board will look to expand upon the program. 

“If this year is successful, we’re hoping to add a graduate award,” Johnson said. “Probably a creative award, too. We thought we would start with three categories that touch on a number of different departments at the University so that people might come forward with something that they’ve done for say, a soil sciences class or a music class. We’re just really excited to see what people are writing.”

Sophomore Paige Chakouian, a gender and women’s studies and criminology and criminal justice major, is considering applying for the award. 

“I write a lot in my classes even though I’m not even a writing major,” Chakouian said. “I think it’s nice to see recognition for everyone across the University’s writing and not just one department or major. It just looks like a really good opportunity for the whole campus to get involved.”

The deadline to apply is March 16. The students who win the awards will be honored at a reception with the Office of the Provost on April 29. Official winners will be announced early April. Visit for the complete submission criteria.