Cooley Writing Contest

First-year engineering students have the exclusive opportunity to write an essay on a topic in Born a Crime for a chance to win up to $500 through the Cooley Writing Contest!

Cooley Writing Contest Description:

In his will, the late Dean Mortimer Cooley, a former Dean of the Engineering College, left funds to encourage students to explore non-technical field to “develop, broaden, and enrich the Engineer’s education.” Dean Cooley’s funds support the Cooley Writing Contest, sponsored for currently enrolled undergraduates in Engineering.


  1. All engineering undergraduates enrolled for at least one term between January 2021 and January 2022 are eligible.
  2. A student may not submit a manuscript that has won a previous Cooley award.
  3. Students may not submit collaborations or translations
  4. Entries are limited to one per category
  5. If an entry receives a Cooley Award, the author must agree to indicate in a footnote or otherwise that this manuscript was granted a prize in the Cooley Writing Contest in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, and indicate the year of the award.

Start Writing:

We encourage first-year students to begin writing an essay soon after finishing Born a Crime this summer. Here are some topic/theme ideas to get you started:

  • Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty
  • Identity, Belonging, and Community
  • Love and Personal Growth
  • Resilience through Religion, Education, and Humor
  • Another theme of your choice

How to Enter:

You can enter by visiting this page!


Essays are due Friday, October 1st, 2021.


For additional information, contact Connie Hallom, (734) 764-1427 or

Cooley Writing Contest Winners – Common Reading Experience Category

2020 First Place: Katelyn King

2019 First Place: Advait Deshpande
2019 Second Place: Alanna Smith

2018 First Place: Margaret Cooney
2018 Second Place: Shaohua Li

2017 Winner, Christopher Knebel (center)

2017 Winner: Christopher Knebel

2016 Winner, Andong Luis Li Zhao (left)

2016 Winner: Andong Luis Li Zhao
Second Place: Cailin Ferguson and Vahid Arefi
Honorable Mention: Mekhakhem Kheperu

2015 Winner: Paul Regentin
Second Place: Amy Orlov
Honorable Mention: Debbie Cheng
2015 Mack Contest Winner for Common Reading Experience themed essay: Brinda Yarlagadda

2014 Winner, Yusuf Ghani

2014 Winner: Yusuf Ghani 
Honorable Mentions: Xiaosu Liu and Ilkka Kovanen