Headshot of Dean Mortimer Cooley

In his will, the late Dean Mortimer Cooley, a former Dean of the Engineering College, left funds to encourage students to explore non-technical fields to “develop, broaden, and enrich the Engineer’s education.” Dean Cooley’s funds support the Cooley Writing Contest, sponsored for currently enrolled undergraduates in Engineering. A quote from Dean Cooley’s will outlines goals in more detail.

“…for prizes for Engineering students, those who expect to make engineering their profession. It shall not, however, be used for promoting greater knowledge along purely professional or technical lines, but rather to encourage and promote study and research, the object of which is to develop and promote the interest of the Engineer in non-technical fields, in which, because of this technical and professional training, he can render a service for mankind which is not now being rendered by anyone. In other words, to create and interest for the Engineer in what are now non-professional activities…in short, to develop, broaden, and enrich the Engineer’s education.”

The contest committee invites students to submit entries in one or multiple categories, including:

  • Category 1: Essays on any topic that live up to the spirit of Dean Cooley’s will.
  • Category 2: Drama & Fiction
  • Category 3: Study Abroad


  1. All engineering undergraduates enrolled for as least one term between January 2023 and January 2024 are eligible.
  2. A student may not submit a manuscript that has won a previous Cooley award.
  3. Students may not submit collaborations or translations.
  4. Entries are limited to one per category.
  5. If an entry receives a Cooley Award, the author must agree to indicate in a footnote or otherwise that this manuscript was granted a prize in the Cooley Writing Contest in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, and indicate the year of the award.

The Cooley Committee welcomes inquiries regarding the contest. For information, please contact the Technical Communication Program at 734-764-1427 or email


Category 1: Essays (including the Common Reading Experience)
A student may submit only one essay. This must be double-spaced and should not exceed 20 full, double-spaced pages, excluding the bibliography. Essays will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Major Criteria
    • Whether it meets the terms of the will quoted above
    • Originality on the subject
    • Grasp of the subject
    • Effectiveness of focus and organization
    • Clarity and effectiveness of expression
  • Minor Criteria
    • Proper acknowledgment of sources and borrowed material, if any
    • Correctness in spelling, diction, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure

Category 2: Drama & Fiction
A student may submit one entry in each genre. Although longer works are not excluded from competition, short stories and one-act plays usually comprise the largest number of entries

  • Drama: Manuscripts must be double-spaced. One-act plays should not exceed 50 full pages.
  • Fiction: manuscripts must be double-spaced. Short stories should not exceed 10,000 words (approximately 40 pages).

Note: Authors of novels and full-length plays as well as of shorter works should consider the possible advantages of entering the annual Hopwood Contest in addition to the Cooley Contest.

Category 3: Study Abroad
A student may submit only one entry to this category. Students may submit a written paper, or a blog documenting experiences from a study, work, intern, or volunteer abroad experience. Students should demonstrate cultural learning in their submission.

Decisions of the judges are final. Judges reserve the right to not award prizes if submissions do not meet required standards.