Peter Hays Writing Prize

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Peter Hays Writing Prize

Nomination Deadlines

  • Fall Quarter: Friday, December 14, 2018


The Peter Hays Writing Prize for the best paper written for or related to the content in a First-Year Seminar class (FRS).

  • A monetary prize will be awarded for the best paper.
  • Research funding will be awarded to the faculty member who recommended the winning paper
  • Open to all students, regardless of major, or undeclared
  • More information at the English Department Website



  1. Instructor of a FRS must nominate a paper for this award – only one nomination per class.  Criteria for the award includes originality, logical construction, and clarity, especially for those papers in scientific subjects that will be judged by humanities professors.  A string of formulae or equations, or detailed charts, no matter how brilliant, will not suffice.
  2. Papers are required to be 5-10 double-spaced typed pages in 12-point font.  Please include the “title” at the top of the paper.
  3. The author’s name and the instructor’s name must NOT appear on the paper.
  4. Instructors are to email Lynda Jones,, with the name & ID# of the student whose paper they wish to nominate for the award.
  5. Such nominations will be accepted at the end of each quarter beginning Spring Quarter and ending Winter Quarter of the following year.
  6. The award will be announced and presented at the English Department Year-end Celebration & Awards Ceremony held at the beginning of June each year.



Professor Hays’ freshman seminar, “Reading Hemingway’s Short Stories,” was as much about writing as it was about reading. Each week, in addition to several short stories to read, he would assign a one-page writing prompt. 

In one of the stories, I noticed what seemed to be a word with two meanings, each of which made sense in the story’s context. I mentioned this in our class discussion that week. Afterwards, Professor Hays pulled me aside.

“You know,” he said, “I don’t think anyone has noticed that before. You should consider writing something about it.” He then told me about a past student of his who had taken him up on a similar suggestion. The paper she eventually published helped her get into law school.

Intermittently over the next four months, Professor Hays encouraged me to keep this idea alive. He directed me to research resources, edited my rough drafts, met with me to discuss the project, and suggested that I present my work at the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference, with him as my advisor.

That summer, with the paper finally coming along, he suggested that I also present at the International Hemingway Conference in Paris, taking place in July of 2018. I applied, and got accepted. By January, I had finished the paper. The Hemingway Review accepted it for publication a month later.

The fact that a freshman seminar from my first quarter of college could change my life like this never ceases to amazes me. When I tell people about it, it sounds crazy; in some ways, it is, especially when I mention that I'm not even an English major. But when I think back to Professor Hays and his passion for student writing—the tireless mentorship, advice on drafts, suggestions on conferences and publications, and emails reminding me to send him the latest version of my paper—it really isn't that surprising.

- M. Montgomery


As an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis, I had the distinguished honor of learning from, and working with, the esteemed scholar Peter L. Hays. Professor Hays was an attentive reader of my writing, and more importantly, he knew I could do better. And there is nothing more humbling, and inspiring, than to know that your work has been read carefully and seriously by someone skilled in the art.

Professor Hays is a treasure of a great public institution, and in no small part the great lessons of writing that he imparted to me serve, every day, to make me a more skilled, thoughtful, and authentic communicator. I can think of no scholar and teacher more deserving of an award named in his honor. Professor Hays' committed teaching has helped to shape my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.

- Michael Brandon Lopez, M.A., J.D.