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AFAM Undergraduate Spotlight: Diego Palko reflects on his Spring 2024 CURO Presentation

Mr. Diego Palko at CURO Symposium April 2024

IAAS major, Diego Palko, presented a poster in the 2024 Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) Symposium, which highlights the work of UGA students and presents an opportunity for them to communicate their research to a broader community. Mr. Palko’s poster, “The Evolution of R&B and Themes Presented in the Genre: A Literary and Sonic Analysis,” presented information on the roots of R&B and on its evolution as a sonic and literary genre, engaging themes of Blackness, sexuality and love, and Black womanhood. He argued that Hip-Hop rhythms now are incorporated into R&B in the work of current artists like Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy, and The Weekend. We invite you to keep reading as Mr. Palko reflects upon his experiences that he brings to his CURO work and gives advice for students wishing to pursue similar opportunities. 

What are your majors, minors, or programs of study at UGA? What year are you in your study?
  • My majors are African American Studies and Journalism, a double major. I am also a political science minor. I am a third-year undergraduate student and will graduate in May of 2025. After that, I plan on attending an MA program or JD program at another university to pursue a Masters of English or Law degree.
How did you go about securing a professor to work with for your CURO project? What advice do you have for students going through that process?
  • My professor for this year’s CURO project was Dr. Medine, the Director of the Institute for African American Studies. I’ve had Dr. Medine for class before and I have an established relationship with her, so when I began drafting ideas for my CURO project, I knew Dr. Medine would be the perfect mentor for the entire process. I think it’s definitely important to keep in touch with your professors and always establish a relationship and connection with them, because you never know when they could be a valuable resource and give you amazing academic advice.
How did you decide upon your topic?
  • I knew I wanted to do something with African American music or religion when I first began drafting ideas with Dr. Medine. I am a journalism student, and I am always consuming media, so during the time of the Superbowl when famous R&B singer Usher was scheduled to perform, I began reading profile pieces on him by media outlets. Profile pieces are important and relevant in my journalism major, so I regularly like to read them to gather composition ideas for my own stories in my journalism major that I must complete. When I was reading these profile pieces on Usher, I discovered his early music career and beginnings started in the church. I then did more research and found out this was a common theme for many R&B singers, so I decided then form my abstract and thesis statement centered around the evolution of R&B, both from a literary and sonic sense.
How did you feel after giving your CURO presentation? How would you recommend that students prepare for such an experience? 
  • I felt very good after giving my presentation. It went well. I was less nervous than I expected myself to be. However, when you devote so much time to researching a topic and become familiar with it, it becomes second nature and talking about the topic begins to flow well once your knowledge about it increases. I would say the best way to prepare for an experience like CURO would just be to research your topic from head to toe and choose a topic that you are interested in, so research is interesting and captivating. Don’t go surface level. If you have enough volume of research, then you will be able to make connections with other topics and hyper-analyze sub-topics within the umbrella of a major topic.

Congratulations, Diego! We are proud of your work. The Institute encourages all our majors and minors to engage in undergraduate research and to present that research in the annual CURO Symposium through either a poster or a 10-minute oral presentation. See the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities webpage for information:




Director, Institute for African American Studies, All Shall Be Well Professor of Religion

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