Catherine Barr Windels Scholarship at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford

Ethan Swain

Ethan Swain ('18), the 2017 recipient of the Catherine Barr Windels Scholarship, at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford


The Department of Humanities is pleased to announce the Catherine Barr Windels Scholarship. Endowed by Villanova alumna Catherine Barr Windels (H’75), the scholarship annually supports one or more students for study abroad at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford.

Since 2005, the Department of Humanities has been developing an exchange relationship with Blackfriars, the Oxford home of the Dominican friars. With a tradition stretching back to 1221, Blackfriars was officially designated in 1994 as a permanent private hall for undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford. Students live, eat, worship and study with the friars, as well as with a distinguished array of students and affiliated Catholic scholars.

As an institution of holistic interdisciplinary learning with particular strengths in philosophy and theology, Blackfriars is a natural partner for Villanova’s Department of Humanities. The Oxford tutorial system mirrors and complements our emphasis on individual attention and student-initiated inquiry. In keeping with Villanova’s mission for social responsibility, students are also able to participate in the work of the Las Casas Institute for Social Justice, named for the sixteenth-century Dominican defender of indigenous peoples in the new world. Students also have ready access to the intellectual and cultural opportunities that abound in this vibrant university environment.

An enthusiastic supporter of Catholic liberal education, Catherine Barr Windels serves on the advisory board to the Dean of Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. As a lover of English culture and history, she was excited to support this opportunity for Humanities students to experience the rich traditions and academic excitement of Oxford University life. The scholarship she endowed came to maturity in 2016, enabling the Department of Humanities to begin awarding it to students studying abroad at Oxford.

The Department of Humanities is grateful to Catherine Barr Windels for assisting our students in enjoying this remarkable opportunity, and also for the logistical support and cooperation of Villanova’s Development and Study Abroad offices and the Rector and Fellows of Blackfriars.

Students who are interested in this opportunity can direct any queries to the chair of the Department of Humanities, Dr. Mark Shiffman.

Jeremy Puntel (’19), of Flourtown, PA, is spending the 2017–2018academic year at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford: “What drew me to Blackfriars,” he wrote at the end of his second of three terms, “was how it allowed my education in the Department of Humanities to continue—not only through the courses it offered, but also by how it takes as its point of departure and ideal the integration of study and life. Blackfriars is different from Humanities in that there are no seminar-style classes here. Instead, the weekly, one-on-one, ‘tutorial’ sessions with a professor have been most valuable, because they give me the opportunity to observe my tutor ‘up close’ as he or she evaluates my work for the week. What I have been struck by the care and attention my tutors give to my work as they read it for the first time, and the pertinence of their resulting suggestions for me.”  In addition to this rigorous academic experience, Jeremy has also been enjoying life in Oxford: “meadows with modern art, rowing teams with preachers-in-training, college porters with passing visitors, … living next door to the University’s museum of art and archaeology, making friends in Byzantine studies and Orthodox Catholic worship, and chatting with friends from Blackfriars over tea.” 

Like Mrs. Windels, Ethan Swain ('18) is a product of the rigorous interdisciplinary course sequence in Villanova’s Honors Program. A third-year student from West Hartford, CT, and a double major in Humanities and Theology, Ethan attended Blackfriars during the spring semester of his junior year. Asked to reflect on the experience after the completion of the first of his two terms, Ethan highlighted the value of the “intersection of religious and university life.” He remarked: “The inspiring students, professors, and priests at Blackfriars have made my time at Oxford both humbling and exhilarating.”