Professional Writing Seniors Receive Awards

The Professional Writing (PW) program announced the winners of this year’s Outstanding PW Senior Award, which recognizes three graduating PW students who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, success in experiential learning, and engagement with the community.

three girls one wearing an orange shirt and jean skirt, the middle girl wearing a black shirt and pink cardigan, and the third girl is wearing a black long sleeve shirt
Outstanding PW Senior Award first-place winner Samantha Ward (c), with honorable mentions Zoe Zapittell (l) and Kristen Gmerek (r)

This year’s first-place winner is Samantha Ward.

During her time at MSU, Ward has served several different organizations as a communication specialist, including MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, Big Brothers and Sisters of Lansing, and Raising Films, a London-based nonprofit she connected with during a study abroad internship program. She is graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA and with minors in Public Relations and Arts and Cultural Management.

“Professional Writing and WRAC have prepared me for the real world, and I have found a family of fellow rhetoricians, font nerds, and awe-inspiring people,” she said. “Some of my favorite times from college have been in Bessey 317, circling around in a rolley chair, collaborating with other passionate PWers.”

The Outstanding PW Senior Award also recognizes two honorable mentions. This year, Zoe Zappitell and Kristen Gmerek were given this honor.

Professional Writing and WRAC have prepared me for the real world, and I have found a family of fellow rhetoricians, font nerds, and awe-inspiring people


During her time at MSU, Zappitell not only completed her PW degree with an extremely high GPA but, along with PW alumna Brittney Urich, created and launched Conector, a mobile app that connects college students with others on campus. She also founded and serves as president for a new organization called MSU Women in Entrepreneurship.

Gmerek, a dual major in PW and Global Studies in Arts and Humanities, completed service-focused study abroad programs in Tanzania and Kenya and interned at Lansing’s Refugee Development Center. She also served two MSU units — the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA) and CREATE for STEM Institute — as a digital content creator.

Graduating PW students self-nominate for the Outstanding PW Senior Award. Professor Jonathan Ritz, one of the faculty members on the selection committee, said there was a significant increase in the number of applicants this year. He also noted that the level of quality was extremely high.

“We know our students are accomplishing impressive things in and out of the classroom, but I’m still blown away when I dig into these applications and see what people are actually doing,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible.”