Laura Nye, a senior English major from Staunton, Va., won first prize for her poem "neti neti" in the competition for the Steger Award for undergraduate poetry at Virginia Tech.

Nye, whose poem title translates as “neither this, nor that” from the Upanishads, was recognized by University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni and Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, the award’s benefactor.

  • Listen to Nye read her poem. (Length 3:05)

In January, students at Virginia Tech were invited to submit a poem about “the future” and compete for “The Steger.” The award, now in its fourth year, carries a $1,000 prize, the highest amount for an undergraduate poetry award in the nation. The second place prize of $500 went to Christian Harder, a sophomore communication major from Richmond, Va., for “The Book of Hasty Future.” Caty Gordon, a senior English major from Centreville, Va., won the $300 third place award with “At Large the World.”

The student authors read their work publicly at a celebration event, along with offerings from faculty members in the English department’s creative writing program, and visiting poet, playwright, and actor, Lemn Sissay, the author of five collections of poetry.

Honorable mention certificates were also awarded to the top-10 finalists:

  • “Looking Back at the Future” by Christopher Brouse, a first year university studies major from Blue Bell, Pa.;
  • “Holographic Sunsets” by Nicholas Gacos, a sophomore communication major from Sea Girt, N.J.;
  • “Dreams Dreaming Through” by Kelly Jones, a sophomore math major from Blacksburg, Va.;
  • “La Rata” by Jonathan Pfaehler, a senior Spanish major from Yorktown, Va.;
  • “FZRA” by Amanda Rhoads, a senior English major from Manassas, Va.;
  • An untitled poem by Sean Simons, a sophomore English major from Lytle, Texas; and
  • “Let Us Go (For Flower, who taught me to see)” by Andrew Sporrer, a sophomore communication major from Zelienople, Pa.


“We encourage undergraduates to explore poetry and poems in all their aspects,” said Giovanni, an internationally recognized poet and member of the English faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Assistant Director of Creative Writing Aileen Murphy, who also serves as director of the Blue Ridge Writing Project, coordinated the process and the event. The competition was judged by a committee of faculty and staff from various disciplines at the university. In addition to the monetary award, a small statue made by local jeweler Faith Capone, was inscribed and presented to the winner.

Related Links

  • View a gallery of photos from the award ceremony.