About the National Mellon Mays Undergraduate Program

About the National Mellon Mays Undergraduate Program

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program is the centerpiece of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's initiatives to reduce, over time, the serious underrepresentation on faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities. The rationale behind this statement of objectives is:

(1) Reducing racial disparities among faculty members and including faculty members committed to eradicating such disparities will facilitate efforts to increase the diversity of students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate program, in part because the presence of more faculty role models will encourage more minority students to apply and to enroll.

(2) The increased presence of minority faculty members and faculty members committed to eradicating racial disparities can also be expected to increase retention of minority students, through improving the educational climate and enhancing the support structure for these students -- in part by giving them the opportunity to form meaningful intellectual and personal relationships with faculty members from a wide variety of backgrounds.

(3) Larger numbers of minority faculty members and faculty members committed to MMUF's mission will enhance the educational experience for all students by: (a) introducing a wider variety of backgrounds, which is likely to broaden the perspectives voiced in classroom discussions and in campus life in general; and (b) breaking down stereotypes and promoting cross-racial understanding through exposure to distinguished scholars from previously underrepresented groups.

(4) Faculty members are themselves important leaders in American society, serving in many influential roles both on and off campus, including in business, civic life, and government, and more minority faculty members and those committed to MMUF's mission will benefit society at large by bringing more diverse leadership and understanding to our increasingly diverse population.

Established in 1988 by William G. Bowen, then the president of the Mellon Foundation, and Mellon program associate Henry Drewry, the MMUF program began with an initial cohort of eight member institutions.  Since then, the program has grown to include forty-eight member schools and consortia, including three South African universities and a consortium of historically black colleges and universities withink the membership of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).   As of 2016, nearly 5,000 undergraduates have been selected as Mellon fellows, more than 580 have earned their PhDs and over 100 are now tenured faculty members. The great majority of those who have completed the PhD hold or have held an appointment in the academy.

The Mellon Mays programs are coordinated by faculty members and/or academic administrators. The UNCF project is administered by a director with the assistance of a five-person advisory committee. Although institutional programs may vary, the terms and conditions for all programs are the same. Typically, undergraduates are identified in the sophomore year and funded for two academic years. They are selected according to demonstrated academic ability, interest in the specified fields, and interest in pursuing a doctorate.

The grant provides students with four forms of support: faculty mentoring, modest term-time compensation for research activities, stipend support for summer research activities, and repayment of undergraduate and/or graduate loans of up to $10,000 if fellows pursue doctoral study in one of the specified fields. Once in graduate school, fellows may apply for continuing support through various programs.

MMUF-Supported Fields of Study:

  • Core Humanities: Art History, Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies, Classics, English, Film, Cionema 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, Theater (theoretical focus)
  • Social Sciences:  Anthropology and Archeology, Geography and Population Studies, Sociology

The national MMUF program

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was established as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in June of 1969 with a mission to “aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or well-being of mankind.” 

In 1988, under this broad charter, the Foundation made a long-term commitment to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education through the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program.

 In 2003, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment and broadened the mission of MMUF.  The name of the program was changed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, to symbolically connect the mission to the stellar educational achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

The fundamental objective of MMUF is to increase the number of minority students, and others with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue PhDs in core fields in the arts and sciences. The Program aims to reduce over time the serious under-representation on the faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities.