Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

History and Mission of the Program

I. History and Mission

 In 1988 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 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, opportunities for 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,
fifteen of our Mellon Fellows have completed the PhD, and of these three are tenured. Thirteen more are
currently in PhD programs.

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 its 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 objectives of MMUF are to reduce, over
time, the serious underrepresentation on faculties of individuals from minority groups, as well as to
address the consequences of these racial disparities for the educational system itself and for the larger
society that it serves. These goals can be achieved both by increasing the number of students from
underrepresented minority groups who pursue PhDs and by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by students
who may not come from underrepresented minority groups but have 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 to
medical school, law school, or other professional schools. (