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 viri: Virgil, Augustine, and Dante on the Virtue of Piety"
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"
"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?
"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?
"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?
"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?
"The End of Liberalism?"
Have we reached the end of liberal order?
"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?
"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?
"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?
"Amicitia: Conviviality and the Fulfillment of the Human Experience"
What is the relationship between friendship and living the Good Life?
"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?
"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?
"The Wounds of Erotic Longing: Why Love Hurts and Transforms"
Why does Love wound?
"Body and Soul in Medicine"
How would an understanding of the human person as both embodied and ensouled change the healthcare system?
"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?
"The Power of Grace to Transform Suffering and Death"
How does grace transform pain and suffering?
"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?