Mechanical engineering student Vanessa Dib wins Oswald Award

March 13, 2024

Editor's note: A version of this story originally appeared on Penn State News. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vanessa Dib, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, won the 2024 John W. Oswald Award for scholarship.  

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. 

Dib, an engineering student as well as a Schreyer Honors College scholar, is writing her Schreyer thesis in the subject area of English rather than engineering. Nominators called her a very unique, driven and compassionate student. They said her personal experiences from growing up in Nigeria and Lebanon drive her commitment to those with diverse backgrounds. 

“From our very first meetings, I have been continuously impressed with her drive and vision. Her journey reflects a pragmatic adaptation to the diverse influences, harmonizing her unique backgrounds with the varied experiences encountered at Penn State,” a nominator said. 

Dib served on the board of the Penn State Remote Area Medical (RAM) chapter of the national nonprofit organization RAM, a group tasked with “preventing pain and alleviating suffering by providing free, quality health care” to those in remote areas. She was involved in organizing free health care clinics in Spring Mills and Lewistown. Dib oversaw four committees, each tackling volunteer provision, patient outreach, funding, and securing food and accommodation for volunteers. These clinics serve as a community resource for those in need of affordable health care while offering a volunteer pipeline for interested Penn State students, nominators said. 

“These clinics give University Park students interested in combating health disparities the ability to volunteer and make a positive impact in the surrounding community, exposing them to the residents living in rural communities and allowing them to experience helping provide vision, dental and medical care,” a nominator said. “She provides a platform for students to contribute to the well-being of residents in rural communities, fostering a sense of responsibility and civic duty among the university community.” 

Dib also founded the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Caucus. During her time as president of the caucus, she facilitated securing two community representative seats on the University Park Undergraduate Association. Dib also welcomed MENA-focused and allied groups into the caucus, allowing the MENA Caucus to focus on providing a platform, as well as resources, for MENA students in order to effectively cater to the diverse needs of the MENA community and enhance cultural understanding at Penn State. 

Dib also recently was honored with the Ardeth and Norman Frisbey International Student Award for Undergraduate Leadership, awarded by Penn State Global. According to Penn State Global, the award recognizes “outstanding contributions to international understanding” by graduate or undergraduate students, holding non-immigrant status, who are enrolled in full-time resident instruction or its equivalent. 


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