First-year writing courses stick with University of Michigan students for years, and the essays in this collection bear witness to the transformative experience students have in these courses learning to write differently. The step up from high school to college writing parallels many of the exciting challenges our first-year students face. It can be intimidating, but it’s also a moment of major growth. This year's winning essays show the incredible potential of our first-year students and make us eager to see more of their work in the years to come. On behalf of the Sweetland Center for Writing, it’s my pleasure to congratulate this year’s winners of the Matt Kelley Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing: Madeline Rea and Sarah Wong.

The Excellence in First-Year Writing Prizes are named in memory of our beloved colleague Matt Kelley, who taught at the Sweetland Center for Writing from 2003 until his death in 2011. Certainly, the Writing Prizes are a labor of love at Sweetland; many of us work together to select and honor our Prize winners. Scott Beal, Catherine Cassel, Louis Cicciarelli, April Conway, David Karczynski, Simone Sessolo, and Naomi Silver read and judged this year’s essays. Angela Berkley,  Jimmy Brancho, and Christopher Crowder also judged essays and, in addition, served on Sweetland’s Writing Prize Committee. Last and most crucially, Lori Moizio and Aaron Valdez provided essential support; awarding these prizes and honoring our winners wouldn’t be possible without them.

The pieces you’re about to read highlight the intelligence, creativity, and diligence of first-year writers at the University of Michigan. The work assembled here represents not only the agency, aptitude, and inventiveness of the writers themselves, but also the breadth and depth of insight and learning that characterize our undergraduate writers. We invite you to engage with this excellent work and hope you find it as compelling as we have.  

Gina Brandolino, Ph.D.
Department of English / Sweetland Center for Writing
University of Michigan