Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)

History and Mission of the National Program

In 1988 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under then-President William Bowen, launched a program designed to increase the number of Black/African-American, Latino/a/x/e, and Native/Indigenous 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.

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. 

In 2023, the MMUF focus was shifted again to uplift and center accurate narratives, multivocality, and social justice.

The national leadership of the MMUF shares the following objective:

[T]he Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is committed to supporting a diverse professoriate and to promoting the value of multivocality in the humanities and related disciplines, elevating accounts, interpretations, and narratives that expand present understandings.
MMUF is part of the Higher Learning program of the Mellon Foundation and reflects one of its three grantmaking priorities: Elevating the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures.
Higher Learning makes grants with the objective of amplifying perspectives and contributions that have been marginalized within the conventional scholarly record, and that promote the realization of a more socially just world. We call this objective multivocality, and this commitment is at the core of MMUF.

You can read more about the history of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, and Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, here: 

You can read more about the goals and spirit of the MMUF program here: 


MMUF at Wesleyan

Wesleyan’s Mellon Program has been in existence since 1989. Our Mellon Mays Fellows have earned the PhD in Mellon-designated fields, and many have gone on to tenured faculty positions. And we currently have a strong group of recent Wesleyan MMUF grads who are working toward completing the Ph.D.