Two NSU students named as winners of Excellence in First-Year Writing Award

LaTrinda McGee of Zwolle and Naomi Adams of Natchitoches were named winners of the Northwestern State University Department of English, Foreign Languages, & Cultural Studies Excellence in First-Year Writing Award.
McGee, a freshman nursing major from Zwolle, won Best Narrative Essay for her story, “8 Minutes 46 Seconds.” The essay was written for Instructor Mariann Wilson’s online English 1010 class. Her personal narrative centers on the murder of George Floyd, a cousin she knew personally as Perry, and recounts McGee’s journey to D.C. to participate in the August 2020 March on Washington in Floyd’s memory.

“My work revolved around the death of George Floyd that basically reignited the civil rights movement and sparked global change,” said McGee. “With me being the cousin of George, or “Perry”, as we called him it touched me in such a different way. It was difficult to handle all of the media attention his death was received. Whether it was good or bad it still took a toll.”

McGee said she could not pass up the chance to go to Washington D.C., with family members to take part in the march done in Floyd’s name.

“I reconnected with family I hadn’t seen in years and it was definitely one of the highlights in my life,” said McGee. “Throughout this tragedy, our family rekindled some of our relationships and made me realize how precious life is.

“I’m not sure if this work will encourage me to seek out any other opportunities to write only because this was so personal to me. I just wrote about my experiences and what our family went through during that tough time.”

Adams, a freshman fine and graphic art major, won Best Research Essay for “Why Serial Killers Flooded the 1980s,” which analyzes the environmental and psychological factors that could explain the historic number of serial murderers in the United Stated during the 1980s. Adams wrote the essay for Instructor Katie Rayburn’s English 1020 class.

“I love true crime, especially documentaries, and have always had a strong interest in serial killers,” said Adams. “The most prolific serial killers in history killed during the late 70s and the entirety of the 80s, and this greatly interested me. When I was presented the opportunity to write a research essay, I immediately decided to write it on this specific situation. Writing this essay also allowed for me to catch a glimpse into the minds of serial killers, which plays into another huge interest of mine—psychology.”

Adams said she was encouraged by receiving the award and said it will make her work to improve her personal writing so that future essays will reach the same level of excellence.

This was the second time the award was presented by the Department of English, Foreign Languages, & Cultural Studies. They were given in 2019 but not in 2020. Wilson created the awards and coordinates them.

“I created the awards after learning about similar awards at other universities,” said Wilson. “We teach over 2,000 students each year in our freshman writing classes, so I was eager to recognize our students and faculty for their valuable work at NSU”

English 1010 and 1020 faculty are encouraged to nominate the best essays submitted in their classes during the academic year. A small committee from the department selects winners in two categories: Best Narrative Essay and Best Research Essay.

This year’s winners were notified by e-mail and will receive a certificate and monetary prize.


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