Loyola University Maryland


Essay and Creative Expression Contest

Book Cover for The Master Plan by Chris Wilson and Brett Witter Each year, the Office of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies and Messina sponsor a Common Text essay contest for the newest members of the Loyola community. For the first time this summer, the contest will also include a creative expression category.

The two, first prize winners will each receive a check for $300. 3-4 students will also receive Honorable Mention prizes of $100. 

To be eligible, please submit an original essay or creative expression based on the prompts below to the Messina Office at messina@loyola.edu no later than midnight on August 11, 2021. We will recognize and celebrate the winners during Fall Welcome Weekend.  Only one submission per person will be accepted.


Answer the prompt below using only the Common Text, your intellect and creativity. That is, no outside resources are needed in this exercise in reflection and discernment. The goal is original thought and expression inspired by careful reading. Your essay should be no longer than 5 double-spaced, typed pages. Please include your name at the top of the each page. Please submit your essay as a Microsoft Word e-mail attachment or PDF document e-mail attachment only.

Mass incarceration is both a deeply troubling and growing problem in the United States, especially as it relates to racial injustice.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): “One out of every three Black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino boys—compared to one of every 17 white boys.”   Wilson’s memoir documents these injustices but also calls attention to the tremendous potential of those people currently incarcerated.  Wilson writes, “People in prison have the potential to achieve great things….I’m talking about entrepreneurs, executives, and artists. I’m saying we can turn prison into a success factory. We have the information, the infrastructure, and the human potential. All we need is the desire” (paperback: p. 234, e-book: p.237). Why is the prison system currently more centered on punishment than rehabilitation? How can and should the system be reformed to make it better promote inmate empowerment and rehabilitation?  
Use Wilson’s text to develop your ideas. Of course, you should also draw on your personal experience to help develop your points. Submissions to the category will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for the following qualities:

Written work that clearly address the prompt and reference examples from the book
Originality and imagination 
Written work that is clear, articulate and logically organized 
Written work that is carefully proofread 


“I was also going to be working with my hands, creating, making beautiful collages out of the broken, cutup pieces around me.  Yes, the picture was the dream. That’s where my Positive Delusions started.  But making the picture was the dream, too.” (paperback: p. 118, e-book: p. 121)
The Master Plan is a memoir filled with juxtapositions.  Within a few chapters and pages, Chris Wilson compares and contrasts feelings of safety and harm, light and darkness, and justice and injustice (to name a few).   In creative expressions, juxtaposition places two or more things side-by-side, often with the intention of comparing or contrasting the elements.  Identify a juxtaposition from The Master Plan and use it as inspiration for a creative expression. 
Artwork of any size and any medium will be accepted. Entries should be accompanied by an artist statement that does not exceed 500 words (1 page, double-spaced). Your artist statement should identify the  juxtaposition, note how you were inspired and reflect on the process of making the entry.

Creative Expression submissions may consist of the following categories: 

  • Visual Arts: Possible submissions include two-dimensional or three-dimensional works, in any media. You may submit a photo of the piece and/or a graphic file in JPG or GIF format. The recommended size for all files is 2MB or under. 
  • Creative Writing: Examples of this category include poetry, short stories, song lyrics and other forms of creative writing. All entries must be under 1000 words, in English (or include an English translation of the original work), and, if possible, typed in 12-point font, and double-spaced with 1-inch margins. Please submit as a Microsoft Word or PDF document.
  • Music: Submissions should include a video or audio recording and a copy of the lyrics (include an English translation if the lyrics are in another language). Lyrics should be submitted as a Microsoft Word or PDF document. Video or audio recordings should be submitted in MOV or MP4 format, or you may upload the video to YouTube and provide us with a link.
  • Digital Media: Short video submissions should be between 2 minutes and 5 minutes. Acceptable formats for video submission are MOV, MP4, or you may upload the video to YouTube and provide us with a link.
  • Dramatic Monologue: Dramatic monologues may be captured through short video submissions and should be between 2 minutes and 5 minutes. Acceptable formats for video submission are MOV, MP4, or you may upload the video to YouTube and provide us with a link.

If you use quotes or other copyrighted material, please use MLA or APA format and supply a Works Cited/ Reference list.  By virtue of submission, the participant gives permission to Loyola University Maryland to publish the work as part of a virtual gallery or to use it in other promotional material. Entries will be judged on the following criteria: content, application and interpretation of the theme, and consistency with the prompt. Submissions to the category will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for the following qualities, depending upon the format and medium of the entry: 

  • Well thought out pieces that clearly address the prompt
  • Depth of feeling about the subject
  • Originality and imagination
  • Eloquence and style
  • Written work that is clear, articulate and logically organized
  • Written work that is carefully proofread



If you have any questions about the essay or creative expression prompts and guidelines, please contact the Messina Office at 410-617-2190 or messina@loyola.edu


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