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 2022 award winners!

Madeline Davids ’22 MA received the Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award, recognizing the best graduate essay, for her paper, “Legibility and Its Limits: Reading the Traumatic in The Prioress’s Tale.

Ryan Haggerty ’22 CLAS and Sarina Sandwell '23 CLAS (above) won the Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award, recognizing the best undergraduate essay, for their papers, "And, Seen: The Panopticon and Archiving in Invisible Man," and "Devout Defiant Woman: A Reframing of Hope Leslie, Or, Early Times in the Massachusetts."

Qiao Kang ’22 CLAS received the George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing.

Lily Renga ’25 VSB received the English/Honors Creative Writing Award.

Chloe Mikye Cherry '22 CLAS received the Medallion of Excellence.

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

Instructions for how to apply for department awards can be found here.


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.

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.

2022 Winners: Ryan Haggerty is a senior English major from Pittsburgh with a double minor in Business and Communication. Ryan will attend Law School in 2023, after taking a gap year. During his time at Villanova, Ryan has hosted a radio-show, participated in Food Recovery, played Club Volleyball, adopted a kitten on a whim, and helped facilitate a reading group at a prison. He dedicates this award to all the incarcerated men at Chester County Prison, without whose stories this essay would not exist.

Sarina Sandwell is a junior 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. She has a passion for modern and historical fashion, as well as for sewing, which she enjoys integrating into her writing. Sarina currently serves as a Journalism and Correspondence Intern at the Pennsylvania Prison Society. After graduation, Sarina plans to continue studying literature in the hopes of pursuing a career in teaching.

Previous Winners:

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.

2022 Winner: Madie Davids is a second-year English MA student at Villanova University. She presented her first paper, “Translation, Trauma, and the Boundaries of Identity within the German Language” at Carnegie Mellon University’s 2021 Bridges and Borders Conference. She is currently writing her MA thesis on the intersections of the Holocaust and horror literature. The essay, "Legibility and Its Limits: Reading the Traumatic in The Prioress's Tale" was written for Dr. Brooke Hunter’s course on Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. This course introduced her to new and interesting ways to approach the Tales, and this paper is absolutely indebted to the creativity and excitement of the class and its readings. Madie would like to thank Dr. Hunter for the incredibly useful feedback on the paper itself, as well as for the class from which it sprung.

Previous Winners:

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.

2022 Winner: Qiao Kang is a graduating senior at Villanova University where she majors in Communication and minors in business. She is an international student from Inner Mongolia, China, and strives to incorporate her cultural background into her writing. Her interest in poetry writing began this semester in the Creative Writing class she takes with Professor Catherine Staples.

Two Sonnets: "Motherhood" and "Womanhood"


Qiao Kang


I turned and walked away,

my back to my mother.

They said it’s what a woman has to go through,

it’s what makes a woman full. I sat and waited,

to see what would make my mother full –

a scar, diabetes, bigger shoes. They said

my future thoughts would self-improve.

A gift, a bliss, a newborn! That’s what makes a woman full.

I turned and walked away from the delivery room,

my back to my mother. Fear took my breath.

In a room carved by blood, etched with pain,

in a room run and owned by women,

in a room so intricate, interlaced with life and death,

in a room that they say, one day I will step into.



They said, one day I would step into the same room,

one day I would understand when I was in their shoes.

Joyful, fulfilling, incomparably warm –

your pleasures in the happiness of your family.

Selfish, regretful, old, and alone –

stigma of a woman ignored our cues.

They pushed me back and shut my tunnel vision

of womanhood. A woman’s role is written on a script,

they said, a woman’s life passes through stages,

like a caterpillar in metamorphosis: larva, pupa, butterfly.

Miss, mom, nana. It’s what a woman has to go through,

it’s what makes a woman full.

I turned and walked away, my back to my mother.

I know they don’t follow. Among the unfettered, I wander.

2021 Winner: 
Madison Barber

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.

2022 Winner: Lily Renga is a freshman in VSB with minors in communications and creative writing. She loves reading, eating, and meeting new people. When she doesn't feel like the Villanova dining hall will satisfy her cravings, she wanders off to Pho Street on Lancaster to get beef pho and spring rolls. She hopes to combine her love for food with marketing in the future by working on advertising CPGs.

Excerpt from "AirPods vs. the Apocalypse"

    Now, I thought, now, my day really couldn’t possibly get worse.

    I knew I had to make an effort to revive him. I was a lifeguard over the summer, and I had to get CPR certified. In a last ditch effort, I closed my eyes and opened them again just in case this whole nightmare was truly a dream. Nope. It’s not like I could even blame the bystander effect either, because the only one around to save him was me. Bracing myself, I placed my palms on top of each other and centered them over his small body frame. What was that song that they made you do CPR to that helped with the beat of your pulses? After rattling my brain for a minute I remembered: “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees. I tried to picture the beat in my head, but it’s just not the same as listening to music. If there is a time I could have used AirPods, it would be right now. My rhythm was off and I couldn’t do anything about it. As I pushed down, I could tell I was doing nothing but hurting him. The beauty of listening to music is that you don’t need to be musically gifted to enjoy it. I fell into the musically gifted-less category. Voice cracking, I tried to let it carry me through the lyrics of “Stayin’ Alive” to no avail. Seriously, imagine a chainsaw cutting into a beehive, followed by the screams of the person who cut down the beehive getting stung. I think most people would prefer this scenario over my singing. I was cut from the school play in first grade after auditioning with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

    In the end, I couldn’t bring the boy back. I had been performing CPR for thirty minutes, and I was past the window to save him by now. As I lay next to his limp body, out of breath from singing, I truly had never felt more alone. There was absolutely nothing left I could do to save anyone except for myself. I put my head on the cold red tile of Jazz High and lay still. Getting the antivirus, if it was even in the locked cabinet, was pointless. I slumped my hands in my pockets and closed my eyes. That’s when my left hand felt a smooth, small object. Pulling it out, I felt the beautifully slim shape of the case fit right into the palm of my hand. My AirPods. They had been in my pocket the whole time, screaming out to me. I had failed to check the simplest place. Laughter bubbled out of me, first in murmurous waves, then building into an overflowing tsunami. Tears streamed down my face. I put the pristine, sleek pair into my left and right ear and pressed play. The song choice was perfect.

    From the 1987 album Document by R.E.M.: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)”.


2021 Winner: Ashley Oh

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.)

2022 English Honor Society

Autumn Rose Anderson

Arianna Christina Bufalino

Chloe Mikye Cherry

Emily Irene Curtis

Caterina Marie Deuser

Meghan Elizabeth Edwards

Lindsay Jean Gallagher

Kashae D. Garland

Ryan Sean Haggerty

Caroline Grace Harding

Tariq Maxwell Karibian

Amelia C. Middlebrooks

Jourdyn Nicholson

Mackenzie Alicia O’Reilly

Amanda Wilkinson Smith

Maria Christine Sobinovsky

Caroline Elizabeth Sweeney

Lily Claire Switka

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 fall semester of 2022, the following students made the Core Honor Roll:

Alyssa Amico

Sadie Andra

Hannah Borelli

Kaleigh Brendle

Emma Caesar

Christian Carson

Mary Corrigan

Angel DeVita

Alyssa Dixon

Caroline Donnelly

Elle Fallon

Isabella (Ella) Forese

Isabella Hernando

Emily Hodgson

Dominic Holcomb

Maddie Koenig

Kyle Lee

Katie Lewis

Isabel Lima

Thomas Lynch

Maeve Malone

Dodge Martinson

Samuel Matro

Chloe McAloon

Anabelle McGinley

Claire Murphy

Colin Nemshick

Olivia Palmieri

Maddie Rhodes

Ajée Robinson

Madison Roth

Alivia Scerba

Audrey Schopperle

Ethan Silva

Matt Tallman

Christian Tan

Lillian Tracy

Michael Vogel

Marché Walter

Lexie Zuluaga

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

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