Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)

Program Description

Application due March 6, 2015

I. History and Mission


In 1988 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under then-President William Bowen, launched a program designed to increase the number of African-American, Latino/a, and American Indian faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities. The goal was to identify academically promising college students from these groups and provide them with mentoring, extensive experience with conducting independent research, skills development, and insight into the rewards of an academic career. Wesleyan’s Mellon Program has been in existence since 1989. To date, seventeen of our Mellon Fellows have completed the PhD in Mellon-designated fields, and of these four are tenured. Ten more are currently in PhD programs. An additional three PhDs have been earned in non-eligible fields.


In 2003, in response to the Supreme Court decisions in the two University of Michigan affirmative-action cases, and to persistent attacks on race-based programs at U.S. institutions of higher learning, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to the Fellowship and broadened its mission. At the same time, the Foundation renamed the program to connect that mission to the societal, scholarly, and educational commitments and achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays (1894–1984), a life-long champion of civil rights, a distinguished scholar of religion, mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., and president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967.


The MMUF mission statement now reads:


The fundamental objective of MMUF is to address, over time, the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties. This goal can be achieved both by increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups (URM) who pursue PhDs and by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by students who may not come from traditional minority groups but have otherwise demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF. The MMUF program is designed to encourage fellows to enter PhD programs that prepare students for professorial careers; it is not intended to support students who intend to go on to medical school, law school, or other professional schools.  (

II. Eligibility and Selection


The MMUF does not exclude applicants on the basis of race or ethnicity. The criteria for selection include:

• intellectual curiosity, creativity, and academic promise, including a strong interest in research;

• race and ethnicity, in relation to their underrepresentation in designated fields of study;

• an excellent work ethic and willingness to make a serious and sustained commitment to the MMUF           


• the ability, preparation, and motivation to carry out the MMUF mission;

• the qualities of mind and character that make for success in a diverse environment and in graduate           


• the potential to become an intellectual, scholarly, and societal leader and mentor;

• U.S. citizenship or permanent-resident status.


Decisions on admission are made on a case-by-case basis, with reference to these criteria and others that may be pertinent. The Program does not expect applicants to be fully developed scholars; nor is it essential that they rank at the very top of their class. What counts is that they have the qualities that will enable them to withstand the rigors of the long journey toward the PhD and to become effective, dedicated teachers at the university level and productive scholars.


Fellows are normally admitted in the spring of the sophomore year, with the maximum size of any cohort set at five. If vacancies occur, applicants may be accepted as rising seniors.


III. Mellon Fields


After careful research, the Mellon Foundation initially decided to focus its efforts on fields in which it judged the underrepresentation of faculty of color to be most acute. Applicants should be majoring in those disciplines. The current list of Mellon-designated fields is as follows (in alphabetical order):


Anthropology & Archeology    History
Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies Linguistics
Art History Mathematics


            Planetary Science

Computer Science Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
Geography & Population Studies Philosophy and Political Theory
Earth/Environmental/Geological Science/Ecology Physics & Astronomy
English Religion & Theology
Film, Cinema, and Media Studies (theoretical focus) Sociology
Musicology and Ethnomusicology Theater (theoretical focus)
Foreign Languages and Literatures


Interdisciplinary studies with one or more Mellon fields at their core (require approval from MMUF staff at the Foundation)


IV. Undergraduate Program Activities


• Intensive summer program

• Mentoring by at least one faculty member

• Independent research

• Regular cohort meetings

• Programming to demystify the professoriate and provide intellectual stimulation

• Attendance at scholarly conferences

• Support for graduate-school applications


V. Deadline

Completed applications must be submitted by March 6. All references are due by March 15. Please e-mail the application to


If you have any questions, please contact:



Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Ext. 3378