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More Than Just a Grade: The HOM SIGMAA Student Contest Fosters Writing Excellence at UMKC - The Honor Roll of UMKC Winners

Richard Delaware (University of Missouri – Kansas City)

Because the contest spring submission deadline is mid-semester, of the two papers written for my course only students’ first papers are ready on that date. However, as the rules allow, occasionally we have submitted second papers from the previous spring class. In all fourteen wins, eight were first papers, and six were second papers; eight authors were male, six female. Six of the topics were chosen by students, each a welcome surprise for me, and eight were topics resulting from my guidance. The papers we submit to the contest are a subset of those submitted for the course assignment that earn positive reviews from me. Nevertheless, my personal contest win prediction record is poor! I’m never certain that my evaluation criteria for the course will produce a win—another healthy way the contest encourages better writing, as I learn from which papers win how to (perhaps) improve my teaching next time. We just submit three to six such papers each year and trust to the judges.

Finally, I always look for other outlets for well-written undergraduate expository papers. Thankfully, some of the submitted  HOM SIGMAA contest papers and others written for the course have found print publication. [For a summary of my students' successes to date, see the table in UMKC-OtherPublications (pdf).]

At UMKC our English Department publishes annually The Sosland Journal, edited by English graduate students, that features essays by student winners of the Ilus W. Davis Writing Competition and other high quality papers: “The journal exhibits exemplary writing from both composition courses and university-wide writing intensive courses to be published and distributed to a larger audience, including UMKC students who use the journal as a textbook in select writing courses and the Kansas City community at large.” Since 2002, my students have been published there thirteen times and won eight awards.

In 2005, our UMKC Honors Program, now the Honors College, launched a journal called Lucerna, which is “interdisciplinary … and UMKC’s only journal … to cultivate and showcase original research and scholarship from the entire UMKC undergraduate community… peer-reviewed by a volunteer staff of student readers from the Honors College as well as faculty and staff from the Honors College.” My students have been published there eleven times since 2007.

In 2015, as I was looking for another publication opportunity for a couple of second student papers on more advanced topics, I discovered the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Undergraduate Mathematics Journal. Its description seemed promising, including (italics mine!): “devoted entirely to papers written by undergraduates on topics related to the mathematical sciences … each paper must be sponsored by a mathematician familiar with the student's work and … will be refereed. … Although the paper need not contain original research in mathematics, it must be interesting, well written, and at a level that is clearly beyond a typical homework assignment. Readers of the journal should expect to see new results, new and interesting proofs of old results, historical developments of a theorem or area of mathematics, or interesting applications of mathematics.” Two of my students’ papers survived the gauntlet of referees and were published there in 2016.

Finally now, the Honor Roll of UMKC  HOM SIGMAA winners is…


[Editors' Note:  All winning papers in the HOM SIGMAA Student Contest are published in Convergence; most are also available through the HOM SIGMAA archives at]

Richard Delaware (University of Missouri – Kansas City), "More Than Just a Grade: The HOM SIGMAA Student Contest Fosters Writing Excellence at UMKC - The Honor Roll of UMKC Winners," Convergence (February 2019)