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Professional Writing Contest

The English Studies department at WCU is proud to sponsor the 2023-2024 Professional Writing Contest with funding from WCU English Studies Alumni Kathy Rentz.

The Award

  • WCU Undergraduates*: $500 first place; $300 second place; $200 third place.
  • WCU Graduate students*: $500 first place; $300 second place.

2023-2024 Topic: Environmental Matters

Deadline: January 31, 2024

Humanity and nature intersect daily, and from this intersection, what has transpired? Through this writing contest, we invite WCU English Studies undergraduate and graduate students to explore the relationship between humans and the environment with the intention of sharing new ideas, perspectives, or solutions to issues that have arisen due to this complicated connection of humans and nature.

Topics can include but are not limited to:

  • Environmental issues related to recycling; species protection; plastics; air, water, or land pollution; pesticides; herbicides; non-native invasive species of plants; waste water; landfills; water conservation; landscaping; light pollution; environmental literacy programs; land development; or land use.
  • Environmental justice and advocacy, such as populations that have suffered from the practices of extractive industries (mining, water contamination, land use), unequal enforcement of environmental laws, equity issues, or technology issues related to environmental matters.

Topics must have relevance to western North Carolina. The issue can be found at state, national, and even global levels, but the focus must be on addressing the problem as it manifests at the local level in western North Carolina.

*Students must be enrolled in the spring 2024 semester.

All WCU undergraduate English Studies majors and minors regardless of concentration and all WCU graduate English Studies students regardless of concentration.

There is no fee. Please email your paper to by January 31, 2024.

  • 10-12 pages
  • Double spaced
  • One-inch margins
  • 12 pt. Times New Roman.
  • APA Style

The page limit includes front matter, body, and back matter. Photos, illustrations, or other relevant graphics are also included in the page limit. Do not include your name anywhere in the submission.

A white paper is a hybrid document of a research paper and proposal. Please use the following sections for the white paper.

  • Title Page: All papers should include a unique, descriptive title; do not include your name on the title page or anywhere else in the document.
  • Table of Contents: Include a table of contents for all major sections of the white paper.
  • Executive Summary: This is a one-page summary of the topic, current situation, problem, and solution(s).
  • Introduction: Introduce the topic of your paper and explain its relevance to the contest theme as well as its importance in wider conversations about the environment.
  • Current Situation: Use current and relevant research to document the current situation regarding the topic.
  • Problem Statement: Explain clearly, and with detail and description, what the problem is and who it is a problem for.
  • Solution(s): Explain clearly, and with detail and description, each solution considered in solving the problem identified earlier.
  • Recommendation: Identify a solution for the problem, and explain how that solution will solve the problem identified earlier.
  • Conclusion: Explain how will the idea presented in this paper contribute to overall environmental conversations and/or improve the environmental matter addressed?
  • List of References
  • Back Matter (if relevant)

Long-form professional writing genres, such as academic/scholarly papers or articles, web sites, proposals, etc.  

All papers should include credible outside research sources to support claims throughout the paper and include at least three visuals.

All papers must be submitted as a pdf document. For graduate students who are submitting a web site, please submit the link to the web site in your submission email.

A team of professional writing and rhetoric professors will read and select winners for the award. Winners will be notified by email by February 14, 2024. Criteria for selection includes clear demonstration of critical thinking, creativity, feasibility, and interesting, persuasive, and correct writing.

Winners will be asked to attend and deliver a short five-minute presentation of their work at the Professional Writing and Rhetoric Contest Speaker Event on February 22, 2024.  

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