We have compiled our list of the 2021 Annual English Department Award winners. Although we could not gather in person to honor these students at Honors Convocation or a department award ceremony, we want to recognize these students for their exceptional work. The English Department is proud of each of you. Congratulations!

Academy of American Poets Award

College-wide national poetry award for college students. Funded by Dr. Thomas Werge, Hope class of ’63, and Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, to encourage excellent student writing and secure permanent membership for Hope College in the University and College Poetry Prize program of The Academy of American Poets. Entries are judged by department writing professors; finalist manuscripts are sent to an outside judge, who selects one winning manuscript, and one honorable mention. The winning poet is awarded $100, acknowledgement in the Academy’s newsletter and area presses, and the winning poems are forwarded to the Academy of American Poets for publication consideration in their national anthology.

Winner: Jolie Smith (’21), see this post for more details and her winning poem.

Barbara Jo Stephenson Prize

This prize, awarded each semester to the author of the paper selected as the best submitted in the first- year writing course, is given to encourage young writers.

Winner: Marvellous Ogudoro (’22) with an essay titled “The Triumphs of ‘Distanced Empathy.’” Professor Mike Owens has said this of Marvellous’s essay: “The selection committee was especially impressed by the fresh perspective that Marvellous brought to the subject and by the clarity and distinctive voice with which he expressed that perspective.” Marvellous is a former student of Emily Tucker.

Clarence DeGraaf English Award

The Clarence DeGraaf award is an award to be presented to the senior whose interest and achievement in the field of English, as indicated by academic record, most merits recognition in the judgment of the English Department faculty. The award began with 1988 Honors Convocation and is named in honor of Clarence DeGraaf, long-time chair of the English Department at Hope College. The award was established by his daughter and son-in-law Ruth DeGraaf and Lamont Dirkse and his son Daniel DeGraaf.

Winner: Natalie Weg (’20). Dr. Ernest Cole has said the following of Natalie, “In addition to her proficiency in literary studies, and the promise she has demonstrated for advanced scholarship in English, Natalie undertook the honors program in the department. Her supervisor’s assessment of her work ethic, competency, and intellectual curiosity was uplifting, impressive, and invaluable.”

George Birkhoff Prize

The George Birkhoff English Prize is an award designed to promote study of the English literature and language. The prize is awarded for an essay on a topic selected by the English Department and submitted to the department for this competition. 

The prize was established in 1888 by George Birkhoff, a benefactor of the college. His original intent had been to support and encourage the study of both English and Dutch Literature, and so two prizes were awarded for several years: one in the sophomore class in English Literature and one in the freshman class in Dutch Literature. In 1902, the prize became the dominion of the junior and senior classes. Later, in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, the topic was chosen by the faculty to relate to classroom work done in one of the literature classes open to junior and senior students, but today the prize may be won by any excellent paper on a literary subject. In 1914, the Birkhoff Prize in Dutch was discontinued.

Winner: Claire Buck for her essay “Plague and Pandemic: Science and Story” in Curtis Gruenler’s English 270 class. Dr. Ernest Cole has said this of Claire’s essay: “Claire’s paper on the pandemic and its representation was detailed, thorough, and exhaustive. Couched in the theoretical lens of Girardian mimetic theory and a brilliant analysis of critical constructs of literary criticism, Claire presented an interpretation of disease that was innovative, unique, and thoughtful.

Erika Brubaker Undergrad Award for Promising Achievements in the Study of Literature

This award is in memory of Erika Brubaker (’92) for declared English majors or minors who are at least one year from graduation and who have shown exceptional promise in the study of literature. A student will be eligible to receive this award only once.

Winners: Chloe Bartz (’22), Carter Dykstra (’22), Tara Haan (’22), Grayson Snoeyer (’22), Gabriela Rose (’23), and Jacqueline Wheeler (’23). Each student has been selected by faculty for showing exceptional proficiency in the study of literature.

Erika Brubaker Senior Award for Proficiency in Literature

This award is in memory of Erika Brubaker (’92) and presented to a senior English major who has shown exceptional proficiency in the study of literature.

Winners: Morgan Brown (’21), Hannah Jones (’21), Mitch Van Acker (’20). Dr. Ernest Cole praised Morgan Brown as “an outstanding student who has always demonstrated a keen sense of purpose, intelligence, and competence in literary studies.” Dr. Curtis Gruenler said, “Hannah Jones is an exceptional student who is as insightful and generous in her attention to literature as she is to her fellow students.” The English Faculty said of Mitch Van Acker: “It has been a joy to see him grow as a writer and literature enthusiast.”

Jennifer Young Award

This award, begun in 2008, will be presented each year to the senior whose interest and achievement as a creative writer and student of literature most merit recognition in the judgment of the English department faculty.

Winner: Safia Hattab (’21). Dr. Pablo Peschiera has said this of Sophia: “Safia Hattab’s writing exhibits the best aspects of contemporary writing: deep social engagement on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion; sincere emotion; and a desire to experiment with form and structure in the service of complex and gripping subjects. The English Department faculty is very proud of her accomplishments as a student and especially proud of her journey as a creative writer. Congratulations Safia!”

Louis and Mary Jean Lotz Prize in Creative Writing

The Louis and Mary Jean Lotz Writer’s Conference Prize in Creative Writing is an annual scholarship that pays tuition, room, and board for a Hope student to participate in the Bear River Writers’ Conference at Walloon Lake (near Petoskey, Michigan). The five-day conference is usually scheduled for the last days of May through the first days of June (Thursday afternoon through Monday morning). The award was established by Central Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, to honor Rev. Lotz and his wife (Mary Jean) upon his retirement after 13 years in ministry as their Pastoral Leader. This year, the Conference will happen remotely.

Winner: Jolie Smith (’20). Dr. Rhoda Burton has said this of Jolie: “Jolie Smith’s hybrid manuscript was selected for its technically competent craft in both nonfiction and poetry. All of the judges commented on Smith’s richly surprising discursivity and language, her distinct voice, and her excellent range.”

Sandrene Schutt for Proficiency in the Study of English Literature

The Sandrene Schutt Award for Proficiency in the Study of English Literature was established in 1967 in honor of Sandrene Schutt, English teacher at Grand Haven High School for 37 1/2 years. This award is presented to the senior who has shown this proficiency in English literature and expresses an intent to enter the teaching profession in this field.

Winner: Zachary Dankert (’21). Dr. Susanna Childress has said this of Zachary: “Zach Dankert’s innate curiosity and deep conviction fuel his literary explorations and connections as he attends both to the complex world and its inhabitants. His approach to dramatic events is not sensational, and yet he takes on harsh realities—both human and ecological/biological—without hesitation. In addition, Zach’s presence helped shape meaningful craft considerations in each of his creative writing workshops at Hope; for these and many other reasons, we believe Zach will be a wonderful teacher.”

Special Award for English – Completion of the Honors Program

The English Department would like to recognize students who choose to complete the voluntary Honors Program for the English Department.

Winner: Natalie Weg (’21). The English Department has said this of Natalie: “Natalie Weg deserves a special honor from the English Department for her completion of our Honors Program. She went above and beyond the normal requirements for the major to complete this program and the English Department would like to make a special notation for her hard work – it did not go unnoticed!”

Stephen I. Hemenway Award for Promising Achievement in English Teaching

This award in honor of “Doc” Hemenway, who has taught in the Hope College English Department since 1972, will be awarded each year to two senior English majors who show outstanding proficiency in the study of literature and future promise as stellar teachers of English.

Winners: Katelyn Ornduff (’21) and Cara Grimmer (’21). Professor Bill Moreau has said this of both students: “Katelyn is a skilled writer and a lover of all things literature. Katelyn has demonstrated that she will be an outstanding and approachable secondary English teacher. Cara will bring joy and enthusiasm to the secondary English classroom. Cara is an excellent reader and writer, and she will serve as a positive role model for her future students.”

William B. Eerdmans’ Prizes

Begun in June 1951, the William B. Eerdmans’s prize awarded $50 to the student judged best in creative writing, poetry, and another $50 to the student judged best in creative writing, prose by an outside judge. The prize is now decided by Opus judges for the best poetry and prose entry to Opus.

Winners: Cecilia O’Brien (’21) has won the poetry prize for her poem “Stephen,” and Fara Ling (’22) has won the prose prize for her story story “Quarantime.”

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