Loyola University Maryland


Essay and Creative Expression Contest

Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Messina sponsor a Common Text essay contest for the newest members of the Loyola community. 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 entry based on the prompts below to the Messina Office at messina@loyola.edu no later than midnight on August 9, 2022. 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.

In an article by Tufayel Ahmed for CNN, Brit Bennett said that she was overwhelmed by the timing of the publication of The Vanishing Half and its inclusion in a tumultuous national conversation about race that restarted in 2020. She said that readers have told her about their personal experiences with racism and colorism after reading the book. Bennett said, “There's a larger conversation we're having about systemic racism and that's crucial to have. But I've enjoyed these conversations about interpersonal experiences with race. They don't feel as contentious or as defensive as the [political] conversations we often have.”

What does The Vanishing Half offer for discussions about complex experiences around race, colorism, transgender inclusion, family violence, and American history? What benefit does society receive from examining these issues from the perspective of fictional characters? How could some objections to talking about the experiences explored in The Vanishing Half be overcome?

Use Bennett'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 


The characters in The Vanishing Half take advantage of different opportunities to transition into new lives and/or new identities. Transitions in life are sometimes something we plan for, like moving to a new town, and other times transitions happen when a person explores an opportunity, like deciding to try a new skill.  Identify a transition in The Vanishing Half to which you particularly relate 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 transition, 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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