Professor’s Memoir Inspires Baruch Alum to Fund Essay Contest“The COVID Diaries” contest challenges students to share their personal stories during unprecedented times
March 9, 2021
Late last year, David Shulman (’64) reached out to Professor Bridgett Davis about her recent book, The World According to Fannie Davis, a personal memoir detailing the story of her mother, who was a numbers runner in Detroit.
In its glowing review, The New York Times described it as an account of “the triumph and good life of a lucky black woman in a deeply corrupt world.” Shulman was similarly impressed and wrote his own glowing review of the book. He also contacted Professor Davis to both convey his compliments and share an idea: a creative writing contest, focused on students’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic – with a cash prize attached.
Professor Davis was instantly on board, and a great opportunity for students was born.
Davis’s book touches on themes of perseverance through adversity, as well as ingenuity and hope. The parallels to the challenges facing American families, especially for those whose members are health professionals or otherwise deemed essential workers and face significant risk of exposure to the virus, are plain to see. That risk, along with the economic and emotional stressors brought on by the pandemic, impacts Baruch’s student community each and every day.
As Professor Davis said, “I know that much of this pandemic’s toll has been borne on the backs of our students and their families. Even through the small squares of Zoom, I can see glimpses of it. I also know, through years of teaching, that our students are talented writers with complex stories to tell.”
With its pithy name, “The COVID Diaries,” the essay contest challenges students to reflect on those personal stories and share them with the community.
The contest, open to any student who is currently taking or has previously taken a class in Baruch’s Department of Journalism and the Writing Professions, will be judged by Professor Davis and Professor Gisele Regatao.
Asked if she had any advice for aspiring contest entrants and memoir writers, Professor Davis shared the following thoughts: “A good personal essay is first and foremost compelling, with a clear narrative arc. The best are moving, insightful, sometimes funny, always honest, necessarily brave. Even risky. Often focused on a specific anecdote, a good personal essay provides much-needed perspective, newfound understanding, and a genuine sense of what makes us human.”
The professors will select three winning essays to be read aloud by their authors at a public Reading and Conversation event in May.
Prize money has been made available through a grant from The Shulman Family Charitable Fund: the first place winner will receive $1,500; the second place winner will receive $1,000; the third place winner will receive $500.
Essays should respond to the following prompt: “How has the pandemic affected you or someone close to you? How has it changed your relationships? How has it impacted how you see yourself, and the world?”
For more information about the contest, students can contact Professor Davis via email.