English student holding up award

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

Congratulations to our 2023 award winners!

Theo Campbell ’23 MA received the Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award, recognizing the best graduate essay, for their paper, "'Not Man: Woman': Freeing Leopold Bloom from Her Closet."

Cynthia Choo '23 CLAS and Sarina Sandwell '23 CLAS (above) won the Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award, recognizing the best undergraduate essay, for their papers, "Eve's Beauty: Fallen or Sublime" and "Silence as a Manifestation of Sexual Trauma in The Waste Land."

Makena Kerns ’24 CLAS received the George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing.

Dylan McMahon ’24 CLAS received the English/Honors Creative Writing Award.

Ava Lundell '23 CLAS received the Medallion of Excellence.

You can check out additional coverage of our most-recent awards ceremony on our blog.


The Edward McGrath Medallion, the English Department’s Medallion of Excellence, goes to the graduating senior whom the department selects for outstanding overall performance in the major.

2023 - Ava Lundell
2022 - Chloe Mikye Cherry
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.

An old newspaper image of Jerome Fischer with an accompanying quote

Jerome J. Fischer, image courtesy of The Villanovan

2023 Winners: Cynthia Choo is a senior English and Humanities double major with minors in Education and Writing & Rhetoric from Fort Lee, New Jersey. During her time at Villanova, she has participated in the Korean Students Association as treasurer, vice president, and president, in the Office of Intercultural Affairs and Intergroup Relations (IGR) Program as an ambassador, and in the Writing Center as a tutor. She is also a student-affiliate research fellow for the “Taught by Literature” project within the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership. Upon graduating, she will attend Teachers College at Columbia University to obtain her master’s degree in Education and teaching certification for secondary education!

Sarina Sandwell is a senior English major with minors in Peace & Justice and Chinese from North Haven, Connecticut. She works as a wardrobe manager in Villanova Theatre's costume shop and as a tutor in Villanova’s Writing Center. She is passionate about fashion and prison abolition, which often serve as focuses in her reading and writing. Following graduation, Sarina will attend NYU in pursuit of her M.A. in English and American Literature.

Previous Winners:

2022 - Ryan Haggerty and Sarina Sandwell
2021 - Julia Valenti
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.

A black and white photo of a white woman with short hair in a suit,  near a bookcase

Margaret Powell Esmonde, image retrieved from Children's Literature Association Quarterly

2023 Winner: Theo Campbell is a second year MA student. Their research focuses on the interplay of literature and politics in Ireland in the long nineteenth century. They are also interested in applications of post-colonial theory to the history of healthcare systems. In the fall, Theo will begin pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Previous Winners:

2022 - Madie Davids
2021 - Anne Jones
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.

2023 Winner: Makena Kerns is a 3rd year student from Seattle, WA majoring in Cultural Studies with minors in English and Asian Studies. When she’s not writing, she enjoys road trips, crafting, and finding new music.

"Dandelion Yellow"

Growing up, we always lived in creaky houses.

I have no memories of my own from our first home,

but mom tells me it was a flat structure

with red walls,

big windows,

and a stream out back where our black lab liked to dig for snails.

Once as a teenager, I made her take me to it,

hoping the sight might evoke some deep seeded memory within me,

but instead I sat in the car with a blank expression on my face.

My first memories are of a time when my family was apart.

Unsure of where my father was or

why his voice sounded so alien when we talked through the phone,

I always held my mom’s hand when we crossed the street.

For a little bit, she and I lived in a small apartment downtown, the interior of which

I can’t recall for the life of me,

but I do remember our frequent walks.

We’d always pass a mural of Jack and Meg White plastered on the side of Archie McFee’s.

Each time, I’d ask her who the two faces belonged to,

not because I forgot the answer,

I just wanted her to sing one of their songs to me again.

Months later, I found myself staring at indiscernible stripes of yellow.

I intentionally pointed at the brightest swatch in front of me when tasked with the decision of what color to paint my bedroom walls, though my options were already limited.

Mom and dad had already settled on a uniform yellow color pallet for our new home together.

Grandma’s favorite color was yellow.

It’s easiest for me to recall that room on a rainy day,

shut inside with my blinds open for the first time in weeks.

I used to love sitting next to my window,

singing in harmony with the rain as I tapped on the glass,

watching smudged fingerprints gather like the snow that never came.

2022 Winner: Qiao Kang

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.

2023 Winner: Dylan McMahon came to Villanova unsure of what to pursue, and quickly found himself craving a STEM-heavy curriculum open enough to allow him to explore his interests in music and creative writing academically. Thus, he finds himself now a junior mathematics major with a minor in creative writing, and a job in the music industry. Writing has been an outlet for Dylan and a part of his life since he was young. His work is influenced by his experiences with mental illness, his identity as a transgender man, and his childhood in coastal New Hampshire. He also takes influence from his favorite horror movies, music, and of course his favorite authors, including Jonathan L. Howard and Stephen King. He hopes to publish a novel in the future and to continue using his short form work to provide a peek into his perspective on the lives of transgender Americans and those with chronic mental illness. He also plans to pursue further education in mathematics alongside his independent creative work.

City Vomit (An Excerpt)

The flat tops of buildings littered with exhaust fans, antennae, and other machinery pass by at lightning speed. One after the next. The signs intrigue me more than anything. Tamil’s Donut’s, with both apostrophes. 24 HR BEER/WINE/LOTTO*. The asterisk leads nowhere. A calling to look for something that doesn’t exist. Red Squi  el M tel. The dud lights of the sign for the Red Squirrel Motel say more than the ones that are on. 

I’m tugged from my daydream when the train takes a sharp turn, straining and groaning to keep itself upright, and the far lean of the car pulls on my wrists where I’m cuffed to a coat rack on the wall. There’s a nice window in front of me where I can look out on the miles of city vomit that we’re passing. City vomit. That’s what my little sister always called that stretch of shitty suburbs and run down neighborhoods that extends far longer than the picturesque downtown of a major city. I don’t know what city this is the vomit of, or what kind of train this is, or where it’s going. I do know who kidnapped me and why, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about the Red Squirrel Motel and 24 HR LOTTO* and Tamil’s Donut’s.

The train rights itself as the tracks straighten. An Aspen Dental billboard smiles at me through the window, and I smile back. My captors must want me to know where we are. At least, it doesn’t matter that I can tell what city we’re in from the signs and billboards competing for a spot in my memory. They blindfolded me when they took me. They kept the blindfold—more comfortable than you might expect—on me from when I was taken at the port where I had just gotten off of a modestly sized private cargo ship all through driving me around in circles for hours in a less-than-successful attempt to disorient me. I can’t figure out if they’re stupid enough to take the blindfold off after hours of trying to get me good and lost, just for me to figure out from a Freedom Fertility billboard and a few highway signs precisely where we are, or if they only put it on in the first place for protocol reasons. The particular organization that nabbed me isn’t known for its efficiency.

2022 Winner: Lily Renga

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.)

2023 English Honor Society

Kelly Barker

Molly Carriero

Jacqueline Carroll

Cynthia Choo

Lindsay Cook

Elizabeth Corney

Jenna DeLeo

Fiona Gavin

Caroline Harding

Sara Hecht

Donovan Hill

Rebecca Jacobson

Keenlyn Kilgore

Lauren Kourey

Grace Kully

Jessica Laino

Madeline Lay

Ava Lundell

Trinity Murphy

Elizabeth Nacion

Erin Neilsen

Adrianna Ogando

Julianna Perri

Graciela Petrelli

Rachel Reardon

Katherine Reed

Elena Rouse

Sarina Sandwell

Clare Sceski

Cecile Schuller

Catherine Wood

Karina Zakarian

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 fall semester of 2023, the following students made the Core Honor Roll:


Alexander Albrecht

Kyla Armistad

Olivia Bancel

Camryn Brown

Emily Brown

Bianca Brucker

William Burgess

Noah Buscaglia

Carolyn Connolly

Caroline Deneen

Sophia Eichhorn

Mary Farrell

Maxwell Fung

Kaitlin Gibson

Isabella Gill

Nicholas Gross

Jake Hallinan

Emily Hanlon

Catherine Kolesar

Susie Kotwicki

Zachary Libertucci

Marie Loroz

Jack McCabe

Marcus Mellody

Cara Minter

Megan Munson

Taylor Newcomb

Annie O'Brien

Luke Ohr

Hunter Porro

Jonnathan Robles

Emma Stecher

Ethan Storz

J. P. Tampe

Kaylee Tate

Rachel Taylor

Amber Werner

Nicholas Wissman

Natalie Zickel

Olivia Zimmerman

Sam Zoehrer

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

2023 Winner - Madison Rhodes

Maddie is a Sophomore English major with both a Biology and Peace & Justice minor. She often searches for the purpose of our existence through literature and how we exist through Biology. Maddie was born and raised in Manhattan NY, and moved to Delray Beach, Fl at age 11. Since then, she has explored her passions for writing poetry, science, enacting social change, and music. Now at Villanova, Maddie is a writer and staff member for the Ellipsis Literary Magazine looking to evoke emotion and feeling through her works. In her spare time, she serves as a Ruibal Leader at St. Laurence providing tutoring to children in lower-resourced communities. She also volunteers as a NOVAdance Engagement Coordinator in spreading awareness of pediatric cancer and fundraising for cancer families. Outside of Villanova, she has developed her own literary website to uncover words she finds unspoken throughout different seasons of life. Maddie is excited to compose more literary works in the future!

Previous Winners:

Spring 2020 - Walter McDonald
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