This We Believe: SUNY Geneseo Writing Contest 

Class of 2017: Have you noticed the banners on campus proclaiming excellence, innovation, community, diversity, integrity, service, and tradition? These are Geneseo’s values as a public liberal arts college and a center of excellence.

We all have values and personal beliefs.  We hope you will share yours in a brief essay that can be read aloud in about three minutes.  Inspired by the international “This I Believe” project, Geneseo's "This We Believe" will gather stories about how our beliefs and values at Geneseo shape us.  Your story should state your belief (“I believe in friendship”; “I believe in baseball”) with an explanation of how your belief has helped you become the person you are.

New Student Programs and Residence Life will collect and archive all submitted essays.  We are encouraging participation by offering cash prizes to the writers of three outstanding submissions. Please take this opportunity to write the first chapter of your life at Geneseo.  Begin writing your first chapter today.


The international organization, This I Believe, has collected and archived over 100,000 essays describing how our core values shape our lives.  For inspiration, listen to some of the stories on their website ( 


Your essay should be between 300-500 words, written in the first person and in a comfortable style.  It should take you about three minutes to read it aloud.  All essays should connect with at least 1 of the 7 SUNY Geneseo Core Values. 

  • Excellence, and upholds high standards for intellectual inquiry and scholarly achievement;
  • Innovation, and affirms a spirit of exploration that fosters continued excellence;
  • Community, and embraces the educational aspirations and interests that its members share;
  • Diversity, and respects the unique contributions of each individual to the campus community;
  • Integrity, and promotes the development of ethical citizens;
  • Service to Society, and models the qualities it seeks to develop in its students;
  • Tradition, and celebrates its long history of collaborative, learning-centered education.


We understand how challenging this project may sound – writing about values requires revelation of private, intimate parts of your self.  To get started, follow these guidelines that were inspired from the This I Believe writing guidelines:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

This I Believe Essay-Writing Guidelines,”  by This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.