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Behind the Bullitzer

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 00:12

Students in First Year Composition (FYC) in the English department this semester had the chance to win the USF version of the Pulitzer prize — the “Bullitzer.”

In its second year, the Bullitzer is based on the acclaimed writing award given annually by Colombia University in 21 categories.

The Bullitzer has eight categories:  One each for Composition 1 projects 1, 2 and 3, one each for Composition 2 projects 1, 2 and 3, a prize for the online composition  course and a prize for best blog or discussion post.

English instructor Katherine McGee, who is coordinating the program this year, said the Bullitzer encourages students to “put forth an effort to revise and perfect their writing.”

Though there is not a monetary prize for the award, McGee said it is an honor students can put on their resumes to demonstrate their writing competency.

Winners were chosen based on ratings from readers, and McGee said readers look for  organized, eloquent and
well-supported argument. For someone who developed an interest in literature during her high school English class, theBullitzer gives McGee a chance to give back.

“I enjoy reading and writing and discussing literature,” she said.  “(Teaching) would be a way that I could do it for the rest of my life.”

Some composition instructors require students to enter a paper into the competion, while others make it optional.

But the entries are based on class assignments often dealing with real-world issues such as recycling, human
trafficking, homelessness, same-sex marriage, smoking at USF and domestic violence.

This year, freshman Madina Dyussembayeva won a Bullitzer  for her piece about Islamophobia.

Other winners include Janae Poppa-Deis, a transfer student majoring in business management whose paper was about women in alcohol advertisements, and Alexa Steinbruek, a biomedical science student who wrote about euthanasia.

Though McGee said she knows no piece of writing can ever be perfect, as an instructor she enjoys working with students who “can think for themselves.”

Having completed her master’s degree at a private university, McGee found that USF offered a far more diverse group of students to instruct. As she continues to become more experienced as a professor, she said she has
relaxed from a stricter former teaching style, she said.

She tries to differentiate her curriculum a little each semester in ways like creating the Bulitzer Prize.

McGee said the Bullitzer prize will provide students an incentive to improve their ability to compose thoughts in an organized, formatted way, and would be an early opportunity in first year students’ college career to build their resume.

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