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

Congratulations to our 2019 award winners!

Avni Sejpal ’19 MA received the Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award, recognizing the best graduate essay, for her piece "The Idol and the Corpse: The Wake of Colonial Modernity in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies."

Gracie Stagliano ’19 CLAS won both the department's Medallion of Excellence Award and the Jerome J. Fischer Memorial, recognizing the best undergraduate essay, for her piece "For Love of Light Skin: The Dangerous Mulattas in Chester Himes' A Rage in Harlem and Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress."

Meg Carter ’19 CLAS received the George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing.

Audrey Gibson ’19 CLAS received the English/Honors Creative Writing Award



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

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.

2019 Winner: Gracie (Caroline) Stagliano is a senior English and French double major from Atlanta, GA with a minor in Gender & Women’s Studies. During her time at Villanova, she was the Vice President of the Poetry Society and the layout coordinator for Polis literary magazine. After graduation, she will be serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as the student life coordinator at LINK Charter School.

She wrote her essay, "For Love of Light Skin: The Dangerous Mulattas in Chester Himes' A Rage in Harlem and Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress" for Dr. Jean Lutes's Crime Fiction and Gender course.

Previous Winners:

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.

2019 Winner: Avni Sejpal is a first year MA student in English at Villanova. She is interested in postcolonial literature and theory, media studies, translation, and cultural and political histories of the Global South. Originally from India, she holds a BA in English from St. Xavier’s College in Bombay and has previously worked in academic and literary publishing.

She wrote her essay, "The Idol and the Corpse: The Wake of Colonial Modernity in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies" for Dr. Heather Hicks's Introduction to Theory course.

Previous Winners:

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.

2019 Winner: Margaret (Meg) Carter is a senior English and Spanish double major. After graduating, she will be moving to Galicia, Spain to teach English as a Fulbright grantee.


Early Spring in Cádiz, Spain

Laura and I sit on the balcony,

soaking in the warmth, our shirts pulled up,

so our pale stomachs are like two full moons

absorbing and reflecting the afternoon sun.


We had eaten chipirones for lunch

and I made eye contact with each little

fried squid before pinching the head

and extracting what my host-parents called

el esqueleto which was flimsy and iridescent,

like a soap bubble, or a soul.


Laura had ripped out los esqueletos fiercely,

like striking a match, and was stopped mid swipe

when her mom said that yes, the pain near her armpit

when she lifted the folded linens into the closet

had been something,

and she might lose her hair.


And now, on the balcony, Laura,

my fourteen-year-old host-sister,

who knew she was bisexual but was unclear

about what the word “cancer” meant,

rolls a cigarette, lights it, and watches

the curling ribbon of smoke drift upwards like a balloon.


We listen to fragments of conversations

from the street, and Laura’s cigarette sizzles

as she inhales, and in her exhale, looks at me and says,

“Es que la vida es dura.”


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.

2019 Winner: Audrey Gibson is a junior English major from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Last summer, I worked at a non-profit organization that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. “Borders We Share” is a collection of stories I gathered during my time working in this position, interwoven with my grandfather’s immigration story and my observations at a migrant camp on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. 


I parked my car and walked into the office, greeted by the usual chime of the doorbell. In the lobby, I stopped at the front desk and performed my daily ritual with Andi, the receptionist. As always, we exchanged good-morning’s and chatted about the weather, traffic, and her son’s new girlfriend for a few minutes before I headed to my desk to begin my work for the day – a typical start to a typical Monday morning in the office.

As I walked to my desk, I scanned the olive green upholstered seats in the lobby. A young woman and three small children sat in the cluster of chairs in the corner, waiting apprehensively. The woman slowly rocked the smallest child in her arms, while the two older children sat on either side of her, tracing the intricate patterns on her long skirt. The woman’s hair was wrapped in a piece of bright yellow and green material tied in a large knot at the top of her head. Against the vibrant colors of the fabric, the woman’s face looked tired and distressed – two expressions I eventually considered synonymous with that lobby. While I knew the woman was young – no older than my older sister – she exuded an unmistakable maturity. As I passed by, I smiled and waved to the children, who smiled shyly back at me. Arriving at my desk, I found four new files stacked on top of each other with a note from my boss. The first line of the note read: “Refugees from Uganda. A mother and three children.”

Opening the files, I glanced at the passport photos and immediately recognized the four faces from the lobby: a mother and three children. As I sifted through their documentation, I attempted to weave together a story. Each passport stamp, address, photograph, and identification card was like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Eventually, after some rearranging, deduction, and research, the pieces came together to reveal the image of a young Congolese woman, who had fled to a refugee camp in Uganda with her three children almost six years ago. Now in the United States, she and her children were in need of green cards to ensure their legal status.   

During my first week working at the immigration and refugee services office that summer, my boss told me that many refugees will not know their parents’ names. Many will not know where they were born. Many will not know when they were born. She told me that it is customary to put January 1st as the date of birth on paperwork for refugees when there is no date on file.

I began filling out the green card applications for the woman and her three children. I used January 1st for each child’s date of birth.

This was the first time I felt grateful to know my birthday.

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.)

2019 English Honor Society

Margaret Alice Carter
Salvatore Robert DeMaggio  
Jacqueline T. Douglass   
Lucy Catherine Dunham
Aaron Michael Earlywine
Parker Ewing
Alexandra Emily Forgione
Danielle Katherine Fusaro
Claire Marie Gautier
Rachael A. Hardiek
Gillian Rose Hixson
Cassandra Tuong Vy Lieu
Angelina Malenda
Eva Marie Martin
Anne Christine Melbert
Elias Efthymios Papakostas
Emanuel Elias Perris
Lindsey Elizabeth Pohl
Catherine Mary Rayward
Caroline Mary Rini
Corina R. Scott
Olivia Grace Sigmund
Emily Elizabeth Smith
Caroline Grace Stagliano
Katherine Anne Vaughn
Corinna Marie Vlahoyiannis
Tiffany Wei

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

Previous Winners:

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