Student Awards

St. Catherine of Siena Research Award

The St. Catherine of Siena Undergraduate Peace and Justice Research Award will be given to an undergraduate student in Spring 2019 for a research paper and/or project relevant to peace and justice issues.

Students are invited to submit work completed in Spring 2018 and Fall 2018 semesters. Submissions should be at least six (6) pages. Submitted papers will be evaluated by the staff of the Center for Peace and Justice Education through a process of blind review. Deadline for 2019 submission is Friday, January 25, 2019. A cash award will be presented to the awardee. Please submit papers to

Papers will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Excellent writing and clear structure
  • Significant use of research with sources well integrated and thoughtfully utilized
  • Topic related to concerns of peace and/or justice
  • Demonstration of critical thinking, insight, and creativity
  • Appreciation of complexity
  • Ability to effectively defend claims
  • Ideally, offers constructive ideas in addition to identifying problems and challenges


2017 Award Recipient: Katie Boyce

2017 Award Recipient: Katie Boyce


Katie's paper titled: America's "Youth" Go to Nazi Germany: The Movement to Boycott the 1936 Olympics and the Racial Divide in American Society

2016 Award Recipient: Claire Kimilu

2016 Award Recipient: Claire Kimilu


Claire's paper titled: In the Shelter of Each Other: We Will Live Refugees in Kenya and the United States

2014 Award Recipient: John Catalano

2014 Award Recipient: John Catalano


John's paper titled: Empowerment through SNAP: From Hunger to Husbandry


2013 Award Recipient: Kevin Gallagher

2013 Award Recipient: Kevin Gallagher


Kevin's paper titled: Ethnicity and the State: Philosophies of Memory Preservation in Rwanda


Dorothy Day | Thomas Merton Award

The Dorothy Day | Thomas Merton Award is named after Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton who were two outstanding American contributors on the journey toward peace and justice. Their lives of study, writing, prayer and action have encouraged others to become involved in furthering the cause of justice and peace in the world.

This award is given to a graduating senior with a major, concentration or minor in Peace and Justice Education who has maintained academic excellence and made a significant contribution to the effort to further justice and peace during their 4 years at Villanova University.

2018 Recipients: Danielle Bradley & Julia O'Connor

Danielle Bradley

Danielle Bradley graduatied with a Peace and Justice concentration in addition to her major in Political Science and minors in Africana Studies and Public Service & Administration.

Her academic achievements reflected a deep commitment to thinking critically about the world.  They were summed up well by her unconventional choice to study abroad in the fall of her senior year.  Danielle studied in Morocco in a program focused on migration and transnational identity.  While there, she researched an impressive paper on the intersection of Christianity and migration, focusing specifically on connections between colonialism, humanitarian aide, and Islam.    

The story of Danielle's PJ work at Villanova began early as a member of the Caritas Learning Community for freshmen.  She went on to participate in the Service Learning Community for the rest of her time here, including as a co-chair of the entire Community, running all of its major events.  In connection to SLC, Danielle was selected to attend a conference in St. Louis to learn more about facilitation and poverty simulations.  

During Spring 2017, Danielle was one of just a few students who accepted the invitation to get involved in a pilot program to receive training and direct experience with community organizing in the greater Philadelphia region.  As the leader of a student campaign for economic dignity, Danielle organized undergraduates from Villanova, St. Joe's, LaSalle, and Cabrini around just wage issues and ultimately conducted a research action meeting with a Philadelphia City Councilman.

Off campus, she has also participated in Just Advocacy Week with the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK.  And for the last two summers Danielle served with the LeaderworX program at the Center for Faith & Justice.  As a LeaderworX counselor, she served high school students, teaching Catholic Social Teaching, facilitating dialogue, doing privilege walks, coordinating social action, and more.  Danielle has remarked how she would challenge the students to go beyond expressing gratitude for the experience and ask them to talk honestly about the racial injustices they saw, to analyze systemized segregation, to imagine a world truly committed to community, and to inspire them to become activists for such a world.  Danielle is not only a student of peace and justice education but a teacher of it as well. And we couldn't be more proud.

Next year Danielle will be teaching in China and continuing to discern a future involving education, community organizing, and lobbying for social justice.


Julia O'Connor

Julia O'Connor graduated with a Peace and Justice Concentration in addition to her major in Political Science and minor in Criminology. Her academic work speaks not only to her passion for peace and justice but also the great breadth of her inquiry. During Julia's time at Villanova she engaged in research projects on topics including social justice efforts for improved education in America, the role of transitional justice in the former Yugoslavia, the environmental ramifications of Brexit, and the role of the media on Spanish immigration policy.  

She completed a research thesis on ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, sexual violence, and militarization in the region.Her most recent major research project conducts an ethical analysis of American policy during the Vietnam War in light of Just War Theory.  

Julia has integrated her academic curiosity with powerful encounters outside the classroom.  She has participated in a service and justice experience with the Navajo community, volunteered in an elementary school in Spain, and served with Sisters Returning Home, an organization that supports and accompanies women as they transition out of the criminal justice system here in Philadelphia.

Quite impressively, Julia has participated in four internships during her college career, involving public interest work, and non-profit development, administration, and project management.  

For the past year she has been the Public Interest and Communications Intern at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  In this work, she has published several articles in the Philadelphia Bar Reporter on peace and justice topics including pro bono work, the justice gap, and LGBTQIA legal rights.  She has noted how her research to promote pro bono work has increased her awareness of the legal challenges for low-income families and her understanding of the criminalization of poverty in Philadelphia.  

Julia has made extensive use of the academic and co-curricular opportunities of Villanova to further her understanding of peace and justice and to deepen her commitment to this work going forward.

Past Recipients

2017: Kara English
Alissa Welker & Adam Vincent
Kayla Cooke
Noelle Mapes
Caitlin Billingham & Emily Several
Ellen Salmi
Jen Maez
Amy Richards
Gail Sondermeyer
Amy Knop-Narbutis
Emma Stewart
Diane L. Coffey
Kathleen E.Krackenberger
Caitlin Fouratt & Melissa Wibbens
Nancy R. Steedle
Teresa C. Mambu
Megan A. Kasimatis & Craig E. Hickein
David O. Suetholz
Andrea Maresca
Vincent J. Coccia
Michael E. Kennedy
Raj Chablani
Tara Coughlin
Nantiya Ruan
Stephen M. Smith
Steven G. Liga
Gregory Tucci
Ingrid M. Birnbach
Michael P. McGinnis

Thomas J. Mentzer Award

Each year, Villanova University sponsors The Thomas J. Mentzer Award. The Award honors a graduating Villanova senior who has contributed significantly, through his or her service, to "expanding opportunities for the poor and marginalized." The award consists of a cash stipend and an inscribed plaque.

The award remembers Thomas J. Mentzer, a Villanova graduate of 1955, who later became a faculty member in the History Department. He was active in many of the social issues of the time, including work to oppose racial conflict and segregation. He died in an automobile accident in 1968.

Center for Peace and Justice Education staff selects the award recipient from among the nominations from the Villanova community following careful consideration of the list of candidates and supporting materials. Please send your recommendations with supporting information to the Director of the Center for Peace and Justice Education,

2018 Recipient: Zachary Ellenhorn

Brendan Carchidi

Zachary Ellenhorn is a senior in Chemical Engineering and was named a Forbes Under 30 Scholar in both 2016 and 2017. As an active member of Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL), Zach has participated in three service break trips to Nicaragua and Cambodia where he not only helped implement mass water systems to serve disadvantaged communities but  also shared his passion for teaching young students there about math and science. His commitment to expanding opportunities for marginalized communities is far reaching, but the awards committee was most impressed by his work in bringing STEM education to minoritized children here in the Philadelphia community.

During his sophomore year as a member of Villanova’s Service Learning Community, Zach created All Hands-On Science, a program that pairs Villanova students with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. Twice a week, Villanovans teach 4th through 8th graders about science using interactive demonstrations and fun-filled experiments. As the program’s founder and president, Zach has not only shared his passion for STEM with those children, but also inspired a number of his Villanova classmates to get involved and share their expertise as well. To use Zach’s own words from a Villanovan article in February: “It’s one thing to be really involved and really enjoy a subject, but to get to teach that to someone and see their eyes light up—that’s what makes everything we do worthwhile.” I always tell my students to show, not tell, so how about I show you more about this program instead of just telling you? VIDEO

Fortunately, we will get to see those inspired and excited students’ faces even after Zach graduates tomorrow, as All Hands-On Science has grown to a sustainable 30-member group on the verge of becoming an independent Villanova Organization. Because of Zach’s vision and leadership, this program will continue to expand opportunities for both Villanova and Philadelphia students, and Zach will continue to influence our community for many years to come.


Past Recipients:

2017: Brendan Carchidi

2016: Rodrigo Rivera

2015: Patrick K. Williams

2014: Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn

2013: Jay Tighe

2012: Kristen Valosky

2011: Jeffrey Sved  

2010: Emily Felesenthal  

2009: Sarah Arscott

2008: Katrine Herrick

2007: Christine Feldmeier

2006: Jaime C. Gentile

2005: Bryan C. Rivera

2004: Matthew D. Nespoli

2003: Nancy Steedle

2002: Teresa Mambu

2001: Michael S. McGlinnis

2000: Paola Gaines

Joseph Betz Solidarity Award

The Solidarity Award is presented to a graduating senior or seniors concentrating in Peace and Justice Studies in exceptional circumstances to recognize distinctive service to the cause of justice and peace.

After 45 years of teaching at Villanova University, beloved philosophy professor Joseph Betz retired in May 2011.  Joe's knowledge of social and political issues, and his commitment to active involvement in anti-war and social justice movements in the U.S. and around the world inspired generations of Villanova students and countless colleagues.  Among his many contributions to Villanova, Joe served as the faculty adviser for Amnesty International for 30 years.  He is the longest serving faculty adviser for any Amnesty chapter anywhere in the United States.  Joe was the 2009 recipient of the Lawrence C. Gallen, OSA, Faculty Service Award.

In honor of his steadfast leadership in countless social justice and peace movements, and his unflinching resolve to stand against injustice wherever it is found, the Center for Peace and Justice Education renamed its "Solidarity award" for Professor Betz.  This tribute is a small acknowledgment of the tremendous impact of a man who lives his commitment to peace and justice each and every day.

2018: Mackenzie Niness

Mackenzie Niness

This year we recognize Mackenzie Niness whose focus and commitment for the past 5 semesters has been on working with those who are incarcerated in our prison system.  Mackenzie began this journey when she took Dr. Kathryn Getek Soltis’ course, Theology, Ethics, and Criminal Justice, as one of her courses in the Sophomore Service Learning Community program and soon began tutoring at Graterford Prison in the service component of that program. In this class and in the educational setting at Graterford, she learned of the unjust policies in our criminal justice system and how racist and classist stereotypes drive those policies.  These two experiences together taught her about human dignity, forgiveness, policy changes and restorative justice.  The following summer, Mackenzie received a Fulbright scholarship to England to study the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade which, to use her words, “expanded her understanding of the systemic relationships among cultural exchange, mass incarceration, and institutional and cultural racism”.  Each semester thereafter she returned to working with some of the men at Graterford to help develop their academic skills in preparation for receiving their GED.  Last summer, Mackenzie received an internship at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County as a case manager intern in charge of a unit of 60 men and 25 women.  After graduation and thanks to being awarded yet another Fulbright, she will be teaching English at a vocational school in the Netherlands while doing independent research on their prison system.  Her future plans include pursuing an advanced degree and providing more GED and secondary educational opportunities for men and women living in prisons and preparing for transitioning from there.

Mackenzie engaged in many other activities on campus to promote solidarity with people outside of Villanova and those who are victims of gun violence.  After 2 years as a member, she became the President of the MLK Day of Service which strives to build lasting partnerships with organizations in Philadelphia which provide services and opportunities for people who are underserved.  It must be noted that she was also a 4 year student athlete on Villanova’s Swim Team while engaging in all these activities.

Mackenzie’s unwavering commitment to and in solidarity with those living in prison single her out as the 2018 Joseph M. Betz Solidarity Award.  Congratulations and thank you for all the gifts you have brought for solidarity with others.

Past Recipients

2017: Jordan Trinh

2016: Jane Richter

2015: Nora Doherty

2014: Siobhan Cooney 

2014: Carolyn Rau

2013: Marissa Pardue

2012: Lauren Adderly

2012: Caitlin Ingraham

2011: Caitlin Greene 



Justice in Business Award

The Justice-in-Business Award is a joint initiative of the Center for Peace and Justice Education and the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics.  The award is designed to encourage the development of innovative business practices that incorporate justice and work to increase social equity in the world.

Eligible nominees are senior undergraduate students who have accomplished one or more of the following during their time at Villanova:
*demonstrated, in theory or practice, how the interaction of business and justice can enhance human dignity and the common good
*engaged in a creative project or initiative to support the connection between business and justice
*laid the foundations to integrate business and justice in one’s future life and career.

Call for Nominations 2019 Justice-in-Business Award

Faculty, staff, and students are invited to submit the name of a deserving candidate for the award to Deadline for nominations is Wednesday 3/27.

Along with the name, please indicate in what capacity you know the nominee and briefly state how the student has accomplished one or more of the above criteria.

The winner of the 2019 Justice-in-Business Award will be announced in early May and honored at the Center for Peace and Justice Education Graduation ceremony.

2018 Recipient: Shayla Frederick

2018 Recipient: Shayla Frederick

Shayla  graduated with a major in marketing and a minor in peace and justice.  Her courageous choice of studying both marketing and peace and justice demonstrates and reflects her passion to integrate and bridge the gap between the two seemingly distinct subjects.  In other words, Shayla’s days at Villanova have been a representation of what the Justice in Business Award aims to enhance.
In her sophomore year, she participated in the service trip to Marion, South Carolina where she directly witnessed the root causes of inequality, including poverty and segregation.  It was a formative experience for her as a peace and justice student, especially connecting to her passion for education and social justice.  Shayla has integrated such experiences and interests with two of her research papers:  one on the black-white education gap in America and another examining the role of segregation and busing in her hometown, Denver.
Having been keenly aware of the important role of media, as a marketing major, she also participated in the Special Olympics as a media and publicity assistant, striving to connect the business of Special Olympics as sporting events with promoting respect for inclusion and human dignity. Her awareness of the role of advocacy in enhancing justice in society has also led her to complete another research paper on the role of rescuers in saving lives during the Holocaust. 
As part of her coursework for a Sales for Social Impact class, she diligently worked to develop a fundraising campaign for a Catholic high school in Philadelphia, a school that is committed to making its education accessible to all regardless of socioeconomic background  As a result of her dedicated effort, Shayla was selected with her team members to present the fundraising plan at 3M national headquarters in Minnesota.

Her active engagement in service also includes her experience in tutoring at Graterford Prison as part of the Prison Literacy Project.

While Shayla has yet to know what lies in ahead for her future, she is determined to commit herself to integrate business and justice.  She states: “If I work for a nonprofit, I hope to expand their reach and impact on local communities…If I work for a corporation, I hope to work on their social outreach efforts to shift their focus from profit to creating a greater impact on the world.”

Past Recipients:

2017: Jonathan Pizzutti graduated both with a degree in economics and with one of the first independently designed majors in Peace and Justice.  Jonathan’s course work, service, activism, and research exemplified the synthesis of spirituality, ethics, and economics that the award is specified to honor. The recipient of this year’s award has fulfilled all three of these conditions.  He has taken a variety of courses across several disciplines that deal with poverty, war and peace, racial inequality, and ecological protection.  At the same time, he has engaged in service and activism as co-President of Business Without Borders, a student group that links with non-profit organizations, fundraises for microfinance loans, assists low-income individuals in completing tax forms, and hosts lectures and small group discussions on campus.  As a recipient of the Ron Cruse International Fellowship, he also created a partnership with an international development agency in Nicaragua that both assessed the needs of business in impoverished areas of the country and initiated a financial education scholarship program for 1,000 businesses.  He was also a student representative on the Committee on Socially Responsible Proxy Voting that evaluates Villanova's investments from a moral perspective and utilizes shareholder voting rights to promote social responsibility.  He has also worked as an Economic Justice Intern for the Thomas Merton Center to build a network of worker-owned cooperatives in Pittsburgh, and as a Strategic Consulting Intern at Opportunity Finance Network to consult financial institutions that serve historically underserved communities. Moreover, our recipient has engaged in two noteworthy research projects.  His senior seminar project examined and critiqued the dominance of neoclassical economics in undergraduate teaching.

2016: Nicholas Carney. Senior student Nick Carney received the 2016 Justice in Business Award for his outstanding service to various communities over the course of his four years at Villanova University. His involvement with the Center for Peace and Justice Education began in his freshman year, after working with his faculty mentor in the business school. While taking classes in both business and peace and justice, he made the conscious decision to leverage this training to serve the larger community, from fundraising for groups like LEVEL to marketing for Special Olympics. He also spent my summer before his senior year interning with a nonprofit, Special Olympics Pennsylvania, rather than pursuing an internship with a large corporation. This coming year he will be starting a career-oriented job working for a marketing agency designed to help small and medium-sized businesses compete and be successful. His ultimate goal is to also leverage the knowledge gained to work in the nonprofit industry, either as an entrepreneur or a consultant. His education, especially through CPJE, has allowed him to provide a voice for marginalized people who we often treat without acknowledging their human dignity.

2015: Kelly Gabriel.
Kelly sees how business skills can promote human dignity and serve the common good. She recognizes that her chosen field of marketing allows practitioners to disseminate and promote information to various populations; they can advocate for public health, happiness, and justice. During the summer of 2013, she researched the relationships among religiosity, materialism, and life satisfaction.  In February, Kelly submitted this research as a paper which is presently under consideration for publication with the Journal of Macromarketing.This spring she presented a paper on gendered products and how some marketers perpetuate harmful gender roles in society. 

The intersection of marketing and justice can also be witnessed in Kelly’s impressive work as a Domestic Violence Counselor at the Montgomery County Women’s Center. She has presented ideas on domestic violence and safe dating to local high schools, including Haverford High School.This summer, she is continuing counseling work at the women’s center, and is working on improving its marketing efforts to increase awareness of domestic violence.

Kelly is on the Dean’s List, in the Honors Program and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.  She graduates from the Schoool of Business with a marketing major but will continue studying at Villanova part-time in Gender and Women’s Studies. Kelly hopes to pursue an academic career and is committed – in her words – to always “work through a lens of justice and enhancing the common good.”

2014: John Catalano. John came to Villanova to study in the business school, leaving his comfortable suburban life behind. The first two years went by quickly, and John sought new ways to challenge himself intellectually and ideologically. He confronted his beliefs about poverty in all of its manifestations. What emerged was a new sense of God's grace and a path that would introduce him to people around the world who live difficult lives that reveal both their humanity and diligence in the face of insurmountable impoverishment. John became deeply interested in food security as one of the fundamental rights of all members of our human family. This concern led him to rethink governmental policy in this regard and seek more lasting and dignified solutions.

During his time at Villanova, John has served as a member and facilitator of the Sophomore Service Learning Community.  He has tutored high school students in West Philadelphia and volunteered with both Veterans Comfort House and the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness.  This past year he has served as a client advocate at LIFT West Philadelphia which helps individuals look for a job, apply for benefits, search for subsidized housing, and the like.  For two years he has served as a Student Ambassador for Catholic Relief Services, focusing on Microfinance and Fair Trade. And last semester, when we put out a call for student help to organize a powerful memorial to victims of gun violence, John stepped in to co-lead the effort alongside graduating senior, Grace Cipressi.

He has worked faithfully to educate himself in business and justice, moving toward a possible career in social responsibility, microfinance, or nonprofit management.