Africana Research Center scholars present papers

October 31, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Africana Research Center’s (ARC) 2012 Undergraduate Research Exhibition was held Oct. 20 at the Nittany Lion Inn Faculty Staff Club Room. Faculty nominated student papers and, with student permission, these papers were evaluated by a group of judges using a refereed process and 10 ARC scholars for 2011-12 were chosen. The exhibition showcased, recognized and celebrated the scholarly development of the 10 ARC undergraduate scholars who wrote research papers on topics related to Africa and its diasporas, and whose scholarship was considered to be an excellent contribution to the base of knowledge about the diaspora.

ARC Managing Director Tracy Beckett convened the exhibition at 10:30 a.m., followed by a keynote address by Paul Taylor, head of the Department of African American Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State University. Judges William Sturkey, Jessica Johnson and Sabrina Strings unanimously scored and awarded Matt Robida as first-prize winner for his presentation titled “Twenty-Two days on a Chain Gang: The Killer of American Chain Gangs” based on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Second-prize winner Melissa Guarno presented her work titled “Coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” while Carolyn Whiteman was awarded third place for her presentation titled “African Griots: A Legacy of Rich Oral Tradition."

“I am so proud of my student, Matt Robida’s hard work in creating this poster about his research on Bayard Rustin," said Jack Selzer, Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows Program and professor of English in the College of the Liberal Arts, who nominated Robida's paper. "Matt’s work does what research is supposed to do: enlighten. Everyone knows that Bayard Rustin was a close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. and that he played a key role in the 1963 March on Washington, but who knew that Rustin was involved in the movement in the 1940s? And everyone has read about the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s in support of desegregating interstate public transportation, but who knew that Rustin was arrested for a freedom ride in the late 1940s? And who knew that Rustin's '22 Days on a Chain Gang' played such an instrumental role in ending the use of slave-like chain gangs for imprisoned Americans?"

“To be recognized at an event of this magnitude is a wonderful accomplishment for these students” said Dr. Clemente Abrokwaa, assistant professor of African studies.

The Africana Research Center, since its inception, has showcased the excellent work of undergraduate students by hosting the Undergraduate Research Exhibition and also co-sponsoring annual Achievement Conferences. Undergraduate students from all Penn State campuses are invited to enter a poster to showcase their work to a general audience. All the exhibitors received a certificate recognizing their participation, and the prizes ranged from a Penn State Nittany Lion Shrine replica statuette to PSU pen and letter opener gift boxes awarded to the top three posters as well as paid travel to attend and present their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse, Wis., during April 11 to 13.

Photos of the exhibition can be found at and on the Africana Research Center’s Facebook page. For more information, contact ARC Managing Director Tracy Beckett at 814-865-6482 or email




  • Students presented research papers Oct. 20 at the Nittany Lion Inn Faculty Staff Club Room.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 06, 2012