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Theology Doctoral Student Wins College Theology Society Best Student Essay Award

Villanova University theology doctoral student Trevor Williams won the Susan G. Perry Award for the Best Student Essay by the College Theology Society (CTS).

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University theology doctoral student Trevor Williams won the Susan G. Perry Award for the Best Student Essay by The College Theology Society (CTS). The award was announced in June at the CTS Annual Convention, a virtual event this year at which Williams was able to present his scholarship. Williams' work, "Trinitarian Animality," was selected from more than 40 submitted essays.

Williams explained that his paper is fundamentally an interpretation of Emmanuel Falque’s book The Wedding Feast of the Lamb, through the framework of Saint Bonaventure’s symbolic theology from The Soul’s Journey into God

“I begin by discussing modernity’s crisis of the symbolic and its dichotomous understanding of humanity’s connection to the animal world. In response, I draw from Falque’s emphasis on the Incarnation and our filiation with the Trinity,” Williams said. “Falque’s approach to the symbolic opens an opportunity to discuss the intelligibility of “fleshly” experiences like pleasure. I therefore appeal to Bonaventure’s understanding of sense powers, his account of the way beauty produces pleasure, and how we judge this experience. My analysis points to the connection between symbols and the truths they signify, making it possible for us to speculate about how our senses signify the presence of God in the world. I conclude by relating my argument’s sacramental implications to the modern crises mentioned at the beginning of the paper.”

The Chair of the CTS Awards Committee, Howard J. Ebert, PhD, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College, noted that “This year’s winning essay was exceptional in its theological depth, creative and synthetic retrieval of an ancient source in conversation with contemporary theological work. The committee found his essay well written, theologically sound and creative. This honor is both a recognition of Trevor's work and of the high quality of the graduate program at Villanova. Congratulations to all who made Trevor's achievement possible.”

Williams credits Anthony Godzieba, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Villanova Department of Theology and Religious Studies with helping him refine his argument and improve his paper, which he first drafted in Dr. Godzieba’s doctoral seminar on the Trinity. Williams plans to write his dissertation on a topic that is highly related to the argument of the paper and sees this award as validation of his scholarly interests.

“As an early career scholar, I sometimes wonder if my published work is relevant or if I am a welcome conversation partner in the scholarly community. The award helps alleviate these concerns by affirming my professional trajectory and the interests that go with it,” Williams said. “I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to sending out my paper for publication. In addition, personally, this award represents how far I have come in my writing and research skills, particularly since I started at Villanova. I’ve worked to refine my voice as a scholar and the CTS award demonstrates the fruit of that struggle.”

Even though it was virtual, the opportunity to present at the conference was a memorable experience for Williams.

“The opportunity to present at the College Theology Society was a great honor,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by the positive response to my paper, in addition to the gracious, virtual applause by those at the conference. I’m honestly not sure if I would have been able to keep it together had it been in person! The presentation itself went well and the audience’s questions gave me a lot to think about.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.