Undergraduate Writing Symposium


Held each year in late March, the Undergraduate Writing Symposium showcases exemplary writing by Vanderbilt’s undergraduates while honoring their achievements as writers and scholars.

The event follows the model of an academic conference: each participant reads her or his selected piece of writing aloud as part of a panel of presenters. Each panel, chaired by a Vanderbilt faculty member, brings together a group of papers on a related topic and includes time for discussion between panelists and their audience following the presentations.

Reflection by a Student Participant

Presenting at the Undergraduate Writing Symposium this past March was an invaluable experience. It was one of my first opportunities to present my writing in an academic environment, and it was rewarding to both hear my peers’ insightful work and to receive thoughtful feedback and questions on my own presentation. It was particularly interesting to see how writing pieces from different subjects complemented each other in the context of the panel, exemplifying the idea of a liberal arts education.


Although anyone in the Vanderbilt community can attend the symposium as an audience member, becoming a symposium presenter involves a highly competitive process. That process begins each January with the Writing Studio’s call for nominations. We invite faculty to nominate the strongest pieces of writing they’ve seen in their classes, while also allowing students to self-nominate papers they are proud of.

Want a better sense of the event? Click here to see last year’s program (Undergraduate Writing Symposium 2015)

Want to hear what student and faculty have to say about the symposium? Scroll down to “Praise for the Symposium” below.


The Writing Studio welcomes nominations of argumentative essays, research reports, and other writing projects that can be read aloud.  Any piece completed during the previous calendar year (the previous fall andspring semester) is welcome to compete for inclusion in the event.

To nominate a paper follow the appropriate link below:

Faculty nominations: Faculty, click here for our faculty nominations page.

Student Self-nominations: Undergraduates, click here for our student self-nomination page.


Once submitted, all nominated pieces of writing are assessed by multiple readers in a blind review process (meaning submissions are judged anonymously). Following the blind review, we invite the authors of our highest scoring submissions to present their pieces on a panel at the symposium. Leading up to the symposium, those invited to present also receive written feedback from one of their reviewers on how they might revise for presentation, and all are encouraged to make an appointment for a Writing Studio consultation as they do so.


Reflection by a Student Participant

When writing within the context of a course, it is easy to lose sight of the greater purpose and possibilities of academic and creative writing beyond the instructor and the grade. The Undergraduate Writing Symposium served as a reminder of why we write in the first place, allowing for the sharing of student works in a format conducive to meaningful discussion and analysis.

Reflections from a Faculty Panel Chair

I was impressed by the quality and the variety of papers presented at the Undergraduate Writing Symposium. One panel I chaired included an informal first person reflection on participating in an improvisational music event, an argumentative analysis of a philosophical treatise, and a descriptive discussion of the scenic elements of a theatrical production. Best of all, for me, was seeing the students selected for the symposium present their work in a forum that took their writing seriously and honored their considerable achievements.

Reflection by Dean Roger Moore, who delivered the Symposium’s Closing Remarks in March 2015

I was present for the first Undergraduate Writing Symposium years ago, and I have attended all but one since that time.  For me, this is one of the most important, and most exciting, events that the University sponsors during the year. Click here to read more of Dean Moore’s reflection on the Symposium.