2015-2016 Collegiate Winners Showcase

2015-2016 Collegiate Winners Showcase

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) is very proud of our 2015-2016 Collegiate winners who typify both scholarship and love of the outdoors. These outstanding young people, along with all the fine students who entered our contest, are the future communicators and stewards for our precious outdoors. We present this year’s winners with their winning essays linked to each title.  Enjoy!

VOWA-Dominion Resources Awards
Best Overall Essay

Natasha King
College of William and Mary
Encountering Orcas

VOWA Dominion Resources Winner Natasha King, <a href=Natasha King, winner of a Dominion Resources donated $250 cash prize for her beautifully written essay “Encountering Orcas,” is a senior at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg VA. Her essay details a stunning and inspiring experience while participating in a research project in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound Washington.

Natasha, an aspiring writer, also won a Best Outdoor Photo Honorable Mention for a beautiful image of a Male Cardinal…she is multitalented indeed! Double majoring in

CardinalinSpring copyMarketing and Environmental Science, Natasha enjoys “writing of all kinds and prowling around the outdoors searching for animals to capture with her camera or with the written word.” Her goal is to work in a career related to ecological sustainability.



 Best Overall Essay Runner-Up

Lynn Wormeli
Virginia Tech
“Countering Insanity”

Runner-up VOWA Dominion Resources Winner Lynn Wormeli (second from rt.) Virginia Tech with her guests...roomates who were very excited with her.

Runner-up VOWA Dominion Resources Winner Lynn Wormeli (second from rt.) Virginia Tech with her guests…excited roomates.

The Runner-up VOWA/Dominion Resources Collegiate Undergraduate Award for Best Overall Essay honor went to Lynn Wormeli a senior from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, for her thought-provoking essay “Countering Insanity” inspired by her experiences as a camp counselor. Lynn grew up in Herndon, VA and is majoring in Geography, Geographic Information Systems and Religion. Lynn describes that she has often had a “nagging feeling” to write; she entered the contest to as a way to “reflect on my outdoor experiences, better myself as a writer, practice writing and to receive feedback from professionals.” The feedback: outstanding!

VOWA-Cooperative Living Magazine Award
Best Virginia Specific Essay

 Deirdre Conroy
Virginia Tech
“That Old Mountain” 

Deirdre Conroy CL Winner

The VOWA/Cooperative Living Magazine Collegiate Award, a $100 cash prize and publication, is given by Cooperative Living Magazine which is published by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC) for the best entry relating specifically to Virginia. The 2016 winner of this coveted award is Deirdre Conroy, a freshman double majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Literature at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, for her richly descriptive essay “That Old Mountain.” This superbly written essay recounts hiking Old Rag Mountain and the beautiful vistas seen of the Shenandoah Valley.

Deirdre is an accomplished equestrian, passionate traveler, a new caver, and has experience working with the Park Service, training animals, and working with children.  Career goals for Deirdre are to be a field scientist contributing to wildlife conservation in the form of research and in the writing of grant and research proposals.

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

Niall Goard
Virginia Tech
“McAfee Knob at Sunset”

Nuall Goard and Guests

Nuall Goard and Guests

Niall Goard an amazing self-taught photographer and freshman at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, is this year’s winner of the VOWA/Hunt’s Best Collegiate Outdoor Photo Award, sponsored by Hunt’s Photo and Video.

Niall received a $50 Hunt’s Gift Certificate, and a $50 cash prize from VOWA for his stunning image, “McAfee Knob at Sunset” which he took using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i digital SLR camera. A beautiful low light photo, his image captured outstanding detail in the knob’s rocks, stars above, the distant lights of Roanoke with a brilliantly green flashlight lit tent accenting the image.

Majoring in Forestry and soon to be a joining the VT Wildland Firefighting Crew, Niall’s after college plans include “joining a hotshot crew to fight wildfires on the west coast and in the off-season travel the world and document it with my camera.” Niall loves adventure, a broad spectrum of outdoor activities and sharing his excitement with his friends and family. He is sure to inspire people with is photography!


 Awards Ceremony

Prizes were presented to the winners during the 2016 Annual Meeting/Conference held March 12, 2016 at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center, Staunton VA. We thank Dominion Resources for a grant that not only supported our running of the VOWA Collegiate Contest, but also played a big part in enabling VOWA to offer a wonderful celebratory and informative Annual Meeting to our members and our collegiate winners.

We also thank our Special Awards sponsors Cooperative Living Magazine and Hunt’s Photo & Video, for their generosity which enables us to honor additional outstanding young people in a very special way.

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.