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Peter Hays First Year Seminar Essay Contest

The Peter Hays Prize is an award for the best expository prose essay from students in a first-year seminar. Inspired by Peter’s abiding interest in undergraduate student writing and his love of teaching at UC Davis, friends, family, community members and alumni have contributed to the fund that his family created to encourage clear and concise writing.

Regardless of their major or subject matter, students must write a five to ten-page paper and be nominated by their instructor. Essays are judged by the English Department Honors & Awards committee and will be announced each June. Students of Peter have spoken to the significant impact he has had on their lives:

"Under Professor Hays’ tireless mentorship, my casual observation about one of Hemingway’s short stories led to a poster project at the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference, a presentation at the 2018 International Hemingway Conference in Paris, and a publication in the peer-reviewed Hemingway Review. The fact that a freshman seminar from my first quarter of college could change my life like this never ceases to amaze me. When I tell people about it, it sounds crazy, especially when I mention that I’m not even an English major; but when I think back to Professor Hays and his passion for student writing—the advice on drafts, suggestions on conferences and publications, and emails reminding me to send him the latest version of my paper—it really isn't that surprising." - Michael Montgomery, current UC Davis student

"Professor Hays was an attentive reader of my writing, and more importantly, he knew I could do better; there is nothing more humbling, and inspiring, than to know that your work has been read carefully and seriously by someone skilled in the art…. the great lessons of writing that he imparted to me serve, every day, to make me a more skilled, thoughtful, and authentic communicator. I can think of no scholar and teacher more deserving of an award named in his honor. Professor Hays' committed teaching has helped to shape my life, and for that I am eternally grateful." - Michael Brandon Lopez, BA UC Davis '04, JD University of North Dakota '11

“As dissertation adviser, Professor Peter Hays was a stellar coach, from the weighing and honing of topics, to the marginal editing, and useful questions. He was in many ways a model for my own career. I would like to see other students benefit from his teaching and human skills.” - Marcelline Krafchick, UC Davis MA ’82 and PhD '85

For complete details on the Prize:


Christine Tebes
Sr. Director of Development
[email protected]
530-754-2221 (Phone)


Fund purpose

Student Support

Fund type


UC Davis
Office of University Development

UC Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-5270

Phone: (530) 754-4438
Fax: (530) 754-2294