Student Essay Contest
Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Common Reading Student Essay Contest.
- Entries should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and are being accepted now through April 1, 2023
- The winner will receive $350 toward Shepherd tuition or textbooks.
- Entries are judged by a panel of three faculty members using a rubric developed by the Department of English and Modern Languages.
- Essays written for a specific class or other assignment are acceptable.
In the closing pages of The Third Rainbow Girl, Emma Copley Eisenberg writes, “I thought there was only ever a thing and its opposite, and nothing in between. In writing this book, I have come to believe in this far less than I did when I started. Unraveling and unlearning this split logic is crucial to justice, I think, and it is crucial to love—loving a person, community, or most of all perhaps, a place…” (303). The point she is making here—that the more you learn and grow, the more you come to understand nuance, complexity, responsibility, and then act accordingly—also speaks to the work a university does together. This insight connects this book to the lives of everyone in the Shepherd community. Thinking about this connection, pick an idea, theme, or story that Eisenberg tells and explain how a reader’s view of that idea, theme, or story might change after reading the book.
This prompt is big, so some of you might focus on just one of the ideas below (do not try to do them all!):
- The idea of Appalachia, perhaps specifically focusing on West Virginia. What is Eisenberg suggesting about this region and how do you, as a reader, respond to that?
- Gender, gender roles, and violence. Certainly there is a lot to say here, so find a specific way in—talk about what you think the book is saying, and how you respond to that idea.
- Crime, “true crime,” the criminal justice system, and our culture’s interest in stories about crime. Again, there is a lot one could say here, but find one way in and make an argument about what the book suggest and your response to it.
- There are many other “ways in,” so don’t limit yourself to the ideas here!
A winning entry does/has the following elements:
- A clear and coherent thesis statement/main idea that appears in the first paragraph and clearly relates to the prompt you have selected. A reader should be able to easily identify this sentence and say “THIS is what this paper is about.” A good response is not a summary of the text.
- Textual evidence to support each point and move your argument along. Every claim you make should be supported with evidence from the text. Make sure this evidence is integrated into your overall argument. Do not simply drop in quotations without any analysis (explaining how they advance your main idea). Avoid quoting extremely long passages, especially without analysis.
- A coherent, clear structure. Each paragraph should: a) move the argument along; b) have a strong topic sentence, c) move to the next section with clear transitions.
- A conclusion. Your piece should have some sort of conclusion that wraps things up, even if all you do is raise more questions.
- Proper formatting. This includes:
- A title for your essay.
- Typed; double-spaced; in a reasonable font (Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 11 pt.); one-inch margins all around; stapled; your name, the course title (if applicable), the instructor’s name (if applicable), and the date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page; page numbers should appear on the upper right-hand corner of each page.
- No spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- Appropriate length: About 600-750 words (at least 2 full pages).