Graduate School launches its first op-ed competition

By Barbara Gutierrez

Graduate School launches its first op-ed competition

By Barbara Gutierrez
Graduate students who elect to participate will be challenged with writing a 600-word opinion piece to promote their research.

A strong voice.

No fear of controversy.

Sustaining an argument throughout the piece.

These are all elements needed to pen a strong opinion piece or op-ed—so named because it often ran opposite the editorial page in newspapers or magazines. This type of writing provides its author with an outlet to promote their point of view on a topic.

To introduce University of Miami graduate students to a wider forum to promote their research, the Graduate School has launched the first “Op-Ed Challenge,” a competition that encourages students to write an opinion piece of 600 words or less that highlights their research.

“This is a difficult exercise because op-ed writing is so different from academic writing,” said Patricia Sanchez Abril, associate dean of the Graduate School and chair of the Department of Business Law at the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School. “With an op-ed they have to be concise, advocate, and appeal to a larger audience.”

Inspired by the popular 3-Minute Thesis competition, where students must present their research orally in three minutes to an audience not familiar with their work, Guillermo “Willy” Prado, vice provost for faculty affairs and dean of the Graduate School, came up with the idea for the competition. The Op-Ed Challenge asks that participants write a compelling piece good enough to be considered for publication.

“It is a good exercise because it gets new researchers to practice an essential, which is conveying their research, its importance, and its impact to a broader audience,” said Abril. “It also brings the University a point of pride because we celebrate student research, connect people across campuses, and promote interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Abril said that successful opinion pieces could help academics get grants and help them in changing laws and policies.

The competition is open to any doctoral- or master’s-degree student whose discipline requires an electronic thesis or dissertation. It will run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 24.

A kickoff Zoom session will start the competition on Sept. 19, when a panel of three experts from major news outlets will give tips on how to write an op-ed and lead a discussion on what makes a good opinion piece. During that Zoom session, members of the Graduate School will also give details about the competition, said Abril.

A second workshop, “Cultivating Your Public Voice: How, Why, and for Whom do we Write Op-Eds?” will be held Oct. 7 on Zoom.

Participants must enter the competition by Sept. 26 and file a first draft of their opinion piece by Oct. 10. In the following 14 days, or the review period, competitors must complete one of the following:

  • One-on-one feedback meeting with a member of the Op-Ed Challenge Steering Committee or receive writing support from the University’s Writing Center.
  • Attend the Graduate School Fall Writing Retreat from Oct. 13–16, which will offer competitors an opportunity for focused writing, along with expert advice on polishing their pieces for submission.

The final versions of the opinion pieces are due on Oct. 24. They will be judged by professional editorial writers. The panel includes Nancy Ancrum, Miami Herald editorial page editor; Stacy Morford, environment and climate editor at The Conversation US; and Jim Verhulst, deputy editor of editorials at the Tampa Bay Times.

The steering committee—which includes University faculty and staff members, and students—gave advice and helped to draft the guidelines of the contest, according to Abril.

Winners, who will be awarded cash prizes, will be announced in early December.

Visit https://www.grad.miami.edu/about/grad-events-and-calendar/op-ed-challenge/index.html for complete details on the competition.