2014-2015 Collegiate Winners Showcase

2014-2015 Collegiate Winners Showcase

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) is very proud of our 2014-2015 Collegiate winners who typify both scholarship and love of the outdoors. These outstanding young people, along with the record number of fine students who entered our contest, are the future communicators and stewards for our precious outdoors. We present this years winners with their winning essays linked to each title.  Enjoy!

VOWA-Dominion Resources Award
Best Overall Essay

VOWA/Dominion WinnerChristina Nelson
Virginia Tech
“Into the ‘Real’ World”

Christina Nelson, winner of  a Dominion Resources donated $250 cash prize for her beautifully written essay “Into the ‘Real’ World”, is a freshman at VT who grew up alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains in Loudoun County where she enjoyed kayaking, bird watching, hunting, fishing, painting, writing, catching bugs and salamanders, and adventuring with her dog.

Christina is shown here receiving her award from Dominion representative, and VOWA Vice President, Dan Genest. Christina's Deer - Website

A student in VT’s College of Natural Resources, Christina is interested in researching the role predator/prey relationships play in local ecology and incorporating her scientific art and illustration talents, along with her interest in writing, into a wildlife major and career. Christina would like to inspire others to learn more about local wildlife and become more aware of the beauty in the natural world.

Christina’s talents are seen in her beautiful drawing of the deer from her winning hunt story.



 VOWA-Cooperative Living Magazine Award   Best Virginia Specific Essay 

Peyton Smith webPeyton Smith
College of William and Mary  “The Heron’s Hymn”

Peyton is currently a junior at the College of William and Mary in Willilamsburg where she is majoring in environmental science and government.

Born in Richmond, Peyton’s interests include bird watching, photography (she was also a finalist in our Best Outdoor Photo Contest), spending time outdoors, gardening , and music. She is particularly interested in Virginia’s geography, especially the lower Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore, and other coastal areas and ecosystems.  After school Peyton hopes to gain farming and livestock experience so that she might one day work on a farm or start an operation of her own.

Peyton is shown here after receiving her $100 award and certificate from Cooperative Living Magazine Editor Bill Sherrod. As part of her Award,”The Heron’s Hymn” will be published in Cooperative Living Magazine.

VOWA-Hunt’s Photo & Video Award
Best Outdoor Photo


437G0020 Steve WilcoxMichael “Steve” Wilcox
Lord Fairfax Community College
“Monarch on Goldenrod”

Steve, shown here with his wife Denise, is a returning student working to build a second career as an outdoor photographer. His photography is an extension of his passion for nature and art. Currently living in Warenton, the the Wilcox family is in the process of relocating to Crozet. Steve will receive a $50 gift certificate from Hunt’s Photo & Video.

Retired from public education Steve is a student at Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown VA, in the first of its kind Nature, Outdoor, and Wildlife Photography Certification program in the country…designed and led by VOWA’s own Rob and Ann Simpson.  He is also talking courses in Fine Arts at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

Wilcox Monarch WebsiteHis winning image was taken shortly after sunrise in Big Meadows during a class field trip to Shenandoah National Park. He describes that while the class was tracking deer, he discovered this monarch, Danaus plexippus, perched on a blooming goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, in the cool, overcast early morning. Canon 50-D camera with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.

Awards Luncheon & Ceremony

Prizes were presented to the winners following a celebratory Awards Luncheon graciously sponsored by Dominion Resources during our 2015 Annual Meeting/Conference held March 21, 2015 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville VA.

Thank you to Dominion Resources, Cooperative Living Magazine, and Hunt’s Photo & Video, who together enable VOWA to make our Collegiate competitions possible and honor these outstanding young people.

We thank our Judges Cooperative Living Magazine Editors Bill Sherrod and Richard Johnstone, and  DGIF’s Virginia Wildlife Magazine Editor Sally Mills for their time, patience, and expertise in judging our contest.

All conference images courtesy of Robert Thomas, Robert Thomas Photography. Thank you Robert!

 Congratulations to all who entered, you are all winners to us!  Keep enjoying, writing, and caring about the outdoors.