Read the 2017 Cunningham Writing Contest winners


Outside the familiar grind of classroom assignments, Trine’s Writing Center provides a creative outlet for students to showcase their hidden talents in prose and poetry through a relaxed writing experience – along with the enticing incentive of cash prizes for an extra push of motivation.

February marks the end of another bout of literary celebration through the Walter Cunningham Writing Contest. Walter Cunningham created the contest in order to emphasize the importance of obtaining writing skills early in life. Held every year to showcase the compositional capabilities of Trine students, the contest welcomes a variety of works through its four categories: academic, poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Whether it be learning about the impact of autosomal diseases, immersing oneself in the poetic wonders of seafaring adventurers and fictional worlds, or observing budding romance unfold in unexpected places, you can learn about them through the power of written word by this year’s winners.

With such a broad inclusion of writing categories, the contest paves the way for participants of any major or minor to be involved, and the entries are bound to pique the interest of bookworms and aspiring academics alike.

As Dr. Cassandra Bausman, Writing Center director and coordinator of the contest, states, “This year’s crop of winners come from a diverse cross-section of Trine’s majors and represent the range of writing going at Trine—in and outside of the traditional classroom.”

Winners are chosen through a process in which four committees comprised of HAC faculty – three or four for each genre – read the entries and choose their favorites. Names of the participants are omitted from the pieces. After reading, the committees partake in friendly debate and rehash the merits or shortcomings of each.

“That makes it fun, too,” muses Bausman. “They bring me their winners and they’re always surprised or pleasantly pleased with the results.”

When asked what she believes is a significant benefit of the contest, Dr. Bausman affirms, “It brings together writing from all across campus, and it’s really nice to see what other disciplines are doing or what students are producing in their dorm rooms and in the creative nonfiction groups outside the classes.”

Accordingly, winners represented various majors such as Chemical Engineering, Education, Music, Math, and Psychology, to name a few. Being a predominantly STEM-focused university, the diversity Dr. Bausman mentions is crucial in demonstrating the usability of writing for all career paths.

“That’s my favorite thing. At a school that doesn’t necessarily call itself ‘liberal arts,’ being able to say we have engineers who win the writing contest is pretty great.”

Many of the winners also happened to be part of the Humanities and Communication Department, which is a favorable illustration that the department successfully supports its members in honing their communication skills. Freshman Mycah Houser, one such English & Communication major, proved a talented author as she snagged wins in three of the four categories.

She says, “I was actually going to enter last semester when I was still an Accounting major. Lone Wolves was the fantasy piece I was consulting with the Writing Center on to get some feedback.” She goes on to add, “I’ve just always liked writing.”

Being a freshman, she admits she wasn’t sure what to expect in entering the contest. It was a mix of nerves and excitement, but she was pleased with the experience and offers advice for other students apprehensive about entering. “Just go for it – if you’re nervous, check with someone else to get some peer reviews and opinions, because that really helped me.”

When asked how she felt upon finding out the results, Houser exclaims, “I was so excited. For me it was validation that it was a good choice to move to English & Communication. I want to be an author; it’s one of those idealistic dreams, but I want to pursue it, so it was just kind of validation that I should keep on that path.”

Viewing this year’s fantastic entries, it is apparent that not only have students responded positively to the contest, but it continues to successfully perpetuate Cunningham’s overall goal for students to embrace writing and produce impressive pieces.

The winners and their exemplary works will be honored with an Awards Ceremony taking place in April (date TBA). Additionally, their names will be engraved on a plaque residing in Taylor Hall.

If you’re interested in taking a peek at this year’s winning pieces (or even past winners), they are all featured in Inscriptions Journal, Trine’s online literary magazine.

2017 Walter Cunningham Writing Contest Winners

Place Title Author
1st Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders: Onset, Prognoses, and Impact Jordan Tinkle
2nd The Impact of Plastic Pollution Mycah Houser
3rd Detection and Prevention of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis Infection in Dairy Cattle: A Review Nicole Walters
Creative Nonfiction
Place Title Author
1st Poison Alexis DeLancey-Christiansen
2nd Handsome Goodbye Stevie Rosales
3rd The Salt and The Penny Mycah Houser
HM Zucchini Heaven Maria Till
Place Title Author
1st Lone Wolf Mycah Houser
2nd Fly Again August Buehrer
Place Title Author
1st I rode a dragon today Jordan Blank
2nd Distant Memory Stevie Rosales
3rd House Upon the Hill Elijah Thiess
HM Christmas is Near Sydney Ilko

About Author


Jessica Griffioen is an English major.