Dogwoods in bloom on campus

Exemplary Essay Awards

What are the Exemplary Essay Awards?

The Exemplary Essay Awards are a way for us to celebrate WRIT 105 and 106 students who are writing sophisticated pieces of prose, and a way for students to continue their work beyond their portfolios. There is one $100 Red Hawk Dollars award available for each category: WRIT 105 and WRIT 106. The winning essays are published, here, on the First-Year Writing website.

2022 Winners

“Creating and Coping: How Art Therapy Can Improve Mental Health,” WRIT 105

Sabrina Whikehart is in her freshman year at Montclair State University. She is a Psychology major with a minor in Film.


Read Sabrina Whikehart’s Winning Essay


“A Bad Case of Intolerance,” WRIT 106

I am a queer writer in my sophomore year at Montclair State University, originally from Clifton, New Jersey. I study Medical Humanities, and when I’m not plotting against corrupt healthcare institutions, I enjoy writing narrative-heavy music and crying over Adam Silvera novels.

Read Gianna Capone’s Winning Essay

2021 Winners

Image of Fast Fashion

“Fast Fashion, Vast Impacts,” WRIT 106

Among the world’s top polluters, the fashion industry ranks fourth, right behind big oil,
the transportation that uses said oil, and agricultural emissions (Omondi, 2021). The fashion
industry has had a well-deserved spotlight on it because of not only its environmental dangers, but also its direct effects on human life. The term fast fashion was first coined by the New York Times back in 1990, but today it has become something of a buzzword as the global warming crisis continues to challenge world leaders. Thus, it is an understatement to conclude that the current state of the industry is incredibly problematic and needs to be addressed. Legislators need to get involved in making sure these brands are being held accountable for the ecological damage they are causing. In turn, this will ultimately end up raising consumer awareness concerning the sustainability of their clothing. Regulation needs to happen because the current trajectory of the fashion industry is incredibly alarming.


Read Erica Martin’s Winning Essay


Photo of Nick Beyer

“Chained to the Rhythm,” WRIT 105

Katy Perry and Skip Marley’s 2017 single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” is a chart-topping pop song with a significant underlying message in regards to political and social awareness. Directed by Matthew Cullen, the track’s viral music video was nominated for various awards and has garnered over 700 million views on YouTube. Throughout the video, “Chained to the Rhythm’s” clever lyrics are further elaborated upon in a visually compelling manner.


Read Nicholas Beyer’s Winning Essay

2020 Winners

Headshot of Eponine Myles

God is an… Ofelia?, WRIT 106

Pan’s Labyrinth is entirely anti-Catholic establishment, but that does not make it anti-Catholic in its philosophy. In fact, Ofelia is a mirror of Christ. Like him, she is a divine person and a mortal child, and she serves as a figure of hope and light (and confusion) for her environment. She can perform miracles! And most importantly, she died a martyr for a political cause and for an even greater cause: love. Her story, like the story of Christ that shaped Catholicism, will live on for centuries as a story of courage and as a beacon of hope in times of strife.”


I am a second-year BFA Theater Production & Design student with a concentration in Stage Management and a Williamstown, NJ native. I am an avid reader and a fan of REM sleep. Goals? Run a theater (and eventually the world).

Read Eponine Myles’ Winning Essay


Headshot of Ruthy Villa

Blackness “Remover,” WRIT 105

“No matter how much you suppress your color it still glows in the eyes of others, the way that flames glow around the dark smooth embers of a fire. This is our mark, our identity, how long can one reject it? …Together we can shed light on this issue and break the assimilation and white-washing that has left the Hispanic community in their ignorance. Are you willing to take a step forward into the world of racial and cultural awareness?”


I am a Newark, NJ raised Afro-Latina of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage in my freshman year at Montclair State, majoring in Animation / Illustration. I grew up with a very creative and innovative mindset and my interests mostly revolve around the artistic realm, but branch out in my interests in learning about different cultures, exploring new things, and learning new languages. I write poetry, stories, and create art, often inspired by my interest in Greek Mythology and my Afro-Latina culture. I intend to inspire Afro-Latina girls to love their African roots and the uniqueness of their heritage through my career as an illustrator and writer.

Read Ruthy Villa’s Winning Essay


2019 Winners

Photo of Ashley Colon

Beauty is Pain, WRIT 106

“Human apathy and insufficient action towards creating a solution for the pressing matter of animal cruelty in the cosmetic industry represents their underlying values that humans feel they are superior to animals. Now is the time consumers must band together for the removal of old animal testing methods.”


I am a sophomore from Ridgefield Park, New Jersey currently majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and minoring in Art and Design Studio. I enjoy traveling and free writing in my free time. After graduating, I hope to take over my father’s business and pursue my own business adventures.

Read Ashley Colon’s Winning Essay


Photo of Gina Lupo

Political Literacy, WRIT 105

“I realized that not being involved in politics was a privilege not many can afford. It was important for me to understand how others were viewing my identity to know what to expect when I walked out into the world. I knew it was close to impossible to change the minds of many who viewed me as lesser-than, but I recognized that my opinions were not meant to change others, only to have the power to prove that I was taking a stance as well.”


I am currently a freshman at Montclair State University and major in Psychology. I am from Maplewood, New Jersey and absolutely love to write and spend time with my cat, friends, and supportive family. I hope to become a Clinical Psychologist and to continue writing.

Read Gina Lupo’s Winning Essay


2018 Winners

photo of student Mike Wasik

The Appalling Presence of Waitress Harassment, WRIT 106

“A wave of change needs to take place in the restaurant industry. Sexual harassment has run rampant, fueled by work cultures that have historically enabled this conduct to thrive.”

Read Mike Wasik’s Winning Essay


photo of nate williams

Prison Profiteers: The Exploitation of the 13th Amendment and Race to Construct an Empire, WRIT 105

“When the financial interests of slave owners were threatened at the end of slavery, mass incarceration was utilized to keep them afloat. Decades later, the situation is no different.”

Read Nate Williams’ Winning Essay


screenshot of video opening screen titled "Athletes are Humans"

Multimodal Video Winner

“Athletes are Human”

View Chris Giacomini’s Winning Video

photo of two frames of comic illustrated by student Alexandra Leet

Multimodal Comic Winner

Read Alexandra Leet’s Winning Comic

View Past Year’s Winners