Skip to main content

Undergraduate Writing Symposium (overview)


Upcoming Event Information

Undergraduate Writing Symposium

In Spring 2023, the Undergraduate Writing Symposium will be held as two separate events, each with its own distinct focus while including an online gallery showcasing writers’ work and ample opportunity to get to know this year’s writers through Author Talks.

In honor of the symposium’s 15th anniversary, the theme of this year’s event will be “Writing as Discovery.”

As we gather together once again to honor undergraduates’ achievements as writers, we will celebrate writing as an activity essential not just to communication and learning, but to the pursuit of new knowledge and creative exploration of ideas.

Visit the 2023 Undergraduate Writing Symposium homepage.

The first event, Undergraduate Writing Symposium, will feature the exceptional work of first-year authors as well as the research writing of more advanced undergraduate authors. This event will take place Friday, March 31.

View the Undergraduate Writing Symposium submission guidelines for first-year and advanced research writers

The second event, Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium, will be held in partnership with the Immersion Vanderbilt Showcase on Thursday, April 13.

View the Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium submission guidelines


Held each year in late spring, the Undergraduate Writing Symposium showcases exemplary writing by Vanderbilt’s undergraduates while honoring their achievements as writers and scholars.

Much of the event follows the model of an academic conference: each participant reads her or his selected piece of writing aloud as part of a panel of presenters. Each panel brings together a group of papers on a related topic and includes time for discussion between panelists and their audience following the presentations.

The Undergraduate Writing Symposium spotlights both the achievements of first-year writers and major writing projects undertaken by seniors.

Three students pose with their writing pieces after share their work with the Undergraduate Writing Symposium audience.Reflection by a Student Participant

Presenting at the Undergraduate Writing Symposium was an invaluable experience. It was one of my first opportunities to present my writing in an academic environment, and it was rewarding to both hear my peers’ insightful work and to receive thoughtful feedback and questions on my own presentation. It was particularly interesting to see how writing pieces from different subjects complemented each other in the context of the panel, exemplifying the idea of a liberal arts education.

Learn More: Check out the 2022 Undergraduate Writing Symposium program, the 2021 program or visit the virtual 2020 Undergraduate Writing Symposium! While there, you can browse selected pieces, read writer bios and listen to writers talk about their writing process, watch our creative writers perform their work, and even enjoy full multi-modal submissions! Then check out the 2019 Symposium program2018 Symposium program, or piece on the 2017 Symposium.


Although anyone in the Vanderbilt community can attend the symposium as an audience member, becoming a symposium presenter involves a highly competitive process. That process begins each January with the Writing Studio’s call for nominations. We invite faculty to nominate the strongest pieces of writing they’ve seen in their classes, while also allowing students to self-nominate papers they are proud of.


The Writing Studio welcomes nominations of argumentative essays, research reports, creative pieces (fiction, poetry, etc.) and other writing A participant in the Undergraduate Writing Symposium delivers her paper.projects that can be read aloud. We also encourage multimodal compositions that showcase Vanderbilt students producing pieces that stretch how we define “writing” in our digital age.

Any piece completed during the previous calendar year (the previous fall and spring semester) is welcome to compete for inclusion in the event.

To nominate a paper follow the appropriate link below:

Faculty nominations: Faculty, click here for our faculty nominations page.

Student Submissions and Self-Nominations:


Once submitted, all nominated pieces of writing are assessed by multiple readers in a blind review process (meaning submissions are judged anonymously). Following the blind review, we invite the authors of our highest scoring submissions to participate in Undergraduate Writing Symposium events.

Celebrating First-Year Writing

All first-year submissions to the symposium will be competing for inclusion in Scaffold: A Showcase of Vanderbilt First-Year Writing, a digital collection begun in spring 2019 as an extension of the symposium. Following our review process, the authors of the highest scoring submissions will be invited to prepare their pieces for digital publication and to submit a short video of themselves reflecting on the writing of the piece and what they learned to be published alongside it.

All pieces included in the digital showcase will also be eligible for prizes in several categories, which will be announced during an awards ceremony at the symposium’s conclusion.


Reflection by a Student Participant

When writing within the context of a course, it is easy to lose sight of the greater purpose and possibilities of academic and creative writing beyond the instructor and the grade. The Undergraduate Writing Symposium served as a reminder of why we write in the first place, allowing for the sharing of student works in a format conducive to meaningful discussion and analysis.

Reflections from a Faculty Panel Chair

I was impressed by the quality and the variety of papers presented at the Undergraduate Writing Symposium. One panel I chaired included an informal first person reflection on participating in an improvisational music event, an argumentative analysis of a philosophical treatise, and a descriptive discussion of the scenic elements of a theatrical production. Best of all, for me, was seeing the students selected for the symposium present their work in a forum that took their writing seriously and honored their considerable achievements.

Reflection by Dean Roger Moore, who delivered the Symposium’s Closing Remarks in March 2015

I was present for the first Undergraduate Writing Symposium years ago, and I have attended all but one since that time.  For me, this is one of the most important, and most exciting, events that the University sponsors during the year. Click here to read more of Dean Moore’s reflection on the Symposium.


In order to access certain content on this page, you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader or an equivalent PDF viewer software.