2020 Virtual ACSW

The Aetna First-Year Writing Award recognizes excellent expository writing/nonfiction composed in a First-Year Writing class at UConn.


1st Place: Palakjot Bedi

"A Uniting Aspiration: The Political Revolution of John Lennon's 'Imagine'"

Instructor: Julia Wold

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.


2nd Place: Owen Spangler

"Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema and the Transformation of Philip Dick"

Instructor: Julia Brush

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.


3rd Place: Sam Dorman

"The Lobster Fishing Industry: Trapped by Policy"

Instructor: Roxanne Gentry

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.




The Aetna Graduate Critical Writing Award recognizes excellent critical nonfiction composed by a UConn graduate student. Submissions may be essays written for a course, for a dissertation chapter, or independently.


1st Place: Julia Brush

Department of English

"Poeisis Ex Machina: Cyborg Poetics and Digital Humanities"

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.


2nd Place: Danielle Dumaine

Department of History

"The Apartment Workshop: Diane di Prima in New York City, 1953-1966"


Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order by last name)

Nathan Braccio

Department of History

"The Rise of Surveyors and the Decline of Algonquin Guidance: The Creation of a New, English, Spatial Epistemology in America, 1635-1660"

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.


Olivia Marcus

Department of Anthropology

"A sense of scents: perfumes and healing in Peruvian mestizo shamanism"

My essay reflects a deep fascination I harbor concerning perfumes, olfaction, and healing in the context of mestizo Amazonian shamanism in Peru. Over my years of doctoral fieldwork, I became enchanted by the uses and histories of scents and perfumes among locals, healers, and even foreigners who come to adopt local beliefs and practices. Among my dissertation papers, this one was the most fun to research and write as I meandered through historical documents, neuroscientific interpretations, ethnographic data, and even poetry and literature extolling that wonderfully mysterious and underrated aspect of our sensorium.

Kitty O'Riordan

Department of Anthropology

"Science in Stone: Power, Authority, and Identity in New England's Cultural Stone Features Debate"

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.




The Aetna Graduate Teaching of Writing Award recognizes graduate students' dedication and innovation in the teaching of writing at UConn.


Aetna Graduate Teaching Award: Gabriel Morrison

Department of English


Aetna Commendation for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing (listed in alphabetical order by last name):

Amy Fehr

Department of English


Manuel Ramirez

Department of Sociology




The Aetna Creative Writing Contests are the three Aetna-sponsored awards among many hosted annually by the Creative Writing Program at UConn. The contests are open to undergraduate and graduate students.


Winner: Kelly Rafferty

"What is Forever? A Cosmic Egg Cosmology"


Honorable Mention: Ellen Fuller

"The Forgetting Pool"


Winner: Ain Jeong


Click here to listen to the reading and an interview about this translation on the Long River Review's podcast, Next Not Now.

Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order by last name):

Kacper Haase



Matthew Ryan Shelton



Undergraduate 1st Prize: Aner Bajraktarevic

"deep down bad"

Click here to view the transcript for this reading.


Graduate 1st Prize: Quinn Molloy

"The Place"

Subtitles available in video. Click here to view the transcript for this reading.




The Writing in the Disciplines Awards is sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing and hosted by the UConn Writing Center. They recognize exemplary academic writing by undergraduate students across the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professional schools at UConn.



Rebecca Maher

"On Such a Full 'C'"

Instructor: Clare Eby, English


Brianna Dyer

"Genocide in Xinjiang"

Instructor: Jack Barry, Global Training & Development Institute



Honorable Mentions:

Laurane Fumex

"Louis Althusser through a Totalitarian Lens"

Instructor: Charles Venator-Santiago, Political Science


Kanika Malani

"Removal of Children from Their Families and Homes in India as a Result of Child Labor"

Instructor: Francoise Dussart, Anthropology


Kayla Simon

"Ophelia, I Want a Bigger Boat: Analyzing the Importance of Jordan Peele's Us in Contemporary America"

Instructor: Kathy Knapp, English

I've written countless essays investigating literary texts, but I had never analyzed a movie until I was assigned to write this Op-Ed. Jordan Peele is a brilliant filmmaker, and writing about his portrayal of middle class America allowed me to gain an understanding of the deeper messages about the American way of life presented in this horror film.

Lauren Ciulla

"Make an Impression: Emotional Realism in the Works of Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf"

Instructor: Sarah Winter, English

I wrote "Make an Impression: Emotional Realism in the Works of Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf" for the final paper assignment in ENGL 4101W - Advanced Study in British Literature: Hardy and Woolf. I wanted to explore how both authors diverge from traditional realism to uncover the emotional realities of individuals through exploratory literary conventions, like focalization and creative narration styles.




Brandon Smith

"Habitat preference of Asian shore crabs (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) in relation to rock size and location within the rocky intertidal zone"

Instructor: Morgan Tingley, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology


Michael Taylor

"Trophic Cascades: The Dynamics of the Web of Life in a Changing World"

Instructor: Dr. Carlos Garcia-Robledo, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology



Honorable Mentions:

Stephanie Bleasdale

"Modern Society and Sleep: The Blue Light Warning"

Instructor: Dr. Colleen Spurling, Molecular & Cell Biology


William Duffey

"Critical Micellular Concentration and Formation in Soap and its Effects on Conductivity of Water"

Instructor: KarenAnn Caldwell, Chemistry


Ashley Roy

"Connecticut Conservationist"

Instructor: Gabriel Morrison, English



Frederick Augur

"Six Years to Life: The Impact of Term Length on Judicial Independence"

Instructors: Virginia Hettinger and Jennifer Sterling-Folker, Political Science

This paper was the product of my undergraduate thesis, which analyzed judicial voting in death penalty cases to assess the relationship between term length and judicial independence. This required me to create a dataset by reading through 1,000+ death penalty case court opinions.

Honorable Mentions:

Julie Brisson

"Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as Burnout Prevention for Therapists: A Randomized Controlled Trial"

Instructor: Samantha Lawrence, Human Development & Family Studies


Lindsay de Brito

"The Proof is in the Partisanship: How Race Demonstrates Gerrymandering"

Instructor: Jeffrey Ladewig, Political Science

This piece was written for one of the most difficult— but also one of the most rewarding— courses I’ve taken at UConn. It required me to think outside the “district lines” and conduct a realistic experiment in gerrymandering that taught me a lot about both my home state of Connecticut and the process of congressional redistricting in the United States.

Simone Fournier

"Death Anxiety and End of Life Care in Older Adults"

Instructor: Edna Brown, Human Development & Family Studies

As the daughter of a third-generation funeral director, I have been exposed to the complex emotions surrounding the end of life from a very young age. Dr. Edna Brown's Research Methods in Human Development and Family Sciences course guided me through the process of developing a research question, conducting a literature review, and planning a study to examine the emotions surrounding the end of life and death anxiety from an academic perspective.

Jennifer Vincenzo

"Impacts of a Deaf Child's Age of Language Acquisition and Age of Entry into a Deaf School on Academic Performance"

Instructor: Samantha Lawrence, Human Development & Family Studies

I wrote this piece about the deaf community for my "Research Methods in HDFS" class because I have always been fascinated by sign language and I want to advocate for a group of people who are often overlooked and misunderstood. I was also taking a linguistics class at the time and I wanted to delve more into language development and how it is affected by deafness and sign language. 

The complete list of winners is below. Congratulations again to the honorees, and thank you for visiting our Virtual ACSW!