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Undergraduate Writing Symposium (overview)

A colorful image promoting the annual Undergraduate Writing Symposium

The Writing Studio’s Undergraduate Writing Symposium events provide an annual opportunity for Vanderbilt to celebrate the achievements of its undergraduate students as writers, thinkers, scholars, and artists.

Each spring two symposia are organized as a conference-style events–the Undergraduate Writing Symposium and the Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium–give student authors selected for the event the opportunity to present and reflect on their written work alongside their fellow students.

16TH Annual Undergraduate Writing Symposium

In Spring 2024, 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.

Save the Date for Spring 2024

  • Friday, April 5, 2024 – 16th Annual Undergraduate Writing Symposium
  • Wednesday, April 10 – 3rd Annual Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium and Arts Showcase

We gratefully acknowledge both symposium events’ co-sponsors, the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and the Vanderbilt Libraries.

As each event approaches, check back here to find each event’s full event schedule.

2024 Symposium Theme: “Finding Our Voices, Entering into Dialogue”

The Undergraduate Writing Symposium exists to celebrate the transformative power of immersing ourselves in writing, critical inquiry, research, and creative expression.

With this year’s symposium theme, “Finding Our Voices, Entering into Dialogue,” the symposium will spotlight students’ emergent voices as they dare to grow as writers, exploring, experimenting, and answering the call to join a wider dialogue through earnest engagement with the words and views of others.


Undergraduate Writing Symposium Submissions

This photo features two student presenters from the 2023 Undergraduate Writing Symposium
2023 Undergraduate Writing Symposium

In Spring 2024, the Undergraduate Writing Symposium (UWS) will once again 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, April 5.

First-year students: To be considered for inclusion, please submit essays composed during the Fall 2023 semester.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors: To be considered for inclusion, submit a project abstract of an advanced research project (honors, independent study, Immersion, and more), which may still be in progress in spring 2024 or completed during the 2023 calendar year.

Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium Submissions

Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium 2023

In spring 2024, Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium will celebrate the creative works of undergraduate students as one half of the 3rd annual joint Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium and Arts Showcase on Wednesday, April 10.

All current undergraduates (first-years through seniors): To be considered for inclusion, submit pieces of creative writing completed during the 2023 calendar year (spring, summer, and fall). Advanced projects (honors, Immersion, etc.) still in progress are also welcome.


WHAT IS THE UNDERGRADUATE WRITING SYMPOSIUM?

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

Much of the event follows the model of an academic conference: each participant splits their presentation time between introducing their selected writing project and reflecting on their own learning and growth through its composition. Each panel brings together a group of student authors to share and reflect on their pieces 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 upper-division students.

The Undergraduate Creative Writing Symposium features undergraduates of all years sharing and reflecting on a wide range of creative works including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more.

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: Symposia Past

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?

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.

SYMPOSIUM NOMINATIONS

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

See the Call for Submissions and Submission Guidelines each year for more information about what can be submitted and how to do so.

To nominate a paper follow the appropriate link below:

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

Student Submissions and Self-Nominations:


WHAT’S NEXT? THE REVIEW PROCESS

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 through a digital collection

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.

PRAISE FOR THE SYMPOSIUM

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.

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