Students Earn 2023 Janelle Joseph Environmental Writing Contest Awards

An examination of the importance of centering Indigenous experiences when serving their communities, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign undergraduate Vivian La’s article was the grand prize winner in the fourth annual Janelle Joseph Prize for Environmental Writing through the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

In total, four U of I students won awards in the contest this year. In addition to receiving cash prizes, their work will be published in upcoming issues of Q Magazine.

Since the summer of 2020, Q Magazine’s generous benefactor, Janelle Joseph, has sponsored the Environmental Writing Contest.

The contest received a dozen entries this year. Entrants competed for cash prizes and the chance to have their work published in Q, a student-written, professionally curated publication of the undergraduate Certificate in Environmental Writing (CEW) program. The magazine tackles big environmental questions, such as the complicated relationships between humans and the species we share our planet with, battles for environmental justice, and the everyday items that clog our waste stream.

“Knowledge is Power,” by La, a senior in Journalism, took the $1,000 grand prize. An excerpt from an interview in her piece:

“Contextual engineering is just listening to people. I think if we can start respecting that and appreciating that, then not only will the field of engineering change, but you’ll just give everyone an appreciation of the communities around them.”

Other winners:

  • Levi Beckett, a senior in Media and Cinema Studies, won the Memoir Prize with “Ego, Id, and the Flood.”
  • Sakshi Vaya, a senior in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability, won the At Illinois Prize with “Why We Waste.”
  • Abby Culloton, a senior in Civil and Environmental Engineering, won the Feature Prize with “Blinded Me with Citizen Science.”

In addition to the four prize winners, one honorable mention award was selected. Helen Anil, a junior in both Accounting and Environmental Science, will have the opportunity to be published in an upcoming Q Magazine for “Thumbi Vaa — A Dragonfly’s Invitation.”

“Our latest crop of Janelle Joseph Writing Competition prizewinners is among the best ever,” said CEW Director Gillen Wood, Robert W. Schaefer Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Department of English. “The winning stories, from students across the Illinois campus, range from environmental justice in the American West, to a deep dive on food waste, to the amazing potential of citizen science. These annual prize-winning stories are typical of the hard-hitting reporting we’re seeing from our Certificate in Environmental Writing students, and a tribute to Janelle Joseph for her continuing, generous support to reward and encourage them.

“Janelle is a valued member of our iSEE family, and we can’t thank her enough for her commitment to our undergraduates.”

The writing contest, which will be offered again next spring and summer, is open to Illinois undergraduates from any major and geared toward those with an interest in writing and the environment.

Check out Q Magazine online at >>>

— Article by iSEE Communications Specialist April Wendling