James and Ruth Brown Undergraduate Award

This award is provided by a generous donation from the James and Ruth Brown family. The purpose of the award is to provide financial support to undergraduate students studying rhetoric. Dr. Brown was particularly interested in enhancing reading skills to strengthen a student's ability to participate in public debate. 

Application deadline: May 19, 2024


Two $3,000 awards. Note: Funds will be awarded fall semester 2024. If the recipient of the award currently receives financial aid through the University of Minnesota, the award will be applied toward the student’s financial aid. All scholarship awards will be processed through a student's University account (via the scholarship automation process).


Applicants for this award:

  • Must be a Technical Writing & Communication (TWC) major with at least one semester of coursework remaining.
  • Must have completed at least 12 credits in the TWC major by the time of award.
  • Must be registered full time during the following fall semester at the University of Minnesota.


To apply for the award, submit the following:

  • A sample paper or project that engages a public issue, debate, or controversy
  • A reflective essay of 500-750 words maximum describing your paper/project (see criteria below)
  • An unofficial copy of your transcript

Submit your application

Writing Sample

The writing sample could be a paper/project from a previous course or an original paper/project. The topic and/or approach of the sample paper/project should be to enter the ongoing conversation around the topic and contribute something of value. 

Examples of Possible Samples for the Application

Example issues could be climate change, social justice, diversity, healthcare, a political issue, or a community organization etc. Students could also connect the topic to their TWC sub-plan. 

  • Course Paper
  • Video
  • Brochure
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Podcast
  • Digital story or argument (e.g., with subject interviews)

Writing Sample Requirements

  • Project must address and productively engage in a topic of public debate 
  • Project must provide an application that reflects critical reading and makes a meaningful contribution to the topic or issue
  • Project must reflect intellectual analysis and close reading of the topic
  • Project must be authored by applicant with correct citations for all outside sources

Reflective Essay Requirements

  • Reflective essay should explain and discuss how the paper/project goes about its work engaging the chosen public issue. 
  • Reflective essay should explain how the writing sample provides a needed perspective, fills a gap in knowledge, supports a perspective/group that contributes to greater understanding, or takes an approach that is needed. 
  • Reflective essay should include adequate details that explain how the project demonstrates these qualities noted above.  

Evaluation Criteria 

When evaluating these writing samples and statements, in addition to the writing quality, the scholarship committee looks for the following: 

  • Document design and organization
  • Audience awareness 
  • Ability to engage complex ideas and cite sources when appropriate 
  • Depth of engagement with topic

Note: Winners are required to send a thank-you note to the Brown family. 

Contact writ@umn.edu with any questions about the award or application process.

Past Recipients

  • 2023: Hannah Hanson and Autumn Viker
  • 2022: Sumeya Jeilani and Olivia Trout
  • 2021: Rosemarie Lam and Mark Mathison
  • 2020: Natalie Gardner & Jaclyn Willems
  • 2019: Emily Raper