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Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

Program Overview

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is designed to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of higher education institutions.  

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and established in 2000 at Smith College, MMUF Fellows come from underrepresented backgrounds. They are selected based on their desire and commitment to pursue doctoral studies and a teaching career in higher education in a Mellon-designated field of study. The fellowship is not intended to support students who intend to go on to law school, medical school, or other professional schools. 

To be eligible for selection as an MMUF Fellow, students must be planning to study in one or more of these fields:

  • Area/cultural/ethnic/gender studies
  • Art history
  • Classics
  • Geography and population studies
  • English
  • Film, cinema, and media studies (theoretical focus)
  • Musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory
  • Foreign languages and literatures
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Performance studies (theoretical focus)
  • Philosophy and Political Theory
  • Religion and theology
  • Sociology
  • Theater (theoretical focus)

Interdisciplinary studies: Interdisciplinary areas of study may be eligible if they have one or more eligible fields at their core but must be approved by the MMUF staff at the Mellon Foundation on a case-by-case basis. Please note that interdisciplinary education graduate programs, even those incorporating one or more eligible fields, are not eligible for MMUF graduate benefits.

Faculty/student mentoring relationships form the core of the MMUF experience. Faculty mentors help orient undergraduate fellows toward pursuing a Ph.D. and a faculty career through two years of a close research relationship. 

During the junior and senior years, fellows also engage in development workshops and seminars on pursuing doctoral degrees, research, and life in academia.

All Mellon Fellows must have a committed faculty mentor from Smith. Selecting a faculty mentor, especially someone who knows your academic work, can strengthen your application. Visiting and adjunct faculty members can form part of your advising network, but they should not be the primary faculty mentor. If you do not have a committed faculty mentor and are selected for the fellowship, we will assist you in identifying an appropriate mentor. 

Fellows are generally chosen in the spring of their sophomore year after their majors have been declared, though there is some variation from institution to institution. In a few cases, and with prior consultation with Mellon, fellows have been selected as juniors and seniors.

The MMUF has established the following selection criteria:

  • Interest in pursuing an academic career, specifically, doctoratal (Ph.D.) studies in Mellon-designated fields of study (STEM students are not eligible)

  • Demonstrated commitment to increasing opportunities for underrepresented communities, breaking down stereotypes, increasing cross-racial and ethnic understanding, and enabling others to better understand persons of different races and ethnicities

  • Commitment to participating fully and enthusiastically in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences, meetings, workshops, and seminars

  • Status as a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, recipient of DACA, or undocumented student


Application and Selection Process

The MMUF Advisory Board reviews all applications and invites qualified applicants to interview. These finalists will meet with the selection committee for a 30-minute interview. Selected fellows will meet with the program director and are invited to attend the senior presentation event at the end of the spring semester.

A completed application consists of an application form, two essays, a faculty consultation form, an unofficial transcript, and two faculty recommendations. The letters of recommendation should be from faculty members with whom the applicant has taken a class. Email Professor Armstrong-Fumero, MMUF faculty coordinator, or Dean Richmond, MMUF program director, with questions.