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2022 English Awards and Sigma Tau Delta Induction Ceremony

2022 English Awards and Sigma Tau Delta Induction Ceremony

In Appreciation

The Monmouth University Department of English extends its deepest thanks and appreciation to Associate Professor Emerita of English Caryl Sills for her ongoing generosity. Dr. Sills, donor for the teaching award that bears her name, joined Monmouth’s Department of English in 1986, serving as chair from 1996 through 2006, the year of her retirement. We also extend our sincere gratitude to Monmouth University’s First-Year Advising; in addition to the hard work they do all year around, they generously contributed to tonight’s awards for First- Year Composition.
Student Awards
English Awards
Valerie Aristy-Reyes, 2022 English Merit Award recipient
A roster can tell professors a lot about a class–especially the dynamics of the class, based on the personalities of the students. Seeing Valerie’s name on a roster has been a sign to faculty that this class is going to do just fine. Seeing her name allows the professor to know there will be valuable conversation, discussion points grounded in readings and focused on critical topics, and important light bulb moments. Valerie is the kind of person who leans into every assignment with her whole intellect. She impressively combines critical attentiveness and rhetorical principles to craft exceptional projects. From white papers to website revisions to application of critical theory in dense papers–literary, rhetorical, and linguistic–Valerie simply excels at the theory and practice of English Studies. Her work represents the best of our discipline, and her enthusiasm, curiosity, and rigorous work ethic are inspiring, making her faculty proud to be Monmouth University English Department Faculty. It is bittersweet to know she is graduating: we may not see her name on our rosters again, but we know that she is moving confidently out into the world, armed with a calm, piercing intellect.
Christina Blumstein, English Merit Award recipient
During her four years at Monmouth University, Christina Blumstein, has not only distinguished herself by earning a cumulative 3.992 grade point average and a 4.0 in both her English and her Secondary Education majors, but she has demonstrated intellectual initiative by completing elective minors in Italian and Communication Sciences and Disorders, exhibited a commitment to extracurricular involvement by being an active member of the Sigma Tau Delta and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, evidenced leadership by serving as President of the Italian Club, and shown promise as a future literacy educator by excelling in her teaching placements, in her speech pathology internships, and as a substitute teacher in the Old Bridge Township Public School System. Yet, beyond these achievements, perhaps what is most remarkable about Christina is her ability—exemplified both in the exceptional Statement of Teaching Philosophy she composed for her Composition Theory course and in the successful application she recently submitted for her high school English teacher, Janine Arciero, to be selected as this year’s winner of the Monmouth University-William Roberts Charitable Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award—to clearly articulate why it remains so crucial for today’s English teachers “to make school meaningful,” to enable students “to have [mindful] experiences in the classroom,” and to empower individuals to grow into “lifelong learners” who are “willing to dig deeper than what they believe, welcoming change and differing opinions.” For all of the accomplishments listed above and for reminding us, via both her words and her example, of the reasons why we do what we do, Christina is one of this year’s deserving co-winners of the department’s highest honor.
Melissa Ondrush, 2022 English Merit Award recipient
Generously sponsored by English Department Professor Emerita and former Department Chair Dr. Caryl Sills, the teaching award in her name recognizes English-Education majors who have exhibited both exemplary academic success and utmost promise as future educators. This year’s enthusiastically selected winner is senior Melissa Ondrush. Throughout her academic career, Melissa has made her education her first priority. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree and acknowledges how grateful she is for their support. Melissa participated in the Buddy and Me Mentorship Program at Monmouth. As an undergraduate, Melissa has taken several graduate courses including Feminist Theory, Queer World Lit, and Teaching Elementary Social Studies, a combined undergraduate and graduate course. Melissa has always wanted to be a teacher. In her own words, “I put everything I am into making sure I could be the best possible version of myself for my students. I’ve never been able to picture myself doing anything else, so I wanted to make sure I worked as hard as possible to make my dream become a reality.” Currently, she is completing her student teaching in a third grade class at Middle Road Elementary School in Hazlet. In the fall, she will apply for full time positions across Monmouth and Ocean counties. Melissa would like to thank her family, her boyfriend Nic, her cooperating teachers and students, and Dr. Goulding for helping her achieve success over the past few years.
Kathleen Ruocco. 2022 English Award for Academic Writing recipient
Jane Austen allegedly referred to her writings as “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush,” and in this year’s selection for the Academic Writing Award, Katie Ruocco examines Austen’s Mansfield Park to look past the ivory and consider the elephant — i.e., the elephant in the room that is the Bertram family’s socioeconomic dependence on Antiguan slavery, a plot point the novel seems to sweep under the rug. Ruocco discusses the novel’s patriarch, Sir Thomas Bertram, arguing that to Austen’s original readers, Sir Thomas’s “jumped-up” social status, sense of noblesse oblige, casual cruelty, and view of human beings as property would have marked him to contemporary readers as unmistakably a slave owner. As such, Ruocco suggests that slavery, far from being a regrettable, marginal, and quickly abandoned practice, was thoroughly embedded in the economy, international influence, and daily domestic lives of the British. Her prize-winning essay, selected from a noticeably extensive and distinguished group of competitors, not only demonstrates the importance of reading literature with an eye to historical context but also furnishes a rich example of how literary study can make a commitment to the aims of anti-racism and social justice.
Patricia Banfitch, 2022 English Award for Undergraduate Creative Writing recipient
For the second year in a row, Patricia Banfitch has been chosen as the winner of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Award. This year, Trish has received that distinction for a novella that she wrote during the fall semester for an independent study—a project for which she will graduate with departmental honors. In it, Trish writes with great sensitivity and nuance about a high school-aged protagonist, who, during her father’s slow death from cancer, enters into a sexual relationship with her father’s middle-aged home health aide. As one might imagine, the story is often disturbing and painful. Yet it is a testament to Trish’s instincts as a fiction writer and her considerable gifts for characterization and subtlety that this story also contains convincing moments of intimacy, tenderness, heartbreak, and even humor. Trish plans to spend the year after graduation working, writing, and honing her graduate-school application materials with the intention of enrolling in a MFA program in fiction in fall 2023.”
Malia Padalino, 2022 English Award for Graduate Creative Writing recipient
“Malia Paladino’s “Broken Mirrors” is a deep meditation on the pressure of having a particular body, and how we see ourselves and each other, through one woman’s story of childhood, adolescence, and family.”
Liza Gordon, 2022 Runner-Up English Award for Academic Writing
This year’s Academic Writing Award Runner-up is Liza Gordon, for her essay “I, Vampire: The Vampire As an Escapist Proxy Body,” in which she argues that “Throughout history the vampire monster has been utilized as a vehicle for self-expression and exploration of perception of the world around the self.” Grounded in the context of two theses from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Theory theoretical framework—The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis and Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire—Gordon explores how the vampires in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Vampire: The Masquerade “ . . . [exist] both to question the classification of the world as well as to be [creatures] of escapism for [authors and readers alike] to use to navigate the world and understand themselves.” Gordon is an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing and double minors in Art and Professional Writing, who hopes to become a published author of gothic fiction. She is an accomplished artist with an impressive portfolio of original short stories and poetry. When she is not chasing the ever-elusive reflections of vampires, you can find her reading, drawing, or hanging out with her four cats.
Gabriella Pisacane, 2022 Runner-Up, English Award for Undergraduate Creative Writing
The runner-up for this year’s Undergraduate Creative Writing Award is graduating senior Gabriella Pisacane for “August Rains.” In this short story, two teenagers make out in the back seat of a car: a plot that is seemingly as old as time itself. When they get too hot, they get out of the car and stand in the rain. But these too teenagers “weren’t dating, [they] weren’t almost dating, [they] weren’t even really friends.” Their connection is ambiguous, which the narrator claims to feel just fine about at the beginning of the piece. However, over the course of this story, which is driven not so much by plot as it is by character interiority and psychological realism, we come to realize that this ambiguity is yielding powerful feelings on at least one side of the dyad. Over the course of six tightly controlled, tautly narrated pages, Gabby manages to depict the narrator’s dawning awareness of her changing emotions in simple, moving, and elegant prose. Gabby notes, “my plan for the future is actually to become an author! I want to write fiction books and am planning to get a job in editing and publishing after I graduate to support myself and better understand the industry while I finish my first book. I’ve been working on the book for a lot of college in my free time and have been able to workshop some of the chapters in my creative writing classes.””
John Vurro, 2022 Runner-Up, English Graduate Creative Writing Award
John Vurro’s excerpt from his novel, Play, Rewind, is a hilariously touching story of what one man gives up to take care of his ailing mother. It rings of truth, intelligence, and the absurdity of the human condition.
Valerie Aristy-Reyes, 2022 English Merit Award recipient
Every year, the English Department recognizes and provides financial support for a graduating senior English major beginning graduate study by the fall of the upcoming academic year. This year’s winner is Valerie Aristy-Reyes, who graduated in spring 2022, and who has received the additional distinction of having been a co-winner of the 2022 English Merit Award. To the delight of the faculty, Valerie will be returning to Monmouth next semester to pursue a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing. In the spring, Valerie was inducted into the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, and she is also a member of Tau Sigma. She is not yet not sure what she wants to do after receiving her master’s, but she is exploring the idea of continuing her education and obtaining a more advanced degree. In her spare time, she loves to read, write/journal, and spend time with her dog, Sherlock.
First Year Composition Essay Awards

David Tietge Memorial First Year Composition Essay Award Winners

Maura Foley, 2022 David Tietge Memorial First Year Composition Essay Award for Academic Writing
Maura Foley, from Middletown New Jersey, is a History and Secondary Education major and a member of the Honors School. Maura participates in the Student government Association and is a member of Alpha Sigma Tau. Maura says, “writing is such an important form of communication and expression. I feel that the ability to write is one of the most essential skills a person can have.” The Department of English is pleased to recognize Maura with its First-Year Composition Academic Essay Award for her essay, “The Truth in Hamlet’s Insanity.” Maura Foley’s “The Truth in Hamlet’s Insanity” is an inventive analysis of Hamlet’s behavior. Through her careful connections to historical works and Hamlet, she asserts that the impactful changes in Hamlet’s life both justify and explain his altered behavior. Her well-argued chain-of-reasoning is a persuasive paper. She leads the reader to believe that Hamlet never became insane.
Lukas Kalinauskas, 2022 David Tietge Memorial First Year Composition Essay Award for Researched Writing
Lukas Kalinauskas is a sophomore from Jackson, NJ pursuing a Business Administration major with a concentration in Marketing at Monmouth University. Lukas has a passion for the art of storytelling, which he discovered during his 4-year enlistment in the Marine Corps for journalism. No matter what kind of writing Lukas is composing, authenticity is always his priority. “I’d rather lose a few points on an essay,” he says, “if it means I can have some fun with it and enjoy the time I spent writing.” In his essay, “What is Godzilla?”, Lukas Kalinauskas explores Godzilla as an evolving symbol of Japanese culture and government over the last 68 years. His work effortlessly guides readers through an exploration of the iconic monster as a representation of historic horror, nuclear devastation, arms race anxiety, extreme work ethic, environmental collapse and even, the indestructible hope that have characterized Japanese culture in the decades following World War II. The paper culminates in an engaging, interesting and entertaining interpretation of Godzilla’s rise from atomic ash to international fame and lasting presence in popular consciousness, while fostering important considerations about fear, power, and politics in Japanese culture along the way.
Sigma Tau Delta Induction Ceremony
Sigma Tau Delta is the International Honor Society. Its Monmouth University Chapter, known officially as the Delta Sigma Chapter, was founded in 1983. It seeks to confer distinction, to promote interest in literature and the English language, to foster the discipline of literary studies, to promote good citizenship, and to exhibit high standards of academic excellence. Through its activities on and off campus, it encourages camaraderie and professional development among its members as well as service to the university and local communities. Although membership in Sigma Tau Delta is offered annually to English majors who have demonstrated superior achievement in both general academics and in literary studies, the society’ s activities are open to all university students, faculty, and local communities.

Delta Sigma Chapter Executive Board


I shall endeavor to advance the study of literature, to encourage worthwhile reading, to promote the mastery of written expression, and to foster a spirit of community among those who specialize in the study of the English language and of literature, ever keeping in mind our international motto: Sincerity, Truth, Design.
Student Inductees: Spring 2022

“We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies.”

Emily Dickinson