Important Deadlines

* Scholarships: March 29

* Writing Prizes: March 29

* Senior Thesis Research Grant: November 1 or April 1

Scholarships, Prizes & Grants

The English Department is proud to offer numerous forms of support for its undergraduate students and to recognize exceptional accomplishments in various forms of academic and creative work. Below, you can find information about scholarships, prizes, and grants specifically designated for declared English majors. Typically, these prizes and scholarships are awarded in the spring semester, though some - such as the Senior Thesis Research Grant - have fall deadlines.

English students are also encouraged to look more broadly at both University-wide and national or international scholarships to support their education. More information about these further funding opportunities are available via Scholarships@UW-Madison and the Grants Information Library. Students can also consult the undergraduate advisor about how to best prepare these applications.

Congratulations to our 2016 scholarship and writing prize winners!

Department Scholarships

Numerous scholarships, varying in number and amount, are awarded to students majoring in English who have distinguished themselves through their academic achievements and through service to the college or community. Beginning in 2011, with a generous gift from a member of the English Department Board of Visitors, we are also now able to offer a deserving student a need-based scholarship.  As of 2017, we are also offering a scholarship to a deserving First Generation College Student.

Submission Guidelines

  • The deadline for scholarship applications is in March of each academic year
  • Eligible students can apply through Scholarships@UW-Madison:
    Complete the questions presented to you. The filtering questions will allow you to see all the English scholarships you are eligible to apply for. You must be a declared English major with a major GPA to be eligible to apply for English Department scholarships.


In order to be eligible for these department scholarships, students must have:

  • Declared the English major
  • Junior or senior standing (a level of 3 or 4 which equates to 54 credits or more)
  • Completed at least 4 courses in the major
  • A cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher
  • A GPA in the English major of 3.5 or higher

List of Scholarships

The following scholarships are available to undergraduate English majors:

Dororthy Classen Urish Scholarship

The Dorothy Classen Urish Scholarship, established by Jack Urish in honor of his mother, was created to assist a Senior English Major. It provides a one-time award of approximately $1,000 to $1,500, depending on yearly funds available.

Vivian Mowry English Scholarships

These scholarships are funded through a trust that was established in 1963 by Vivian Mowry, who graduated with a Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1910. Awards are made on the basis of "scholastic proficiency and active participation in campus activities."

Mary Brabyn Wackman Scholarships

These scholarships were established by Charline M. Wackman in 1961. Charline was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin; the awards are named for her mother, Mary Brabyn Wackman.  Mary Brabyn Wackman was the authoress of many poems, including three volumes: Lilacs by the Roadside, Primroses on the Hedges, and Hollyhocks Are Sentinels. Many of her poems appeared in the Rambler, a column in the Wisconsin State Journal, in the early 20th century. Awards are made to English majors who are "bona fide Wisconsin residents specializing in literature.”

Helen Black Bennett Memorial Scholarship

This fund was established by the donor, Penelope G. Sticha, in honor of her mother. The fund was established in 1994.

Lila Hicks Furber Scholarship

These scholarships were established in 1995 by Lila Hicks Furber who graduated with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1926.  After graduation, Lila became a teacher.

Helen C. White Award

Established by Ineva Baldwin, this award is presented to senior women majoring in the humanities who exemplify the sterling character of Helen C. White, a great teacher and scholar in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin. Each recipient must exhibit high academic standing and a deep interest in the life of the community. Ineva Baldwin indicated recipients should have demonstrated their interest in sharing their humanistic culture with their families and their community.

English Undergraduate Scholarship

This fund was established by English Board of Visitors member, Thomas J. Johnson III and his wife, Barbara A. Johnson. It provides a deserving student with a $500 scholarship, awarded in the fall term, to support them in studies. Student applicants must have financial need as determined by the Office of Student Financial Aid. The academic record will be considered as part of the application, but GPA will be used only to select among equally deserving students for whom the award will make the greatest difference.

First Generation College Student Scholarship

The First Generation College Student Scholarship recognizes the strength, commitment, and perspective of First Generation English majors. The English Department Scholarship is awarded on the basis of academic merit and an appreciation of the contributions First Generation students make in the classroom, the department, the university, and the wider community.

Writing Prizes

Each Spring, the English Department awards undergraduate prizes for both academic and creative writing. (For creative writing prizes, follow this link: The academic essays and projects must emerge from qualifying English courses, as listed in the prize descriptions below.  Students may submit more than one essay or project.  However work that is submitted for one category cannot be re-submitted under another category.

Submission Guidelines 

  • Deadline for submissions: 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, 2017
  • Eligible students can apply through Scholarships@UW-Madison:
    Complete the questions presented to you. The filtering questions will allow you to see all the English writing prizes you are eligible to apply for. You must be an English major writing a senior thesis for the Chesler Prize. All essay or projects must come out of English courses.
  • Each submission must also include a cover sheet, also found on the Scholarships@UW-Madison site. Essays and projects without a cover sheet will not be eligible for any prizes.

List of Prizes

The following prizes are available to all qualified undergraduate students:

Chesler Prize

Established by Alan Chesler, BS, 1985, MS, 1987, who gives significant credit to the writing and communications skills he learned as an English major at UW-Madison. An award of $1,000 will be awarded to one student for an outstanding chapter of a senior thesis that demonstrates exceptional writing and analytical skills. (Creative writing theses are excluded.)

James T. Lewis Prizes

Established in 1968 and awarded annually for the two best essays written by first-year students in an English Department course (Creative writing courses are excluded.)  Each award is $125.

William F. Vilas Prizes

Established by Anna M. Vilas in 1912 and awarded annually for the two best essays written by undergraduates in English 245 or 300 - level and above English courses. The awards are $200 for the best essay and $100 for the second best essay.

The Standish Henning Shakespeare Prize

Established by Professor Andrew Weiner (emeritus) in recognition of his teacher and colleague Professor Standish Henning (emeritus). Awarded for the best essay written by an undergraduate in one of the English Department's upper-level Shakespeare courses, 431 or 432.  The award is $100

English 100 Writing Awards

The English 100 program offers a variety of writing awards to students who either are currently enrolled in or have recently complete the course. More information can be found on the program website.

Creative Writing Contests

The Creative Writing program awards numerous prizes for poetry and short fiction written by undergraduates. More information can be found on the awards section of their website.

Outstanding Digital Media Project Award

The award recognizes the outstanding use of digital media to express ideas in unique ways, to re image the work of English studies, and to take advantage of the affordances of emerging media.  Projects winning this award demonstrate an understanding of how digital media allow for novel modes of expression, communication, and persuasion.  The award is $125.  If your project cannot easily be sent as an attachment, contact the Undergraduate Advisor, Karen Redfield, at:

Data Analysis Award

This award recognizes an outstanding written project based on the collection and analysis of original data in a 300-level or above English major course.  The data may include surveys, linguistic data, or the quantitative analysis of digitized texts.  The award is $125.

Senior Thesis Research Grant

The John McMynn Williams Research Grant is awarded to English majors whose senior thesis project entails demanding and extensive research.  Awarded funds must be used to cover expenses necessary to complete the thesis.  These awards are designed to enable students to travel to archives or research sites, arrange participant interviews, or initiate other research activities that require special funding.  These funds cannot be used to present the project after its completion. For projects conducted in the United States, the range of awards is $500-$1000.  For projects that include study and research abroad, the range of awards is $1000-$1500. 

To be eligible, students must be English majors enrolled in at least three (3) credits of Senior Thesis Directed Study (681/682 or 691/692) with a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA. Students are selected based on the strength of their academic record, the rigor and clarity of their proposal and senior thesis project, and having a defined and justifiable budget. Review of applications and grant selection will be conducted by the English Department Honors Committee. Notification of award status will be mailed to applicants within two to three weeks of the application deadline. A copy of the completed thesis must be submitted to the English Undergraduate Office where it will become part of the senior thesis resource library.

(Please note: Students may not receive an English Senior Thesis Grant for their research if it has been or will be supported by another university undergraduate research grant, such as a Hilldale Undergraduate Fellowship or a Senior Summer Thesis Honors Stipend.)

In order to apply, please complete and submit this application form, along with a letter of recommendation from the applicant's senior thesis advisor, by the Fall (November 1) or Spring (April 1) deadline.