Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The Augustine and Culture Seminar, directed by the Villanova Center for Liberal Education, recognized excellence in student writing at a special ceremony held on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 3:30 p.m., in the Fedigan Room of the St. Augustine Center for the Liberal Arts. The Margaret Cecilia Baney Award for the Augustine and Culture Prize Essays were given to: Alex Puma (winner); Sean DeWolf (honorable mention); Julian D'Orsaneo (honorable mention); and Matthew Velez (honorable mention). Juliana Morro received special recognition for her body of work, "Selections From a Portfolio."
Here, the award winners reflect -- in their own words -- on their approach to writing, what the act and process of writing means to them, and why earning this special recognition is important to them.
Alex Puma, '11, is a sophomore from Freehold, N.J. He says: "Winning the Margaret Cecilia Baney Award meant a lot to me. Previously, I had received honorable mention for a paper I submitted to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Conference, and so when I submitted this paper, I really wanted to get that first place prize. I guess it was more out of sheer competitiveness that drove me to really bang out something quality.
"I absolutely love writing. I believe that it's a really great outlet for anyone who needs to just vent or express themselves. There's nothing better than having someone read what you have written and say, 'Wow.' My writing process varies from assignment to assignment. For example, if I'm writing about Camus, I like to really get into his book and absorb his style. That way, I have a very strong connection with my topic or whatever it is that I am writing about. I think that allows a very unique sort of style to come out and sort of set the mood for the reader. Also, I always write down words that I'm unfamiliar with. I have a dictionary on my computer that I've made with about 200 words. Before each paper, I like to choose maybe 10 that I think might be appropriate, and I'll try to use all of them. I don't write many drafts. I'll usually write one draft, then just refine it, and there's my final; that's not to say that it doesn't take me quite some time to write that first one. I'll usually consult with my professor only if I need a little more direction as far as the prompt is concerned, if I think it's too vague, or if I'm not really sure what he or she is looking for. Dr. Boettcher always helped me edit my final drafts for rewrites, which I think was very important in regards to my evolution as a writer."
Puma plans to write a book between January and August 2009, "a memoir-type piece, because I have had an absolutely crazy life (right now the project's tentative name is "A Grande Perspective," because I grew up in a neighborhood called "The Grande"). I also plan to pursue a brief career as a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Check out the article in the Villanovan here.
Sean DeWolf, '11, is a sophomore biology major from Oakland, Calif. He says: "This award means a lot to me. It gives me the confidence to know that I can express myself in a way that's effective and interesting (at least to some people). Throughout my college career, I will draw on this experience and use it to push me when a paper is giving me a lot of trouble. I will have the confidence to approach any assignment with a positive attitude, knowing that I am capable of producing high quality work. This award is also just a validation of my hard work. It feels good to be given recognition after you have worked really hard to produce something of which you can be proud.
"I have always been blessed with very good English teachers growing up, and they have instilled in me the value of being able to express yourself well. I am a very opinionated person who loves to debate on any issue. With that love for discussion, though, comes the need to be able to convey the core of what I am saying to other people in a sensible way. Many times I think that something makes sense in my head, but when I try to express my thoughts to other people, they don't seem to understand what I am saying. Writing for me is a chance to take the time to really get across what I am trying to say. I don't have to debate back and forth, but it is a chance to present an argument that someone possibly has never heard. As far as my writing process, I usually make an outline with where I am trying to go and then I write an introduction that I hope will grab people's attention. The introduction usually takes the longest amount of time because I want it to be clever and exciting. I am also very much a perfectionist, which does not lend itself to expeditious writing. After I have my plan for where I am going and the introduction to get me started, I just write. I usually do one main point at a time and space out the essay over a period of a few days. Most of the time what I write initially is what will be turned in as my final draft. I do edit, obviously, but I tend to self edit as I am writing the paper so that what I have at the end of my rough draft is pretty close to what I want as my final copy. Then I just edit, checking for fluidity and stupid, little mistakes. After that I pick a phrase from the essay that I think sounds good and that I think is appropriate, and I use it as my title. All that's left, then, is to click print." DeWolf aspires to be a physician one day.
Matthew Zachary Velez, '11, is a sophomore English major from New Providence, N.J. He says: "[Winning this award] gives me confidence in my writing, that I'm capable of turning out some really great pieces. Plus, it looks pretty darn good on my résumé. I've loved writing for a long time, since early middle school, I believe. It gives me a chance to offer my opinions in an elegant method, and creative and story writing in particular is just plain fun (I love writing stories, you see). In terms of my process, I don't use outlines or anything like that, I just get an idea in my head and go with it, developing it in what I hope is a coherent manner. I usually only write one draft, and I also never talk to my professor about the paper, mostly because I'm pretty lazy! I usually fix any grammatical or spelling errors while I type, but I also like rereading the entire thing after I'm done and tighten it up even more." Velez is thinking about a future career a a high school teacher.
Juliana K. Morro, '11, is a sophomore English major from Media, Pa. She says: "I was very surprised [to win this award]! It was great to be able to celebrate writing with such a great group of people! My ACS professor, Dr. Nancy Kelley, is absolutely amazing, and I really owe her a lot. Her dedication and enthusiasm really improved my writing skills and made ACS a great experience. Shout out to vexp11! Writing is my passion and what I plan to spend my life doing. It is important because writing allows people to express themselves in a way they never could otherwise. There is a certain freedom in being able to create your own story that no other experience can replicate. As far as creative writing goes, I do not use drafts, I just sort of sit down and take off, if that makes any sense. As for school papers, drafts are very important! My roommate is a great editor and helps me out a lot. The professors here are more than willing to sit down with students and explore methods of improvement. They also want to get to know you. Meeting with professors in order to go over papers has built many great relationships in my college career so far." Morro aspires to be an English professor and novelist of historical fiction, but is keeping all option open.