Are you an aspiring scholar eager to make a meaningful impact on academia? The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship might be your gateway to an enriching journey. In the following lines, let’s explore the opportunities this fellowship offers and how it can help you pursue your academic dreams.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship


About the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program is the principal initiative of the Mellon Foundation aimed at addressing the issue of underrepresentation within the teaching staff of higher education institutions.

The program is named in honor of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a renowned African-American educator, statesman, minister, and former president of Morehouse College.

Initially launched with just eight member institutions, the MMUF program has since expanded to encompass 47 member schools and three consortia, including the UNCF consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Up to this point, the MMUF program has successfully produced 1,100 individuals holding PhDs. Among them, nearly 800 are presently serving as college professors, while another 300 have applied their humanities training in various fields, such as museums, nonprofit organizations, publishing houses, and government positions.

The MMUF program operates through a structured process that places significant emphasis on mentoring, research assistance, specialized programming, and the collective influence of student cohorts.

Mellon collaborates with member colleges and universities to identify and nurture exceptionally promising students, guiding them toward becoming scholars of the utmost distinction.

The overarching objective of MMUF, as envisioned by Mellon, is to foster greater diversity within the faculties of colleges and universities across the nation.

The program strives to establish a lasting legacy of scholars who will fundamentally transform their respective fields, thereby creating opportunities for all students to benefit from the perspectives of a diverse range of faculty members.

Fellowship Eligibility Requirements and Criteria

The core aim of MMUF is to gradually tackle the issue of insufficient representation within academia, specifically within the faculties of colleges and universities, with a particular focus on faculties in the humanities and certain social sciences.

This objective can be accomplished by both increasing the enrollment of students from underrepresented minority backgrounds (URM) in Ph.D. programs and by offering support to students who, while not necessarily belonging to traditional minority groups, have nevertheless shown a strong dedication to MMUF’s objectives.

MMUF is structured to motivate fellows to pursue Ph.D. programs that prepare them for careers as professors in the humanities and selected social sciences. It is not intended to provide assistance to students with aspirations of attending medical school, law school, or other professional schools.

Eligible fields of study

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

  • Anthropology and Archaeology
  • 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 that incorporate one or more eligible fields, are not eligible for MMUF graduate benefits.

Who Can Participate?

To be eligible for MMUF, students must first be enrolled at one of the MMUF member institutions. Fellowships are not awarded directly to individual students; instead, Mellon awards grants to member institutions, which select fellows and administer the program on each campus.

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, and an interview with the selection committee, as well as other requirements.

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, fellows have been selected as juniors or seniors.

Fellowship Selection Criteria

The following criteria are weighed in selecting MMUF fellows:

1. Academic promise (some schools require a minimum GPA, others do not);

2. Interest in pursuing an academic career in an eligible field;

3. Potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students;

4. Race and ethnicity, in relation to their underrepresentation in designated fields of study;

Evidenced dedication to MMUF’s objectives, which encompass rectifying the severe underrepresentation of individuals from minority backgrounds within academic faculties. It also aims to address the ramifications of these racial disparities for the educational system itself and the broader society it serves.

Examples of such commitment could encompass substantial undergraduate research into racial disparities within higher education, a notable track record in tutoring students from underrepresented groups, prolonged mentorship of children from such backgrounds, or active involvement in community service or leadership roles within on-campus or off-campus organizations.

Willingness and wholehearted commitment to engaging fully in all facets of the MMUF program, which includes active participation in conferences and meetings.

Eligibility as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, with the exception of students at the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape, and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

While applications from all students are welcome, there is a particular emphasis on encouraging applications from African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Native Americans, and other minority groups who are underrepresented (URM).


The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship is more than just financial support; it’s a community of scholars dedicated to diversifying academia. If you’re ready to embark on a path of research, mentorship, and social change, seize this opportunity to be a part of a transformative fellowship. Your journey toward becoming an influential scholar begins here.

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