Graduating student Josh Palackal

Pinpointing a particular achievement that you're most proud of as a college student may not be the simplest task. Maybe it's being a student leader or working to make a difference on and off campus. Maybe it's acing a final, completing an in-depth research project or nailing a presentation. It could also be a combination of all of those things.

For graduating Psychology (College of Liberal Arts) major Josh Palackal, the accomplishment that he is most proud of occurred just recently, but it's the culmination of all of the hard work and effort he has put into his four years at Temple. Palackal was selected as a 2024 Diamond Award recipient.

According to Temple University, the Diamond Award "is the highest recognition by Student Affairs given to a Temple University undergraduate student." 

"This recognition is based on a holistic evaluation of the student's accomplishments and is reserved for those who have demonstrated superior leadership, academic achievement, service to the University, and impact on a community (local, regional, or global)," according to the Diamond Award website. "Through their leadership, it is clear that they are especially deserving of this unique honor." 

Award recipients were recognized at the Annual Diamond Award Ceremony, which was held on Tuesday, April 30, at Main Campus.

"I think being a Diamond Award recipient means a lot because it signifies to me that I am a valued member of not just the Temple Ambler community but Temple University as a whole," said Palackal, who will complete his Psychology (College of Liberal Arts) degree in May. "It's gratifying to be recognized for the work that you've done, the impact that you've had on your campus and in the community. It's makes you feel truly appreciated."

The ongoing recognition is certainly well deserved. Palackal was additionally awarded a Golden Owl Award at the Temple Ambler Student Engagement Banquet also held on April 30. The Golden Owl Award is presented to a graduating senior who has "displayed outstanding leadership and dedication to the Temple Ambler campus community through their participation in on-campus activities, organizations and community throughout their educational career."

Palackal hit the ground running when he arrived at Temple University Ambler as a freshman, and he hasn't stopped since.

"Since I was a freshman, I've been actively involved in the Ambler Student Life Board (ASLB). I've been a member of the executive board since I was a sophomore and currently serve as the president," he said. "Through ASLB, I've helped run a lot of fun and informative student events on campus working closely with Krista DeLone (Assistant Director of Student and Campus Life). I feel our job is to spread joy around campus and it's a job I take very seriously."

Palackal has also been an Owl Ambassador at Temple Ambler for several years working closely with the Ambler Admissions team conducting tours and helping prospective students and their families gain insight on the unique resources available at Temple Ambler.

"I feel like when I do tours, a lot of people really take in what the campus has to offer — you'll definitely get the same resources as a student that you would at Main Campus. We are a small campus with big opportunities!" he said. "I think the number one way to make important connections and make friends is by being involved. Through ASLB and as an Owl Ambassador, I've been able to meet and connect with so many other people, both professionally with faculty and staff as well as other students, which is an invaluable resource in itself."

Being an Owl Ambassador, Palackal added, "has really improved my social confidence."

"Public speaking is an important part of the psychology field," he said. "It has definitely helped me become a better communicator and it's better prepared me for the job market."

Palackal also represented Temple and Temple Ambler in both 2023 and 2024 for Temple's annual Owls on the Hill Day at the Pennsylvania Capitol. Owls on the Hill is an annual tradition in which Temple students travel to Harrisburg and advocate for the Commonwealth's continued funding of the university.

"Programs like Owls on the Hill provide students with an amazing experience that allows them to step outside of their comfort zone while doing good work for the University and the tens of thousands of students enrolled here," said Palackal of the experience. "These programs help bring about tangible, material change to the lives of Temple students, which is why it is so important to participate in them."

According to Palackal he has been part of the Temple community essentially since the moment he was born.

"Temple is in my blood. My mom is a Temple nurse; I was born at Temple University Hospital," he said. "I think in a way I was spiritually destined to be here from the start."

Palackal said his interest in pursuing psychology as a career can be traced back to middle school and high school.

"In high school I was involved in a lot of mental health advocacy with a student organization called Be a Part of the Conversation. The main thing that drew me to psychology is the fact that it is so different from any other social sciences major," he said. "Majors like sociology and political science focus on larger institutions — you learn how to look outward. Psychology is different because instead of looking out, we're looking in. You're studying the inner mechanisms that make us human — psychology is the science of the soul."

On arriving at Temple, Palackal said chose Temple Ambler because "I was very attracted to the smaller class sizes and the close-knit community."

"I've always felt like I had a place here, which has helped me build so much more confidence in myself and my abilities," he said. "I think starting here made the transition to taking classes at Main Campus easier. It's definitely made it a lot easier to become a part of the Temple community."

Degree nearly in hand, Palackal said his next stop is law school.

"I haven't made a formal decision yet, but there is an excellent chance I'll be going to Boston University's School of Law in fall 2024. I've received a full tuition scholarship there and Boston has been a dream place for me to live for a while now," he said. "In 2020 with the pandemic, the election, and the surging racial justice movement, I discovered I had a passion for political work and legal advocacy. I realized to make the changes that I wanted to see in society, what I needed was a law degree — I plan on getting a JD and pursuing a career in policy advocacy."

Palackal said to get the most of their university experience "students can't be afraid to put themselves out there and get involved."

"That's how you build those lifelong connections and it's those connections that make college worthwhile. Take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you — if leadership opportunities open up, take them if you can," he said. "Take advantage of student worker positions, internships and research opportunities. Really work to make a name for yourself as a college student and that will follow you for the rest of your life."

His time at Temple has been "overwhelmingly positive," Palackal said.

"Throughout my time here I've been able to make amazing connections with students, professors and Temple staff. The courses have been incredible, which have provided me with wonderful educational opportunities," he said. "Between Temple Ambler and Main Campus, you really do get the best of both worlds here and I'm glad I've taken advantage of that during my college career."