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.

2024 Karol Wojtyla Award Winner: Christopher Cokinos

Christopher Cokinos has distinguished himself as an authentic intellectual who has thrived within a community of learners in the Humanities department. In his earliest classes, Chris readily displayed his trademark ability to make arguments and enter debate, characteristics that have served him well in his leadership role in Mock Trial. Yet what truly distinguishes Chris is his transformation from thinking about his mind and intelligence not just as instruments for success, but as gifts for living an examined life. He speaks eloquently about the way that Humanities texts and conversations have shifted his perspective on his place in the world and in society. The fruits of this are a seemingly insatiable desire to know more about everything from architecture to ancient philosophy and a quiet leadership inside and outside the classrooms that draws others deeper into the great questions of human life. While his competitive nature has made him a successful applicant to law school, this collaborative liberal arts education has made him much more than that—a gifted, gracious, and giving person who will continue to better himself and those around him.

2024: Christopher Cokinos

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.

Andrew Patton, 2024, "Ευχαριστία: Lifting the Veil from Our World of Gift"

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"

Summer Abdelbarry

"Detox: Into the Wild…Kind Of"

How does engaging with everyday life without technology enhance or diminish our relationships with our friends and family, the World, God, and Society? 

Julianna Bibbo

"The Problem with the Problem of Evil: Reframing Suffering and Returning to God"

How should we approach the problem of evil? In a world of suffering that often questions theological beliefs, how can we return to God?

Andrew Bogdan

"They Should Have Sent a Poet: An Exploration into Grief"

How does grief affect one’s experience with the world?

Chris Cokinos

"Surviving the Cave: A Guide to Post-Humanities Reentry into the “Real” World"

How can we re-enter the world after our Humanities education?

Sarah Cotteta

"Caring to Care: Examining the Adequacy of Nursing Home Facilities in the United States"

What does it mean to care for someone in a healthcare setting? Are there different types of care? Why is our system of nursing home care deficient now, and why are no improvements being made despite the vast amount of research being done?

Alannah Cunningham

"Cultivating a Full Life Through the Challenges of Change and Relocation"

How do we cope with immigration and assimilation to new places and lifestyles while also remembering the past and where we came from? How does this past influence our experience in this new atmosphere? 

Annie Eby

"This Ordinary Life: Dignifying Our Pursuit of the Good"

How can we dignify our simple, ordinary lives to enter into an excess of the good?

Rebecca Goehring

"Quantum Anima"

What is the value of human life/soul and why does that differ between the classic thinkers and the (engineering) industries I’ve come to know?

Matthew Hogan

"A Freefall of a Fleeting Fortnight"

What does the ephemeral reveal about the human condition?

Peter Keepman

"Ad interiora, ad supriora: Augustinian Interiority and the Quest for the Real Thing"

If human persons are body-soul composites, where does the notion of “the self” fit in? Or, indeed, is there even a place for "the self" in Christian anthropology? 

Lauren McLaughlin

"All You Need Is Love? An Exploration of Love in the Active Life and Contemplative Life"

If love is affirming the good of the other as Josef Pieper says, “It is good that you are,” how does this conception of love play into eudaimonia or total human flourishing? Is love active or contemplative?

Genevieve Mohr

"The Union of Heart & Mind: Faith, Reason, & Augustine’s Ascent of the Soul"

How and why does Augustine’s pursuit of truth precede his rational inquiry? For Augustine, why is faith necessary for reason and ultimately understanding?

Andrew Patton

"Ευχαριστία: Lifting the Veil from Our World of Gift"

What characterizes our view of the world now, and how did we get here? How do we remind ourselves that the world is all gift? What is our role within this world of gift?

Hannah Phillips

"Absently Present: The Impact of Technology on our Attentiveness"

What is the relationship between technology and attentiveness? How does technology affect our attentiveness to ourselves, each other, and the natural world? 

Mike Oberschewen

"What’s in a World? The Art of Sub-Creation"

How do we see the world and translate it using story? What is the nature of subcreation?

Isabella Riitano

"Aging Out of Wonder: The ​Child’s Gaze"

What is wonder? How does it change as we grow and age?

Ellie Smith

"Education Sets Us Apart: How Can It Bring Us Together?"

What do we lose when we cultivate our intellect through education? Do we miss beauty or love when we are always searching the world for meaning?

Department of Humanities

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

Chairperson: Dr. Michael Tomko