On Saturday, nine students presented their research papers on the African diaspora with the hopes of landing a spot at a prestigious undergraduate research conference in March.
The Africana Research Center’s Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted the event, meant to inspire students and to demonstrate their accomplishments in front of family members and others, said Clemente Abrokwaa, a senior lecturer in African studies who served as the event’s convenor.
Held at the Nittany Lion Inn, the symposium invited faculty, family and other students to hear the students discuss a variety of topics related to the African diaspora.
Africana Research Center Managing Director Tracy Beckett said the symposium was meant to showcase the academic excellence of those chosen to participate.
The event kicked off with a speech given by Abrokwaa, followed by student presentations and a luncheon. In the afternoon, Rhonda BeLue, associate professor of health policy and administration, gave the keynote speech.
Alecia DeCuollo (senior-energy, business and finance) took first place with her paper “Ideology, Race and Education: a Study of the impact of Apartheid on the Education of Black South Africans-1948-94.” Jake Plevelich (junior-history) came in second with “African Americans and the Prison Industrial Complex.” Michelle Kulla (senior-women’s studies) took third with her presentation “From the South African Mine to the American Bride: How Diamonds Inform Gender Roles throughout the Supply Chain.”
To be eligible, students had to be nominated by a faculty member. The 50 nominees were then narrowed down to the 10 who were ultimately invited to present their work utilizing posters as a medium. All but one of those invited presented at the symposium.
As the students presented, three judges — ARC Dissertation Fellow Charlene Chester, ARC Post-Doctoral Fellow Michael Kehinde and ARC Post-Doctoral Fellow Crystal Sanders — evaluated their presentations.
DeCuollo wrote in an email that she felt honored to present at the symposium.
“I wanted to thank Dr. Abrokwaa for his encouragement and help and the Africana Research Center for the opportunity to share my paper,” she wrote. “I had a wonderful time at the symposium, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity.”
The three top place finishers will attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at Weber State in Ogden, Utah in March.