Each year the English department recognizes graduate and undergraduate students for their distinguished poetry, fiction and academic essays.

Congratulations to our 2021 award winners!

Anne Jones ’21 MA received the Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award, recognizing the best graduate essay, for her piece, "The Vexed Position of the Black Secret-Bearer: Concealments and Revelations in Hannah Crafts' The Bondwoman's Narrative."

Julia Valenti ’21 CLAS won the Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award, recognizing the best undergraduate essay, for her piece, "Austen Adaptations and the 'Accomplished Woman.'"

Madison Barber ’21 CLAS received the George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing.

Ashley Oh ’24 CLAS received the English/Honors Creative Writing Award.

Shivani Patel '21 CLAS received the Medallion of Excellence.



The Edward McGrath Medallion, the English Department’s Medallion of Excellence, is awarded to a graduating senior each year.

2021 - Shivani Patel
2020 - Joanne Hwangbo
2019 - Caroline Grace Stagliano
2018 - Elizabeth Eby
2017 - Stephen J. Purcell
2016 - Emma Pettit
2014 - John Szot
2014 - Christine V. Tergis
2013 - Alexa I Pastor
2012 - Theresa Donohoe and Nicole Battisti
2011 - Molly Schreiber
2010 - Max Stendahl
2009 - Joe R. Gonzalez
2008 - Angela S. Allen
2007 - Emily M. Trovato
2006 - Thomas Emerson
2005 - Kathryn M. Rutigliano
2004 - John Durnin
2003 - Mari Grace Crosby
2002 - Michael Foley
2001 - Kristin Suga
2000 - Christine Anderson
1999 - Thomas McKinley
1998 - John Giordano and Megan Norcia
1997 - Lisa Tomaszewski
1996 - Mark Spoonauer
1995 - Kelly Beissel

The Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award is given annually to the most distinguished undergraduate essay written in a Villanova English course. The Fischer Award honors Jerome J. Fischer, who taught nineteenth-century British literature courses, as well as a variety of other courses, at Villanova from 1947 until his retirement in 1983. He died in 1984.

2021 Winner: Julia Valenti is a senior English major from Garden City, New York. At Villanova, Julia has been involved in Alpha Phi Sorority as well as the campus publication BeWellNova, where she served as a writer. Also an Italian minor, she spent seven weeks studying abroad in Milan, Italy, during the spring of 2020. Julia is currently completing an editorial internship at The Digest, a New Jersey-based lifestyle magazine. With a passion for both media and writing, she hopes to pursue a career in the publishing industry upon her Spring 2021 graduation.

Previous Winners:

2020 - Ariana Megerian
2019 - Gracie Stagliano
2018 - Gracie Stagliano
2017 - Blaire Bernstein
2016 - Kevin Madden
2015 - John Szot
2014 - Megan Plevy
2013 - Shanon Welch
2012 - Theresa Donohoe
2011 - Molly Schreiber
2010 - Max Stendahl
2009 - Jamie Kapalko
2008 - Daniel E. Trucil
2007 - Emily Trovato
2006 - Stephen Cornell
2005 - Kristy Wessman
2004 - Mark Napolitano
2003 - Valerie Kate Fernandez
2002 - Rebecca Corcoran
2001 - Michael Foley
2000 - Corinne Welsh
1999 - Jennifer Joyce
1998 - Cara LaColla
1997 - Chris Eagle
1996 - Wendy Anne Tucker
1995 - [not given out]
1994 - Michael DiRuggiero
1993 - Rosemary Scalo
1992 - Mary Kovalchick
1991 - Peter Naccarato
1990 - Sarah Pines
1989 - Anne Marie Ryan
1988 - Jon Lemole
1987 - Jill Stevens

The Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award is given annually to the most distinguished graduate essay written in a Villanova English course. The Esmonde Award honors Margaret Powell Esmonde, who taught at Villanova from 1974 until her death in 1983. She was a specialist in Renaissance literature who also taught courses in science fiction and children’s literature.

2021 Winner: Anne Jones is a second-year M.A. English student (2019-2021). After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English from St. Teresa’s College in Kerala, India, in 2006, she established and ran a bakery in Pune called Honey Crumbs which specialized in custom designer cakes. Upon moving to America some years ago, she returned to her first love, English literature, at Villanova. The essay "The Vexed Position of the Black Secret-Bearer: Concealments and Revelations in Hannah Crafts' The Bondwoman's Narrative" was written for Dr. Travis Foster’s course on 19th century American literature—a course that introduced in the most fascinating way crucial texts that sometimes reflected, sometimes mediated, early American history. She feels fully justified in saying that it would’ve been impossible for this paper to have taken its final, polished form without the guidance of Dr. Foster. Anne would like to thank him for his generous feedback and encouragement, both of which contributed to shaping this essay into what it is. 

Previous Winners:

2020 - Olivia Stowell
2019 - Avni Sejpal
2018 - Nicholas Manai
2017 - Laura Tscherry
2016 - AJ DeBonis
2015 - Eric Doyle
2014 - Theodora Hermes
2013 - Rebecca Hepp, Cara Saraco
2012 - Alexandra Edwards
2011 - Benjamin Raymond
2010 - James McAdams
2009 - Don James McLaughlin
2008 - John Breedlove
2008 - Rebecca Steffy
2007 - Rebecca Burnett
2006 - Karen Y. Lee
2005 - Marc Napolitano
2004 - Victor Sensenig
2003 - Deborah Gross
2002 - Brian Sweeney
2001 - Patricia Crouch
2000 - Laura Giuliani
1999 - Sharon Cournoyer
1998 - Marc Schuster
1997 - Mary Ann Quigley
1996 - Robert Duggan, Jr.
1995 - Gale White
1994 - Gale White
1993 - Daniel Hipp
1992 - Helen Goff
1991 - Sr. Elaine Marie Glanz, I.H.M.
1990 - Katrien Conlan
1989 - Janet Wallin
1988 - Anne Gallagher
1987 - Gregory Sullivan
1986 - Ellen Wilmot

The George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing honors a longtime faculty member in the English department. The winner is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty and a Philadelphia-area writer.


2021 Winner: Madison Barber is a senior English major with minors in communication and education, from Fairfield, Connecticut.  She has considered herself a writer since she was seven years old and hopes to continue to write in her post-graduate years to come!


house, by maddie barber


i’ll tell you what home is not:


the kitchen chairs we keep on the porch to watch neighbors

saunter by, cigarettes in hand as the smoke curls up into the purple hues of the evening sky—


it’s too early for cigarettes, i just finished washing my last dish from dinner, and it was too breezy to keep the windows open any longer.


the mailman never comes, never sticks junk mail through the crevice in the door that would pile up on the shelf by the front door telling us to


vote biden, or

use our laundry service,


save 5 dollars on produce this week only

at the supermarket.


home is not a brand-new washing machine,

chestnut-colored cabinets with a shiny glaze,

a bedroom that can fit everything

i used to keep under the bed,

overgrown daisies behind the house

that itch the bones of my ankles that haven’t seen the sun in months,

and street parking that you have to pay for.


i don’t know the mailman’s name,

we don’t know the neighbors,

or what they call their dog that keeps watch on the porch,

muzzle cushioned between the rods of the railing,

we don’t wave goodbye to the garbagemen

(we never even see the garbagemen)

the sunset stays hidden behind the sad branches of a tree across the street, only a few golden beams ever visible behind them.


cigarette butts interrupt the blooming of weeds on the front grass;

nothing about that is supposed to be metaphorical,

it’s just an unpleasant sight to see

as winter drifts into its warmer sister,

and we hope for yellow again.


home is not

a clean bedroom, clean dishes, clean countertops,

or a sectional couch

with a stench i’m actually starting to care about.



the only sign of life in the morning,

make their own homes in trash cans and cover themselves with banana peels,

sometimes, a nanny pushes a baby in a stroller,

and the baby lets out a wild coo

as it is paraded down the uneven sidewalks

(i can hear it from my open window upstairs and gaze on the stroller from above).


i hate the squirrels. i wish i knew the name of that baby.


our windowpanes are painted forest green, which could have been charming in another life,

where the bumblebees and lantern flies would circle the slice of watermelon i held in one hand,

the other tapping the wicker of the porch couch along to some music i’m probably playing,

raising it only to wave hello to the mailman, who drops off letters that don’t belong to us,

or to wiggle a finger at the preschoolers playing tag in the street, where the dishes pile up in the sink because we’re too busy pouring tequila into plastic cups and

lighting a fire between the ends of the cigarettes hanging from our lips as early moonlight hides everything but the spark beneath its shadow.


(home is when you’re happy enough to drink wine on a brown sectional couch that smells like sweat and cheap beer)


About George D. Murphy

The George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing honors a longtime faculty member in the English department. George D. Murphy, PhD, received his BA in 1949 and MA in 1951 in English from the University of Notre Dame and his PhD in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He joined Villanova’s English Department in 1954 and retired in 2000 after 46 years of service. His scholarly publications focused on American writers of the 20th Century. While at Villanova, he was known for his exquisite sense of humor and a singular gift for recalling and recounting a host of humorous tales. While an undergraduate at Notre Dame, he was on the editorial board of its literary magazine—The Juggler of Notre Dame—and contributed a number of poems, short stories and critical essays. He returned to creative writing at the end of his life as a way of coping with grief over his wife’s death and produced many first-rate poems.

The winner of the English and Honors Award in Creative Writing is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty.

2021 Winner: Ashley Oh is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a freshman still deciding on what major she should pursue. 

Excerpt from "Letter"

I saw her last five years ago. I held her hand and stared into those empty, glassy eyes that saw straight through me, the outline of myself so vague it blurred with all the passing of people. The disease had eaten away her mind for so long that I watched her descend into a frail, ashy little husk, with glazed eyes and softly moving lips that knew no words. She was sitting on her wheelchair. The plump, rosy nurse smiled as she put her hands on my shoulder.

“Worry not ma’am,” she said. Her voice was polished, sterile, rubbed squeaky sweet by years of looking people dead in the eyes and telling them that their loved ones were gone. “I assure you our facility is top of the line, top of the state. Your mother will receive the utmost treatment, care, and attention.”

She smiled at mom. “Isn’t that right, Mrs. Cho?” Mom had stopped talking a long time ago. Her eyes were far, far, away from here, beyond the dim waiting room. My hand didn’t move from her withered knuckles. I remember when her palms had been red with chili and peppers, when they were callused from turning over stones and kneading cabbages. They were strong hands, belonging a stronger person. She sees the vague shape of me, and I only see the vague shape of a woman who laughed with the sun and carried sacks of rice on her back.

I looked at her again. Age had taken away so much from her, stolen the sparkling eyes and smile, left the withering marks to grow longer across her face, emptied her body so now her skin was stretched tight over bones yet still loose and hung hollow. Thin, white hair, I had tied her hair that morning, pulled it back with her favorite hairclip because that was how she had worn it every day before dementia had taken away too much, till it whittled away so much she would stare at the butterfly-shaped thing on her bedside table. When she looked at the mirror and saw nothing.

The English Honor Society is composed of senior English majors with high GPAs both overall and in English courses. Members are selected in the spring of their senior year. (They do not have to apply.)

2021 English Honor Society

Amanda Marie Atkinson

Catherine Carley Cook

Joseph Francis D'Antonio

Erin Catherine Fabian

Jamie Lee McClelland

Julia Regan Mills

Kyung Seo Park

Shivani Darshan Patel

Jessica L. Sardina

Dominic R. Sceski

Jacquelyn Bernadette Solomon

Julia Lorraine Valenti

The Villanova English Department’s Core English Honor Roll recognizes students whom instructors have identified as exceptional students in their Core English courses. This honor is for the one or two students in each Core English course who demonstrated the most aptitude in scholarly writing about literature.

For the spring semester of 2021, the following students made the Core Honor Roll:

Pragya Ajmera
Skye Archibald
Andrew Blloshmi
Julia Boettigheimer
Charlotte Borha
Zachary W. Boyer  
Grant C  Carey 
Alyssa M. Christiansen
Tabitha Ciocco
Elizabeth Curley
Michele Danigelis
June Dinias
Frank Fabrizzio
Abigail Faeth 
Nicholas P. Federico  
Kylie Horan
Chantal Jimenez
Fiona Kelley
Shae Kelly 
Olivia Kunitsky
Lindsey Kuzma
Gabriella Lee 
Alexandra Marasa 
Timothy Mastromarino
Katherine Mayer
Lydia McFarlane
Evelyn Melkonian 
Elise Miller
Anjini Patel
Ashley Petersen
Hannah Pontari
Andrew Portas
Katherine A. Reed
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 
Alex Sansano
Sarah VanFleet 
Isabel Vierra
Emiliana Visperas

The Core Literature and Writing Seminar Essay Award has been given to the best papers written for English 1975.

Previous Winners:

Spring 2019 - Jordan McMeans
Spring 2016 - Katie Vaughn
Fall 2016 - Bella Burda
Fall 2015 - Frank Fazio and Ciara Earrey
Spring 2014 - Nicole Conway
Fall 2014 - Sean Campbell and Kevin Madden    
Spring 2013 - Roderic Hutton
Fall 2013 - Patrick Ciapciak
Fall 2012 - Paige Kennedy and Danielle Sekerak

The Literary Experience Essay Award has been given to the best papers written for English 1050.

Previous Winners:

Spring 2012 - Nicholas Cho
Fall 2012 - Alissa Foti
Spring 2011 - [not awarded]
Fall 2011 - Monica Solis
Spring 2010 - Anne Stohlquist
Fall 2010 - Lien Trieu
Spring 2009 - Michael Tomae, Nakoya Wilson
Fall 2009 - Ellie Garbade
Spring 2008 - Kailee Fowler
Fall 2008 - Greg Cappa
Spring 2007 - Marissa Zator
Fall 2007 - C J Hodukavich
Spring 2006 - Christina Park
Fall 2006 - Jennifer Latz
Spring 2005 - Christian Skonier
Fall 2005 - Stephanie Cody
Spring 2004 - Emily Trovato and Kerri White
Fall 2004 - John Zurbach
Spring 2003 - Monica Borgone
Fall 2003 - Nadia Nauss
Spring 2002 - Elizabeth Micklow
Fall 2002 - Adrienne Sanetrik  
Spring 2001 - Matt Varga
Fall 2001 - Matt Nespoli
Spring 2000 - Andrea Flood
Fall 2000 - Michael Knerr and Ryan Zitnay  
Spring 1999 - Jocelyn Trufant
Fall 1999 - Kate Schramm
Fall 1998 - Megan Knecht

Student Meriel Alexander holds up a "I love Villanova English" sign.

Villanova University
Department of English
St. Augustine Center
Room 402

Department Chair
Professor Heather Hicks