Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)

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.  (