The Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize

Established in 2013 by Prof. Alison Sainsbury to honor her aunt, Kay Nelson, a prolific writer of short and often humorous essays whose work is a testament to the personal essay’s most essential truth: individual voice and idiosyncratic vision enliven even the most quotidian of experiences.  

To enter the Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize, students should submit one essay, double-spaced, of no more than 5,000 words (shorter essays are more than acceptable!). Traditional as well as more experimental forms of the essay are welcomed.  


2022 Winner: Nina DeBoni, "My Grievances with Math, As a Concept"

Honorable Mention: Farah Bassyouni, "Tahrir Square: The Story of a Childhood"

2021 Winner: Gabrielle Ghaderi, “Silent Flames: Barcelona after Uprising”

         Honorable Mention: Nicole Brennan, "I am an Idiopathic, Not a Crazy Drug Addict”

2020 Winner: Rachel Williams, for her essay "Cancer Can't Take It All" 
         Honorable Mention: Paraskevi (Vi) Kakares, for her essay “ή E”

2019 Winner: Kathryn Halford, for her essay "Vulnerability in 5 Stages" 

2018 Winner: Emily Salomon, for her essay “The Devil’s Playground”

2017 Winner: Mayra Gonzalez for her essay “Assests-Liabilities=Equ[ality]”
         Honorable Mention: Vandhana Rajarathnam, for “The Garage”

2016 Winner: Hanna Peterson, for her essay “My Own Way.”
         Honorable Mention: Savannah Feher, for “Four Plywood Walls.”

2015 Winner: Olivia Anderson, for her essay, “Blood Tide.”
         Honorable Mentions: Olivian Heffernan, for “In the Same Bed,” and Jasmine Wright, for “As Best He Could.”

2014 Winner: Colleen O’Connor, for her essay, “Darling, It’s Better”
         Honorable Mentions: Olivia Anderson and Mack Rivkin

2013 Winner: Sydney White, for her essay, “Hallways and Home”
          Honorable Mentions: Savannah Davis and Shane McGowan