Three students in the college took home prizes for their entries in the annual VOWA (Virginia Outdoor Writers Association)/Dominion Collegiate Undergraduate Writing Contest. Entries in the competition, which seeks to encourage youth and young adults to cultivate their creative talents, focused on this year’s theme of a memorable outdoor experience or special interest.

Zoe Carroll of Earlysville, Va., a junior majoring in wildlife science, took first place for her essay “Getting the Bird Flu,” which recounts her volunteer intern experiences working with baby birds at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Boyce, Va.

“I’m very excited that I’ve accomplished this,” Carroll said. “I would love to be a part of wildlife research in the future and continue to write — not just because I love it, but because it would help others to appreciate wildlife.”

Leslie Beard of Laurel, Md., a junior majoring in natural resources conservation, earned second place for her entry “To Life, Outside.” Her essay details her introduction to the outdoors during a trip to Lake Tahoe with her aunt, who fostered Beard’s love of nature. She dedicated the piece to her aunt, who died from cancer in 2012.

“I enjoyed writing the piece,” Beard remarked, “and I am glad that others will be able to read about the life-changing experience I had. I hope it will inspire others to spend more time in nature.”

Whitney Clark of Smithsburg, Md., a senior majoring in natural resources conservation, won the Cooperative Living Magazine Award for her entry “Knowing the Knob,” which describes her adventure in the wind and rain to climb McAfee’s Knob along the Appalachian Trail. Her essay will be published in Cooperative Living Magazine, a publication of the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

“As someone who loves exploring nature, this contest gave me the chance to share my experiences with others,” Clark said. “Hopefully it will inspire people to go and find adventures of their own.”

All three essays are posted at