Students rejoice at Commencement.

Karol Wojtyla Medallion for Excellence in Humanities

Before he became bishop of Kracow and eventually Pope Saint John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla was a poet, playwright, and professor of philosophy in Poland. His thought and writings articulate a deeply authentic humanism that is at the foundation of the Department of Humanities. His life bore witness to the vitality and expansive vision that is the fruit of such a humanism. In his encyclical Fides et Ratio, St. John Paul spoke of the love of wisdom that is “born and nurtured when the human being first asked questions about the reason for things and their purpose” and that “shows in different modes and forms that the desire for truth is part of human nature itself.” Our medallion winners are students who have not just excelled in their studies but whose love of wisdom has been stirred into a flame during their undergraduate studies. Below you’ll find the full list of our medallion winners since 2005.

2023 Karol Wojtyla Award Winner: Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson has distinguished herself among a very impressive and accomplished graduating class in Humanities. She graduates with a nearly impeccable GPA and an Honors degree, with studies that have also encompassed Spanish and Peace & Justice. Yet neither numbers nor accomplishments reflect why the faculty have decided to reward her the Karol Wojtyla Medallion. In these past two years in particular, she has impressed her professors as one of the most authenitc learners we have known. She invests herself with a genuine openness in what her classmates have to say, her teachers have to ask, and our texts have to offer. She takes this joyful seriousness outside of the classroom and has emerged as both a friend and a leader within the department. Her presence in the department has raised the affability and intellectual level of our community, while she has proven a catalyst in rallying students to extra-curricular events and going deeper into a life of learning. All in all, she has demonstrated that enthusiastic intelligence is a virtue to be shared and emulated. Her studies have looked at the ways that the emphasis on contemplation and composition in the liberal arts can be a source of healing, an approach which will guide her in the future. For many in this graduating class, the pandemic darkened hopes for what a collegial education could be, but with Natalie, alongside many others, the light shines brightly now.

2023: Natalie Anderson

2022: Olivia Pfeiffer

2021: Robert Bulka

2020: Timothy Long

2019: Emily LaPorte

2018: Ethan Swain

2017: Gabriella Berman

2016: Hindley Williams

2015: Sara Thoms

2014: Michael Vazquez

2013: Ryan M. Brown

2012: Paul M. Dupont

2011: Paul R. Trahey

2010: Charles A. Gillespie

2009: Madeline A. Chera

2009: Anne Marie Bonner

2008: Loretta A. Vasile

2007: Paul John Gorre

2006: Michael Ostroff

2005: Gregory Grimes


Senior Essay Prize

The Department of Humanities Senior Essay Prize is awarded to a major in the Department of Humanities for an essay that demonstrates excellence, rigor, and wisdom in its sustained engagement with a question deserving renewed attention at the end of the degree.  Seeking depth over breadth, students build on texts and issues from the gateway and elective classes to craft a long essay on a question that they identify in conversation with the symposium professor and an additional faculty advisor. Each essay is distinct in its demonstration of students’ particular intellectual loves and integrating interdisciplinary topics. Below are our past winners and posters of recent Humanities Senior Essays.

Alexander Fezza, 2023, "Should We Just 'Let People Enjoy Things?': An Examination of Pleasure and Popular Appeal as Bases for Value Judgments"

Carrie Sweeney, 2022, "The Art Form that Keeps Opening and Opening: Poetry as a Way of Knowing"

Casey O'Donnell, 2021, "The Song of Creation: A Divine Love Song Transposed"

Caroline Arnold, 2020, "Insignes pietate viriVirgil, Augustine, and Dante on the Virtue of Piety"

Matthew Faller, 2019, "A String of Minor Graces"

Patrick Hudak, 2018, "Acedia, Psychopathology, and the Human Person: Exploring Walker Percy's The Moviegoer and the Necessity of Meaning"

Eric Aldieri, 2017, "'Where Time and Eternity Spatter Each Other with Foam'": Signs of the Sacred & the Beautiful Impossibility of Home"

Ali Laird, 2016, "Sticky Little Leaves: Non-Locality, Non-Euclidean Geometry, and Positive Knowing in the Brothers Karamazov"

Charles Bates, 2015, "Is God Love?: Converging and Convincing Arguments for the Truth of Christian Faith"

David Kim, 2014, "Reconciling Man’s Irrationality through Synthesis: Love, the Crown of Rationality"

Sarah J. McNally, 2013, "The Good Life in the Age of Advertising"

Victoria L. Barry, 2012, "The Abolition of Justice: Exposing the Need to Restore the Virtue of Justice to American Legal Theory"

Cristina D'Averso, 2011, "The Circle of Love: Tracing Its Origin and Discussing Is Implications"

Keenan D. Lynch, 2010, "A Better Search for the "Better Place": Consideration of Hannah Coulter with regard to the State of Happiness Today"

Madeline A. Chera, 2009, "Counterculture and Communion: Beyond Industrial Systems for a Fuller Understanding of Food"

Natalie Anderson

"The Ecstatic Soul in the Age of Mass Culture"

In a society of psychologically intrusive and manipulative mass culture, how do we aim for and achieve authentic human experiences?

Cynthia Choo

"Faustian Strivings: Exploring the Dynamics of Meaningful Work and Rest"

To what extent is our understanding of work and rest an objective dynamic? Or, are there dimensions and boundaries that we must create personally for our own lives, and if so, what would that specifically look like?

Ryan Dery

"Deus in Machina: Technological Salvation and the Internet"

Why do people believe that the internet is an instrument of freedom or the means to achieving greater understanding? How do people act when they think that?

Hunter Dickson

"What Does It Mean to Become an Adult?"

What experiences and demands are part of being truly “grown up”?  How can we be ready to confront them?

Nick Downing

"The End of Liberalism?"

Have we reached the end of liberal order?

Alexander Fezza

"Should We Just “Let People Enjoy Things”?: An Examination of Pleasure and Popular Appeal as Bases for Value Judgments"

How has modern relativism impacted our ability to make and receive value judgements about art and entertainment? In an era of surveillance capitalism, is possible to mindfully consume and evaluate content in a way that nourishes the soul?

Cody Hogue

"The Phenomenological Exploration of the Black Soul"

What does a Black phenomenology reveal about our understanding of God, World, Society, and the Human Person?  How does progressive suffering and transcendence inform this?

Sheila Joyce

"The Dialogue Between Faith and Reason"

What is the relationship between faith and reason? Are they naturally at odds with one another or can they coexist in harmony?

Derek Lattmann

"Amicitia: Conviviality and the Fulfillment of the Human Experience"

What is the relationship between friendship and living the Good Life?

Aubrey Mackay

"Aristotle’s Good Life: Seeing Happiness"

How does one begin to repair the distorted relationships that get in the way of finding and living the truly good life?

Jordan Meier

"Furnishing the Good Life: How Design Facilitates Flourishing"

How can design and architecture aid in achieving the good life? What values are exalted and prioritized in the design of living spaces?

Joselyn Miranda-Barreto

"The Wounds of Erotic Longing: Why Love Hurts and Transforms"

Why does Love wound?

Bronwyn Mogck

"Body and Soul in Medicine"

How would an understanding of the human person as both embodied and ensouled change the healthcare system?

Stephen Terry

"A Conversion to the Good Life: How to Avoid the Temptations of Society Without Opting Out from It"

After undergoing a recognition to desire the Good Life, how can one avoid the temptations to opt out from the ills of society or to backslide into one's old habits?

Joshua Tsai

"The Power of Grace to Transform Suffering and Death"

How does grace transform pain and suffering?

Nina Williams

"Seeking Sanctuary: A Humanizing Approach to Migration Politics"

Are philosophical and theological attitudes about migration congruent with policy in rich liberal democracies? How would implementing such insight improve or advance policy? What does it mean for us to think of migrants not merely as economic agents, but as human persons?

Department of Humanities

St. Augustine Center Room 304
Villanova University 
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085

Chairperson: Dr. Michael Tomko