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Academic Initiative

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • https://www.mmuf.org/

Program Overview

  • Students must formally apply to their campus MMUF program to be considered for selection as fellows. The application process varies from campus to campus, but generally includes a written statement of purpose, one or more recommendations from faculty members, an academic transcript, an interview with the selection committee, and other requirements according to each institution’s procedures. Fellows are generally chosen in the spring of their sophomore year after their majors have been declared, though there is some variation from institution for institution. In a few cases, fellows have been selected as juniors or seniors. The following criteria are weighed in selecting participants for MMUF: Academic promise (some schools have a minimum GPA cutoff, others do not); Interest in pursuing an academic career in an eligible field (a list of the eligible fields can be viewed here); Potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students; Race and ethnicity, in relation to their underrepresentation in designated fields of study; Demonstrated commitment to the goals of MMUF: to reduce 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. Examples of such commitment might include serious undergraduate research into racial dispari­ties in higher education; a strong record of tutoring students from underrepresented groups; sustained mentoring of children from such groups; or other forms of community service or leadership activities in campus or off-campus organizations. Availability for, and commitment to, full and enthusiastic participation in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and meetings; Status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (except for students at the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape, and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa). All students are welcome to apply for MMUF, though applications are particularly encouraged from African-Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Native Americans, and other under­represented minorities (URM).

Program Benefits

Program Contact

  • aib@mellon.org


  • Nationwide
  • Atlanta, GA 30302, USA

Type Of Program


  • Collegiate


  • Anthropology

  • Cinema Studies

  • Cultural Studies

  • Ethnic Studies

  • Ethnomusicology

  • Linguistics

  • Literature

  • Media Studies

  • Social/Behavioral Sciences




Individuals Served

  • 501-1,000

Notable Alumni

Jessica Walker (literature, sciences, and arts [LSA]) collegiate fellow, assistant professor, University of Michigan), Jericho Brown (winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry), and Kyra Gaunt (ethnomusicologist, assistant professor, State University of New York at Albany)

Research, Roles & Responsibilities

Research Components

  • Mentored research experience(s)

  • Program sponsored (in-house) professional development sessions/ coursework

  • Stipend/compensation

Other Components

Program activities address the specific needs of students from underrepresented groups who are navigating predominantly white institutions. Many fellows also touch upon identity issues in their academic research itself.

Identity & Inclusion

  • The MMUF program trains fellows in academic research methods and writing practices and provides activities designed to enhance fellows' socialization into the conventions and expectations of academic culture. This training helps them to develop the professional and social skills that will allow them to persist and thrive in graduate school and in faculty careers.
  • The MMUF program makes extensive use of faculty and other mentors, many of whom are themselves from underrepresented groups and can share their own experiences, challenges and best practices in establishing themselves as scholars.

Diversity Groups (Social Identity)

  • First-Generation

  • Gender

  • Race-Ethnicity

  • Socioeconomic Status (E.G. Low-Income)

Race/Ethnic Minority Group

  • African American/Black

  • Alaska Natives

  • Hispanic/Latino

  • Native American

  • Pacific Islander

Inclusionary Practices/Activities

  • Development Of Academic Sense Of Belongingness (E.G. Meetings With Doctoral Scholars, Peer Researchers, Exchanges At Academic Conferences)

  • Orientation (E.G. Reviewing Norms, Expectations, Structures, Goals, And/Or Protocols)

  • Specialized Curricula/Workshops

    E.G. Training For Participants, Directors And/Or Faculty On Imposter Syndrome, Implicit Bias, Microaggressions


Mentoring Components

  • Mentees Are Allowed To Attend Events With Mentors

    I.E. Dinners, Social Events, Conferences, Retreats) Mentees Are Allowed To Attend Events With Mentors (I.E. Dinners, Social Events, Conferences, Retreats

  • Mentees Are Shown Academic Customs, Pitfalls, Departmental Politics And Taboos

  • Mentor Recognizes The Value Of Mentee

  • Mentors Are Peers Of Program Participants (Near-Peer, Tiered Peer, Etc.)

  • Mentors Provide Mentees With Access To Academic Resources

  • Mentors Provide Psychological And Or Emotional Support

  • Mentors Provide Regular Scheduled Meetings With Mentees

  • Mentors Provide Support With Academic Or Discipline Specific Knowledge Through Direct Teaching

Empowering Activities

  • Academic Recognition (I.E. Research Credibility, Prestige)

  • Coaching

  • Institutional Alliances

  • Knowledge Transfer To The Community (E.G., Parents, Peers, Stakeholders)

  • Mentoring Opportunities

  • Publication Opportunities


  • Since its inception in 1988, MMUF has produced nearly 900 PhDs, of whom about 400 are tenured or tenure-track faculty. Another 750 fellows are currently enrolled in PhD programs.

Key Performance Indicators

MMUF fellows and coordinators report to the program annually on their progress, providing data on program outcomes. The program regularly uses this data to compute throughput (the percentage of fellows continuing into PhD programs) for each member campus, and asks underperforming institutions to submit plans for improvement.

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