Princeton Writes Prize

pwrites-prizeThe Princeton Writes Prize, which was first awarded in 2015, is designed to encourage and recognize outstanding writing on the part of University staff. Administered by Princeton Writes in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Council of the Humanities, this initiative draws inspiration from the late William Zinsser of the Class of 1944, whose guide for writers of nonfiction, On Writing Well, has influenced generations of wordsmiths.

The Princeton Writes Prize and up to three honorable mentions will be awarded on the basis of an essay contest whose topic and winners are determined by a selection committee composed of experienced writers from across the University. The members of this committee are John Weeren, Director of Princeton Writes; Kathy Taylor, Director of Special Projects in the Office of Alumni Affairs; Kathy Crown, Executive Director of the Council of the Humanities; Jill Dolan, Annan Professor in English and Dean of the College; Jamie Saxon, Arts and Humanities Writer in the Office of Communications; Adrianne DaPonte, Special Assistant to the President for Communications and Research in the Office of the President; and Bryant Blount, Assistant Dean in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and 2015-2016 winner of the Princeton Writes Prize.


 2016-2017 Staff Essay Contest



Princeton University’s third annual staff essay contest has concluded. Among 40 fine submissions, representing 31 departments, four essays merited special recognition. The Princeton Writes Prize was awarded to Thomas Dunne, Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students, for his outstanding essay “Anonymous Monument,” and three contestants received honorable mentions: Matthew Eaton, Information Technology Manager in the Office of Admission, for his essay “A Guide to Princeton’s Wonderland“; Jonathan Horowitz, Associate Director for Digital Communications in the Office of Alumni Affairs, for his essay “Wired“; and Gwen McNamara, Communications Coordinator in the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, for her essay “Trail Walk.” A profile of this year’s honorees can be found elsewhere on our website.


We invite you to describe something special to you at Princeton that you think is overlooked or underappreciated.


The contest is open to all regular members of the University’s academic professional, administrative, and support staffs. Unfortunately, we do not accept submissions from faculty and students or staff at affiliated institutions.

Selection Criteria

Essays will be evaluated on how clearly, creatively, and compellingly they address the designated topic. In other words, essays should be written in a lucid manner, with well-defined points and smooth transitions; they should exhibit imagination in their choice of focus and use of language; and they should not only inform but also move their readers in some way. A secondary emphasis will be placed on grammatical correctness. While creative nonfiction is welcome, purely fictional narratives fall outside the scope of this contest. The selection committee will judge each essay on its merits, without any identifying information as to its author.

We encourage you to read the work of previous honorees, which can be accessed below.

Submission Process

To be considered, essays must be between 750 and 1,250 words, composed in Microsoft Word using double-spaced lines and a 12-point font, and submitted to on or before February 15, 2017. Essays should be sent as email attachments, and while the essay itself should not identify its author, the email should contain the writer’s full name, department, and telephone number. It should also contain the following statement: I, [insert name], certify that the words in this essay are exclusively my own. Staff without computer access should contact Princeton Writes at 258-8633 so that special accommodations can be made. The selection committee will make its decision not later than April 30, 2017.


The winner of the Princeton Writes Prize will receive $1,000 in the form of a single, taxable lump sum payment, as well as a certificate of accomplishment and a copy of On Writing Well by the late William Zinsser ’44. Honorable mention recipients will also receive a certificate and a copy of On Writing Well. A reception in honor of the awardees and all contestants will be held in the spring, and the winning essays will be printed in booklet form and posted online for others to enjoy.


Please contact Princeton Writes at or 258-8633 with any questions you may have. We look forward to reading your essays!


Past Honorees


Princeton Writes Prize

2015-2016: Bryant Blount, Assistant Dean, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, for his untitled essay on his first encounter with Japan.

2014-2015: Marianna Bogucki, Conference and Event Manager, Conference and Event Services, for her essay “November Light.”

Honorable Mentions

2015-2016: April Armstrong, Special Collections Assistant, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, for her essay “Divided by an Invisible Distance.”

2015-2016: Violette Chamoun, Operations Manager, Forbes College, Campus Dining, for her essay “A Taste for Diversity.”

2015-2016: Brian Mondschein, First Assistant Coach, Women’s Track and Field, Athletics, for his essay “Returning to Levittown.”

2014-2015: Ruth McGuire, Senior Bibliographic Specialist, Princeton University Library, for her essay “In the Plaza.”

2014-2015: Jamie Saxon, Arts and Humanities Writer, Office of Communications, for her untitled essay on attending concerts in Richardson Auditorium.

2014-2015: Dana Sheridan, Cotsen Education and Outreach Coordinator, Princeton University Library, for her essay “5 a.m.