from L to R: Jennifer Robinson, Pres. Gogue, Alicia Berdeguez, Eric Lopez
Spring 2011 Common Book Writing Contest Winners
This spring marked the second Common Book writing contest, which was co-sponsored by Auburn Connects!
and the Office of University Writing. Unlike the Fall 2010 contest that was open only to incoming freshmen,
the spring contest invited all undergraduate students to submit writing of any genre that connected to the
2010-2011 Common Book, Three Cups of Tea by Dr. Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. The contest judges,
Dr. Margaret Marshall, Dr. Constance Relihan, Dr. Sharon Roberts, Dr. Paul Patterson, and Mrs. Emily Washburn,
read and ranked all submissions, which ranged from creative writing pieces to research papers. First place was
awarded to Alicia Berdeguez for her poem, “Patterns.” Second place was awarded to Jennifer Robinson for her
essay, “Missteps and Success.” Third place went to Eric Lopez for his essay that looked at the book through
the lens of foreign policy implications.
Each of the winners expressed that they discovered a personal connection to Dr. Mortensen’s story of
perseverance, education, and culture, which enabled them to become more engaged in the process of writing about
Three Cups of Tea. These connections are well within the goals set forward by Auburn Connects! for students to
gain a global perspective and to become intellectually engaged in the Common Book.
The prizes for contest winners included the opportunity to shadow Provost Mazey, President Gogue, and
Athletic Director Jay Jacobs. “I truly enjoyed the opportunity of getting to shadow the Athletic Director Jay
Jacobs for the day. It was a once in a lifetime experience to see all the inner functions of how a collegiate
athletic department operates,” stated third place winner, Eric Lopez.
To show his support for the Common Book program, President Gogue hosted a dinner at his home where the
winners were honored for their accomplishments. All faculty members who used Three Cups of Tea
in their classrooms
as well as others who were involved in the Common Book program were in attendance. The three winners were introduced
by Dr. Margaret Marshall, who also presented each winner with a gift card for the AU Bookstore. “The dinner was a
great opportunity to see how widespread the Common Book program has become in only one year. The people in attendance
represented diverse fields, so it was a great chance to discuss the book and share ideas from very different
perspectives,” stated Geralyn Murray, a graduate student for the Office of University Writing who helped plan the event.
Auburn Connects! has selected Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder as the 2011-2012 Common Book. This book
tells the story of Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to bring modern medicine to Haiti as he lives out his
philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity”. By continuing to sponsor the writing contest and other on-campus
events, Auburn Connects! expects to engage Auburn’s community in shared academic experiences for both students and
faculty through the selection of Mountains beyond Mountains.
Click any name below to view a full profile.
Alicia Berdeguez, First Place
Alicia Berdeguez is a freshman studying English and Creative Writing. When asked to describe her
writing process, Alicia said “I begin my writing process with notes and ideas from the text that I want to
portray in my piece. I then write a rough draft of my basic ideas and continue to edit until I reach a work
that makes me proud to present.” She decided to read Three Cups of Tea when it was introduced as suggested
reading at Camp War Eagle. The theme of Afghanistan children’s passion for learning and Greg Mortenson’s
speech about his travels were Alicia’s main motivators for writing a response to Three Cups of Tea. As a
writer, Alicia stresses the importance of writing about topics that she is passionate about. Her advice to
other writers is to write constantly and to write when overcome with emotion.
Jennifer Robinson, Second Place
Jennifer Robinson is a sophomore majoring in English and Spanish. She decided to read Three Cups of
Tea when she heard that Greg Mortenson was coming to speak at Auburn. When asked what motivated her response
to the novel, Jennifer said; “Greg Mortenson’s story feels so human to me. I was inspired by his journey
because he managed to succeed despite many mistakes. I also loved how simple his idea was. It’s something that
should have occurred to everyone but it didn’t. For that, he is brilliant.” When beginning her writing process,
Jennifer starts by writing what she is feeling. She then identifies important themes and organizes her thoughts
into a cohesive whole. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of confidence as being the key ingredient in becoming
a great writer. Her advice to other writers is “Work hard and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”
Eric Lopez, Third Place
Eric Lopez in a senior pursuing a degree in Political Science. Eric especially enjoyed the themes
of foreign relations that Three Cups of Tea presented. His main motivation for writing his response was
attending the lecture held by Greg Mortenson as well as an interest in the countries in which Mortenson
has worked. When asked to describe his writing process, Eric said “When formulating my paper I tried to write
it in a way that could show how I was affected by both reading the book and attending the event. My theme was
based off of a reaction to who Greg Mortenson is, and what he has accomplished.” Eric’s main goal in his writing
is to be specific and personal. His advice to other Auburn writers is “Instead of always being so focused on
big words and trying to impress people with your style, simply speak from the heart and talk through your writing
in a way you would explain something to a close friend.”