Sample Villanova Recommendation Letters

Organized by Corinne Welsh ('01-B.A. Honors/English, '03-M.A. English) 

Speaking to students' academic performance and research:

"I was happy to hire CJ Cregg to serve as my research assistant. Since my work is in an area (theoretical population genetics) that CJ hadn't really studied, I expected that she could be given well-defined mathematical or programming problems, and would be able to work without having the big picture. But of course, this seriously underestimated the drive and intellectual curiosity of a student such as CJ. She quickly taught herself the background material and would up doing essentially independent theoretical work. Though I proposed the basic outlines of the initial question, CJ refined the question, defined the approach to a solution, and carried it out, with pretty minimal input from me."

"Millard Fillmore's critical writing is lucid and graceful, and he always manages to find supple and surprising ways to give language to his own insights. In the long paper on Whitman he wrote for the course, Millard ingeniously examined the intersections of Whitman's poetry with Buddhist teaching; the paper not only underlined his critical acumen and eloquent style, but also his capacity for interdisciplinary research, his willingness to put in dialogue different genres, cultures, and belief systems. It is this kind of fusion and originality I believe he will bring to his work at the graduate level."

"For her project I asked Lisa Thomas-Laury to synthesize an analog of a natural product that may have medicinal properties. She was the only one working on the project and she handled that responsibility with maturity and drive. In the laboratory, I found that Lisa learned quickly, made the effort to understand and implement procedures that are sophisticated for a sophomore, and took careful, thorough notes. All of these attributes are marks of a good research scientist."

Speaking to intellectual curiosity & classroom performance:

"During my lectures, I encourage students to interrupt with questions. Zora Neale Hurston does so frequently -- but her questions rarely constitute requests for clarifications. Instead Zora usually leaps two steps ahead of me, in a way that demonstrates thorough and instantaneous comprehension of all that I've said and extrapolation to broader and more sophisticated implications. In summary, Zora Neale Hurston's questions resemble what I'd like to get (but rarely do) from even our comparatively senior graduate students at the Master's level."

"Eleanor of Aquitaine's participation went beyond just being a good citizen of the classroom who did her readings and participated actively in class discussion. Eleanor raised the overall level of performance in my class with her probing and critical assessments of the course material. It was not unusual to hear Eleanor talk about issues of African American oratory in terms of historical and or philosophical paradigms she learned in other courses. Eleanor has the kind of mind that seeks out new knowledge and then just as eagerly integrates it into the whole of what she is learning ... Eleanor of Aquitaine is the kind of student for whom education is a life transforming process."

Speaking to student's personal qualities:

"Richard III genuinely loves teaching children how to swim and how to improve their skills. He is equally comfortable easing a 5 year-old's fear of putting his face in the water as he is effective in helping a teenager shave tenths of a second off his starts and turns. Our club's parents trust Richard III as a coach because he leads by example and always jumps into the pool with his team during practices and with the children during individual lessons. A super snapshot taken by one parent, posted on the team bulletin board, shows him patiently buoying a youngster on the surface of the water during a lesson. His sincere transfer of swimming skills is even more appreciated because of this way it is delivered."

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