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Amplify Competition

The Amplify Competition is an opportunity for Smith College students to share their knowledge, stories and perspectives in a public forum and raise their voices to bring about positive change. The competition specifically seeks to amplify students’ voices as they draw attention to the issues that matter to them. It is open to all current Smith students, and entries can be drawn from assignments completed for a course taken for credit in the past year, or a piece developed outside of a student’s course work.

Amplify Competition 2024 Project Gallery

And the Winners Are...

Public Art

Sena Amuzu ’24, “Getting to the point...”
Ava Harper ’24J, “Who Would Deny Shelter from the Storm?”
C Willison ’24, “We Will Not Be Quiet! Stonewall Was a Riot! (A Call and Response)“ 

Public Writing

Sophie Gutierrez ’24, “What It Costs to Live in America” (article)
Lauren Thompson ’26, “You Have Probably Seen Me Around Campus” (op-ed)

Public Speaking

Sophie Gutierrez ’24, “11 Minutes” (spoken-word poem)
Chioma Stella Opara ’27, “Reclaiming Your Education” (TED-style talk)

Honorable Mentions
Arisha Faiyas ’26, “Pride Flag in My Pocket: Remapping Dhaka as a Queer Bangladeshi” (TED-style talk)
Shariqa Tasnim Shaila ’24, “In the Echoes of Your Absence” (spoken-word poem)


Sammy Oster ’24, “Museum of No Dancing” (videogame)
Tarika Pather ’25J, “Mapping Ecologies of Resistance: The Black Geographies of Beloved and The Water Dancer” (interactive website)

People’s Choice Award

Sarah Kim ’26, “Home Can Be a Lonely Place” (op-ed)

Competition Categories

This year, the Wurtele Center for Leadership is partnering with the Smith Office for the Arts (SOFA) and Neilson Library to sponsor the 2023–24 Amplify Public Art Competition.  We are issuing a Call for Proposals (CFP) for a temporary public art project in the form of an installation to be displayed on the ground floor of Neilson Library in response to this fall’s exhibition of a curated set of protest posters selected from the Library’s Special Collections, which represent a variety of social, political, and cultural issues. Highlighting the range of artistic forms that protesters have used to inspire change, the fall exhibition invites visitors to explore how institutions, organizations, and individuals raised awareness about pressing issues of social and political activism in the 20th Century.

For the Amplify CFP, we invite proposals from students that take the form of a public art response to the exhibit that was featured in the fall, activating the public space of Neilson’s ground floor in ways that extend the experience of passers-by as they encounter student work on the themes explored in the original exhibit. We will select three proposals to feature, placed next to each other on the expanse of wall after the fall exhibition is removed.


We are no longer accepting submissions to the Public Art section of the Amplify Competition.

For the purposes of this competition, we define public speaking as the verbal delivery of knowledge and ideas with the intent of influencing or enhancing a listener’s views on a particular topic or issue. This category will take the form of a public event at which students may speak in one of two formats: a “TED”-style talk of no more than 5 minutes or a piece of original spoken-word poetry of no more than 5 minutes. The event takes place on February 4, 2024, 3–5 p.m. Judges will be present to evaluate speaking submissions. After the speaking event, videos of public speaking performances will be posted on the Amplify Competition website in order to be considered for the People’s Choice Award. All public speaking awards will therefore be given not at the speaking event but rather at the overall Amplify Award Ceremony on March 4, 2024, 7–8 p.m.


Registration opens Friday, January 5, 2024, for the Amplify Public Speaking Competition. Students interested in participating in the competition should submit an entry no later than Sunday, January 14, 2024. Registered students will receive further communication about additional competition logistics and criteria.

We define public writing as any written piece (published or intended to be published) that seeks to influence or enhance a reader’s views on or raise the visibility or salience of a particular topic or issue. This includes:

  • Opinion Pieces: op-ed (no more than 1200 words) written in the last 12 months, either as part of a Smith College course assignment or as an independent submission to a publication
  • Other Articles: A piece of long-form journalism, online blog or zine (online or physical copy) created in the last 12 months, either as part of a Smith College course assignment or as an independent project. NOTE: While longer pieces are acceptable, submitters to the Public Writing category are advised to consider whether they have conveyed their argument in as concise a manner as possible.

In previous year’s competitions, the most successful entries have offered well-researched and deeply nuanced perspectives on current issues. Judges in this category generally look for pieces of writing that offer a fresh take on the topic, and that they can imagine encountering in public media outlets. Fictional writing and poetry have historically not been chosen for prizes in this category. (Poets should consider delivering a spoken-word poem in the Public Speaking category.)


Students interested in participating in the competition should submit an entry no later than Sunday, January 21, 2024.

We define a multimedia piece as any submission that combines different content forms such as text, audio, images, animations, or video into a single project for purposes of communicating information to an audience, in order to influence or enhance an audience member’s perspectives on or raise the visibility or salience of a particular topic or issue. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Podcast Episode: Originally written podcast episode of no more than 60 minutes. Podcasts can leverage interviews and content from other sources, but should marshal those voices in service of a larger argument advanced by the creator of the piece.
  • Interactive Website: a website that includes both text and imagery to inform viewers about a current issue.
  • Original Short Film: Documentary or artistic film no longer than 30 minutes in length.
  • Graphic Essay or Comic Book: Original work that incorporates imagery and text and draws on research to address a particular issue.

In previous years' competitions, the most successful entries have been those that are intentionally designed for the chosen format, whether that is digital or analog, and that utilize sound and/or visual design compellingly to engage the audience. These entries have typically blended creative elements or approaches (for example, storytelling, prose, or poetry) with a clear and well-researched connection to a topic or issue of public interest.


Students interested in participating in the competition should submit an entry no later than Sunday, January 21, 2024.

Amplify Competition Overview



Students may enter submissions in four categories: Public Speaking, Public Writing, Multimedia, and Public Art. Students submitting to the Public Speaking Category will deliver their submission at a public event at the start of the spring semester. Students participating in the Public Art portion of the competition will respond to our Amplify Call for Proposals to compete for an honorarium and support to complete a specific project. All submissions will be published on a consolidated Amplify website, which will be accessible only within the Smith College community. Submissions will be entered to compete for prizes in each of the four categories, plus a “People’s Choice” Award.


The categories of Public Speaking, Public Writing and Multimedia will be judged by a panel of three judges, made up of a combination of current Smith faculty or staff, alumnae and local practitioners.

The judging panel for Public Art will include members from the same categories, but be comprised of five members, including representatives from the Smith Office for the Arts (SOFA) and the Neilson Library.

General Submission Guidelines

  • Students may submit one entry per category.  Students may not submit the same entry to multiple categories, however.  Therefore, in any given competition year, an individual student may submit up to four distinct entries in the four categories of the Amplify competition.
  • Students may submit entries that are collaboratively created. The entry should be submitted only once; be sure to enter all co-creators’ names in the submission form. Should the entry be chosen for a prize, that prize will be split between the co-creators.
  • Entries may be, but are not required to be, assignments completed for a Smith College course.
  • Entries may be in languages other than English. Please note that the Wurtele Center for Leadership will publish both the original submission and an English translation on the Amplify website.
  • Entries do not need to have been published. However, judges will be looking for pieces that hold promise for future publication; see competition criteria.
  • Competition administrators will review all submissions and reserve the right to reject unsuitable submissions or recategorize submissions as appropriate. Submissions will be rejected if they do not meet the submission criteria or if they advance hateful or discriminatory positions. Students whose submissions have been recategorized will be notified prior to publication of the Amplify Competition Website. If you are uncertain about whether your submission meets the criteria or are unclear on which category to submit to, please reach out to Erin Cohn ( in advance of the deadline.

Depth of Discourse

Does the submission build connections between areas of knowledge and a public audience? Does it translate outside of an academic or classroom context? Is the piece rooted in a larger understanding of fields of knowledge or social systems, yet convey those learnings to a public audience? Does it show a sophisticated understanding of its audience?

Seeks to Make Positive Change in the World

In keeping with Smith’s mission to develop “engaged global citizens and leaders to address society’s challenges,” judges will evaluate submissions on how clearly they articulate a connection to a pressing social, economic, political, or cultural issue. Issues can range from local to global in scale.


While submissions do not need to have been previously published, judges will be looking for pieces that hold considerable promise to be able to enter the public conversation in a meaningful and impactful way around the issue the piece seeks to tackle. Does the piece assert an original idea or offer new perspectives on the issue? Is it likely to draw readers’ or viewers’ attention and influence the debate?

Quality of Submission

How well-crafted is the piece? Is it well-polished or carefully made? Is the piece complete and does it stand as a whole on its own?

How can I get inspired around developing a public voice?
Attend Amplify programming this fall! The Wurtele Center has curated specific hands-on workshops and events to inspire you and build your skills specifically in the areas of public voice covered by the Amplify Competition. To learn more, sign up for our newsletter by emailing

I want to participate but I’m not currently in a class that has a public voice-oriented assignment. Can I still submit something?
Yes, the competition is open to all currently enrolled Smith students. If you would like to work on a piece this fall outside of your coursework and are interested in some advising and feedback, attend fall Amplify programming and reach out to the Wurtele Center for support.

What if I’m not sure which category I should submit it within?
We welcome multimedia submissions as well as those that defy genre conventions.  We would encourage you to submit your piece to the category that most closely fits, recognizing that the judges will consider submissions broadly to allow for creativity. Please note that we may also recategorize your submission if it fits better in a different category. If you want some help determining which category to submit under, reach out to Erin Cohn (

Will you accept submissions that were co-created by more than one author or artist?
Yes, we will accept collaborative submissions. Should those pieces be selected for a prize, the prize will be split among the creators of the winning submission. Should a student enter a collaborative submission in a category, they may not also submit a separate individual piece in that same category.

I want to submit a piece that advances a controversial idea but I’m concerned about it going public on the competition website. Will people outside of the Smith community be able to see the site?
No, outside viewers will not be able to access the Amplify competition website. We will ensure that the site requires a Smith College login and Duo authentication to be able to access it. In addition, controversial ideas are acceptable, however we will not accept and publish submissions that advance hateful or discriminatory opinions. The Amplify competition’s purpose is to provide space for Smithies to speak for positive change, not challenge the humanity of others.

May I submit a piece anonymously?
No. The purpose of the Amplify Competition is to support Smith students in generating the courage to share their voice publicly, including taking ownership over the ideas and knowledge you are advancing.

I created a piece for a course I took at Smith last year. Can I submit it to this year’s competition?
Yes. We would encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to continue to revise and work on it before submitting this year. Watch for workshops and other feedback opportunities, or reach out to us directly to get some support.

Where can I find help and support as I work on my submission?
The Wurtele Center for Leadership staff is always willing to meet on a one-on-one basis to offer feedback or advise you as you work on developing a submission. Reach out to to request an appointment.

Amplify Competition Prizes

Depending on the number and quality of submissions, judges may not award all prizes for all categories.

Public Art

$500 artist honorarium
Three proposals selected, costs of project fabrication also to be covered

Public Speaking

Best TED-style Talk: $750
Best Spoken Word Poem: $750

Public Writing & Multimedia

First Place: $750
Second Place: $375

People’s Choice

$200 to an entry from any category that receives the most website votes

Important Dates

Look out for sessions and events during these months where you can workshop your piece and get feedback.



September 18, 2023

Competition opens for Public Art proposals

November 20, 2023

Public Art proposal deadline

December 8, 2023

Public Art competition winners announced

January 5, 2024

Competition opens for Public Writing and Multimedia categories
Registration for Public Speaking category opens

January 14, 2024

Registration deadline for Public Speaking category

January 21, 2024

Public Writing and Multimedia category submission deadline

February 4, 2024, 3–5 p.m.

Public Speaking category event

February 12, 2024

Amplify gallery website goes live
People's Choice Award voting opens

March 4, 2024, 6–8 p.m.

Public Art Reception (6–7 p.m.)
Amplify Award Ceremony (7–8 p.m.)

Amplify Competition 2023-2024 Judges


Anaiis Cisco, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Smith College

Rachael Hagerstrom ’02, Social Media Manager, Smith College

Micaela Heck ’10, Freelance Podcast Producer

Public Art

Leigh Fagin, Jean & David W. Wallace Foundation Director, Smith College Office for the Arts

Leslie Fields, Head of Special Collections Public Services, Smith College Libraries

Angelina Lippert ’07, Chief Curator and Director of Content, Poster House (NYC)

Hamssatou Maiga ’24, Computer Science Major and past Amplify participant

Traci-Ann Wint, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Smith College

Public Speaking

Joshua Birk, Associate Professor of History, Smith College

René Heavlow AC ’08, Director of Operations and Special Programs, Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Smith College

Imani Wallace (Lyrical Faith), Poet and PhD candidate in Social Justice Education, University of Massachusetts

Public Writing

Christina Barber-Just, Editor, Smith Alumnae Quarterly

Brent Durbin, Associate Professor of Government, Smith College

Lori Tharps ’94, Freelance Journalist, Podcast Host, and Author