Honors: Alumni Love Story

The experiences we share as Honors students often tie us closer to each other than many other campus experiences ever could. Our professors encourage us to ask fundamental questions about happiness and what it means to live a good life. Together, we examine our lives in a way that many college students normally would not. It is thus no surprise that this kind of close-knit and intellectually rich atmosphere often yields deeper, even romantic, relationships. We touched based with an Honors Alumni couple, Paul Masi '12 CLAS and Emily Battinelli '12 EE to see what experiences and insights they had to share with Honors students, both past and present. 

Lucy Finnegan

How/when did you meet? Start dating?

We met at the Presidential Scholars Interview weekend as seniors in high school (winter 2008) before either of us even decided on Villanova.  Emily was interviewing for the engineering school while Paul was for Liberal Arts and Sciences.  We did not know each other too well at Villanova, but our paths crossed in a number of different ways.  We would see each other at daily mass in Corr Chapel when each of us was able to make it.  We have also looked back on some emails exchanging some MCAT study materials in Summer 2011 when we ran into each other in Falvey.  We did not start dating until medical school.  Emily proceeded to an MD/PhD program at Hofstra Northwell after graduating from Villanova with a degree in electrical engineering.  Paul contacted Emily when he was interviewing for the school during her first year.  After he began the MD program, the two became friends and got to know each other better over the course of the year.  Finally, Paul asked Emily out on a date in summer 2014 while they were both doing research at the Feinstein Institute.  She was reluctant at first because she thought this might ruin any chances of being good friends, but Paul was persistent.  We quickly found that we loved each other.  We got engaged on Thanksgiving Day 2016.

What role did Honors play in your relationship? (i.e. Did you take classes together, both live in the same dorm?)

We do not remember clearly, but our parents swear that our families met and talked at the welcome reception Fr. Peter hosts for Pres Scholars at Dundale Mansion on West.  We came into contact with each other mainly through these Honors friends and through the annual Pres Scholar events.  But our friends are the real connection we have to each other through Honors.  Paul took three semesters of Interdisciplinary Humanities with several of Emily’s closest friends: Amy Seeberger, Ellen Salmi (van Cleef), and Kristen Valosky.  Amy was also Emily’s freshman year roommate and they had been friends in high school as well; they decided to go to Villanova together!  Paul and Emily also lived in Alumni Hall as part of the Service Learning Community.  Paul was connected to Katie Valosky, another close friend of Emily through their service site, Urban Bridges.  We are also connected through our close friends Andres Ortiz-Gomez (Paul’s freshman and sophomore year roommate), Jeremy Lim, Oby Ibe, and Melissa Kramer (both Emily’s junior and senior year roommates).  We were amused to later realize that Nick Petrosino, Paul’s roommate and friend, served Emily coffee and diet coke as a Holy Grounds barista in CEER.  He remembered her curly hair immediately when they were reacquainted. We are so happy that all of these people will be able to stand by our side at our wedding soon, and we will be able to have an Honors Reunion of sorts!

Remembering all of these connections made us realize the wonderful people that you get to know through the program, and how Honors is a close-knit group that at the same time puts down roots throughout the whole Villanova community.


When/where were you married?

We are getting married on June 10, 2017, at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland, the parish where Emily grew up and received confirmation. 


What are you both up to now?

Paul graduated from medical school at Hofstra Northwell in May and is entering a residency program in psychiatry at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York.  He is looking forward to advanced training in psychopharmacology as well as psychoanalysis and to a career of psychiatry practice in particular treating patients with psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Emily is in the PhD portion of her 8 year MD/PhD program at Hofstra Northwell which means immersion in bench research.  Her focus is in the emerging field of bioelectronic medicine, looking at ways to use and manipulate the nervous system to treat a wide array of diseases. She is currently working on applications in autoimmunity and metabolism, for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Her research is laying the groundwork for replacing the use of pharmaceuticals with small, automatic, personalized devices for efficient and specific treatments.

Right now, we are mostly looking forward to beginning to build their life together at our home on Long Island.

What’s one thing you learned from Honors that you’ve kept with you and has been relevant to your relationship?

We each took different things from our education in Honors, and these lessons complement each other in a variety of ways.  Emily took from Honors the drive for excellence in everything that she does and the orientation of her intellectual pursuits to the service of those in need.  Paul maintains a strong hermeneutic of suspicion of the world (in good Augustinian fashion!) from his studies under Dr. Godzieba and Dr. McCarraher. But he has also taken to heart the centrality of reading Scripture in the way Dr. Danove taught his classes: with knowledge that the Love Commandment is at the center of our faith and our life as humans.  Also in good Augustinian fashion, we both have kept with us that what we love will infuse itself into everything that we do—“my love is my weight and it carries me wherever it goes.”  With this in mind, we have tried to build our relationship on the ground of the things that we love, and this will carry us together in love to our destination.


Do you have any advice for current Honors students?

Savor the nurturing intellectual environment that Honors does such a great job creating and maintaining.  Internalize the sorts of things that professors and administrators do for you or your fellow students that make you feel welcome and valued.  Then, take this with you into whatever you do in your next step after college.  Seek out the sorts of people and organizations that nurture you and those around you in a similar way.  We chose medical school in large part on this basis: the people in the organization take care of each other.  And in an environment like that, you’re likely to meet amazing mentors, lifelong friends, and maybe even your future spouse!  In addition, even in a scientific or analytic profession like medicine, science, engineering, or business, never lose the abilities to reflect on beauty and truth and purpose that Villanova and Honors are so good at inculcating!

Interview Questions by Newsletter Co-Editor, Laura Spence '18 CLAS. Laura is receiving a degree in Humanities & Classics. 

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