Carnegie Mellon University

The Adamson Awards

An annual highlight of the Department of English is the Adamson Student Writing Awards.


Run by the Creative Writing program, the Adamson Awards are presented for student excellence in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and non-fiction, and are open to undergraduate students throughout the Carnegie Mellon University community. Student pieces are judged by professional writers, and to add to the sense of celebration, a prominent writer is invited to be the special guest speaker at the annual Awards.

In 1983, Clarence H. Adamson, a graduate of Carnegie Tech, gave Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of English several gifts in memory of his wife, Pauline, who had died three years earlier. One of these gifts was the Adamson Scholarship for undergraduate women majoring in English. Another was the Adamson Awards for Writing and a fund for the support of an annual series of lectures by distinguished authors. And another was the Pauline B. Adamson Wing in Baker Hall, where the Adamson Awards ceremony is held every spring. The gifts were intended by Mr. Adamson as testimonials to the 35 years of companionship he shared with his wife and to her interest in education, language, and literature. The Adamson Awards are intended to encourage students to pursue excellence in writing. The awards are open to undergraduate students only.

2022 Adamson Awards Submission Deadline

Submissions are now closed. Thank you for a wonderful year!

What Can You Submit and What Are the Guidelines?

There are four categories for which you can submit your work.

1. Nonfiction - Essays and articles for popular/literary journals

2. Fiction

3. Poetry

4. Screenplays

IMPORTANT: Please include the name of the category you are submitting to before the title of your piece.

Example: Nonfiction: "What It Means to Write"
Example: Fiction: "Midnight Train"
Example: Poetry: "Acid Rain and Other Poems"
Example: Screenplay: "Other Numbers"

How to Submit Your Work

You will be able to submit your work here via an online portal during the next submission period (mid-March 2023).

Other Important Details


The Awards are open to all currently enrolled undergraduate students at Carnegie Mellon University, regardless of major or minor.


To be considered for any category your work must be submitted by the posted deadline. All submissions must be typed and all work must be original. All previous winning submissions for any of the awards offered by the English Department are ineligible. Only one manuscript from each entrant can be accepted in each category. Entries cannot be returned.


Outside judges appointed by the Awards Committee of the English Department evaluate entries and choose the winners.


At the discretion of the judges, monetary awards plus one honorable mention are given in each category to undergraduate students; $300 is given for first prize, $100 for second prize and $50 for third prize.

Presentation of Prizes

The Adamson Awards presentation ceremony typically takes place on the last day of classes each Spring semester. Details will be posted here in mid-March 2023.

*Winners are not notified ahead of time, so you should plan to attend the event.

2022 Adamson Award Winners


  1. First Prize Adamson Award: "Poetry" by Gaia Rajan
  2. Second Prize Adamson Award: "Giving Myself Grace" by Ashni Mathuria
  3. Third Prize Adamson Award: "Songs for Sappho" by Olya Sukonrat
  4. Academy of American Poets Prize: "Before the Fifth Stage" by Cynthia Xu
  5. CMU Press Prize: "Unripened" by Joan Song
  6. Honorable Mention: "Having Overheard the Secrets of the World" by Divya Krishnan


  1. First Prize Adamson Award: Eating Disorder Recovery Workbook by Ashni Mathuria
  2. Second Prize Adamson Award: The Cars Had Eyes by Roni Sosis
  3. Third Prize Adamson Award: Eggs by Shenai Chen
  4. Honorable Mentions: My Grandmother by Elizabeth Choi and Papa Dios by Matilda McDougall


  1. First Prize Adamson Award: Inheritances by Divya Krishnan
  2. Second Prize Adamson Award: The Commuter by Emily Finger
  3. Third Prize Adamson Award: Adrift by Riley Knavish
  4. Honorable Mentions: Little King by Mikey Cao, Dear Comrade by Olya Kukonrat, and Be Here Now by Daniel Yeh


  1. First Prize Adamson Award: Got Milk by Morgan Boyd
  2. Second Prize Adamson Award: Roots by Sophia Hill
  3. Third Prize Adamson Award: 2020's by Emily Finger
  4. Honorable Mention: Midsummer Night's Dream by Sarah Chung

The Edythe and Leon Nagin Award for Best Senior Honors Thesis

  • The Alchemist and the Apprentice by Matilda McDougall

Adamson Award Ceremony Speakers

2022 CMU Creative Writing Students
2021 Alan Siegel
2019 Daniel Borzutzky


Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum


Peter Balakian


Ron Carlson


Tracy K. Smith


Andre Dubus III


Victoria Redel
2012 K. C. Constantine
2011 Wang Ping
2010 Thomas Lynch
2009 Denis Johnson
2008 Russell Banks
2007 Elizabeth Alexander
2006 Stewart O'Nan
2005 Alice Foulton
2004 Dennis Lehane
2003 Cornelius Eady
2002 James Crumley
2001 Jim Harrison
2000 Michael Cunningham
1999 Colleen J. McElroy
1998 Howard Horman
1997 Charles Simic
1996 Tobias Wolff
1995 Robert Creeley
1994 Jamaica Kincaid
1993 James Tate
1992 Nicholas Pileggi
1991 Carolyn Kizer
1990 Michael Ondaatje
1989 Philip Levine & Gerald Stern
1988 Hilma Wolitzer
1987 Stanley Kunitz
1986 Alison Lurie
1985 Carolyn Forche
1984 Raymond Carver
1983 John Leonard
1982 Donald Hall