Charles, David, Polim, Rogali, Troyan named 2016 Oswald Award winners

April 14, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Five Penn State students in their respective areas of leadership have been honored with the 2016 John W. Oswald Award. Jael Charles is the recipient in the field of social sciences, religious activities and student government; Rachael David, journalism, speech and mass media; Rico Polim, scholarship; Lisa Rogali, creative and performing arts; Taylor Troyan, athletics.

The John W. Oswald Award, established in 1983, annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University. The award consists of a medallion honoring John W. Oswald, president of the University from 1970 to 1983.

Social sciences, religious activities and student government

Charles’ dedication to making the University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration into a yearlong experience earned her the award. The program encourages students to take action and stand for what they believe in, living Dr. King’s message.

The senior majoring in criminology and sociology with a 3.87 cumulative GPA is executive director of the program. There, she says, she is responsible for overseeing and planning events and “fostering social justice activism within the Penn State community.”

A nominator said Charles “has proved herself to be a strong and passionate student leader, dedicated to building leadership skills in her peers” and has “worked tirelessly” to promote King’s message.

Charles, who served as an investigative intern for the public defender service for the District of Columbia, plans to become a lawyer and social worker. There, she worked closely with attorneys to represent indigent clients, assisted with the development of defense theories, interviewed witnesses and took their statements, and used legal databases to perform extensive criminal background checks.

Journalism, speech and mass media

David, a senior majoring in public relations in the College of Communications with a 4.0 cumulative GPA, knows how to perform under pressure. When picked out of a field of more than 300 students to address an audience of alumni, donors, administration and students at the college’s annual scholarship awards dinner, she “delivered in spades,” said one nominator. “Her personal message of gratitude and giving, presented in a confident yet friendly fashion, resonated with the entire group. It was a big stage, and she delivered in a big way.”

To help prepare for her career, David served as social media intern for the Harrisburg Web development firm WebpageFX; Public Relations Intern for Tierney Communications, also in Harrisburg; and Happy Valley Communications, Penn State’s student-run communications firm. There, she developed and implemented promotional and public relations campaigns for real-world clients.

David’s leadership skills have a positive impact on the University. She’s president of Her Campus Penn State, a Web-based media group written by college women, for college women; director of public relations for the Lawrence G. Foster Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America at Penn State University; and student representative for the College of Communications Advertising/Public Relations alumni board.


Polim, a graduate student earning degrees in industrial engineering and operations research in the College of Engineering with a 3.96 cumulative GPA, has used learning opportunities on and off campus to further his career goals.

He’s co-captain of Penn State’s Formula SAE Racing Team, which is tasked with designing and building a formula-style racecar to compete against 120 international teams at the Michigan International Speedway. There, he was responsible for product management, design, procurement and manufacturing. In 2015, the team ranked 33rd overall, the highest rank since 2008, and completed every event, including the highly demanding durability test, where the team logged the fastest time.

Polim said his interest in analytics drove him to apply for integrated undergraduate graduate with Soundar Kumara as his adviser. In the Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Analytics (LISA), Polim said he was exposed to research projects in predictive modeling and dynamic network analysis, which opened doors to the industry.

In 2015, Polim became a visibility and procurement analyst at Case New Holland Industrial. Several of his projects helped the company better predict shipping times and process data more effectively.

Already a recipient of numerous University awards, Polim said this “prestigious award shows there are out there who appreciate my effort in advancing our society’s philanthropic and academic commitment.”

Creative and performing arts

A nominator “can’t remember a time” another student has won as many prestigious awards as Rogali. The senior majoring in music education with an emphasis in Voice in the College of Arts and Architecture has used her “beautiful lyric coloratura soprano voice with incredible flexibility” to nab some of the University’s top honors.

Her accolades include the Marjorie Jane Brewster Memorial Scholarship, which pays for the first year of graduate music study; Atherton Award; Creative Achievement Award; Golumbic Scholarship and Performer’s Recognition Award from the School of Music, to name a few.

Additionally, she’s performed in more than a dozen productions, on- and off-campus, including soloist in “Messiah” for the Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra and “La voix humaine” for the Penn State Opera Theatre.

A nominator described Rogali’s voice as “stunning in its variety of color in the sound, which she uses to enhance her interpretations.”

“Her deepest desire is to become an opera singer, and I am convinced that she has all the ingredients for a major operatic career,” the nominator added.


Troyan’s athletics nomination is a bit misleading because it’s hard to define her to just one category. She’s much too ambitious for that.

The senior majoring in nursing in the College of Nursing at Penn State’s Behrend Campus has already passed her state licensure exam and has been working in the field for more than a year. That’s in addition to her other duties: a full-time student and captain of Behrend’s women’s soccer team, where she set the school record with 86 consecutive starts.

Juggling work, academics and athletics, none have had to suffer. Troyan has lead the team to four AMCC championships, participated in four NCAA tournaments, and been recognized more than a dozen times for athletic performance, all while maintaining a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

“Taylor (Troyan) sincerely amazes me with her ability to balance responsibilities as a full-time nurse, student and team captain,” said a nominator. “Some weeks, she would attend class all day, work all night as a nurse at UPMC Hamot and attend soccer practice in the morning. She never complained about this hectic schedule and demonstrated unwavering commitment to dedicating each aspect of her life.”

“As a nurse, Taylor is intelligent and quick on her feet. As a soccer player, she’s a team leader who performs at her best each game,” said another nominator. “We are so lucky to have a well-rounded student like Taylor representing Penn State Behrend.”

Additionally, Troyan served as the treasurer and secretary for the Student Athletic Advisory Committee for four years and participated in the TOPsoccer program through the campus, where she taught the sport to special-needs children. She’s also been an academic tutor.

Last Updated April 29, 2016