The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program


Mellon Fellows, Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017

Mellon Fellows, Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017

Fast Facts

Mentoring, summer and academic year research for students intending to go to graduate school in specific disciplines
Current sophomores, selected juniors
Time frame: 
Two years, starting summer after the sophomore year
Summer and term time support

Prof. Tsitsi Jaji
Faculty Coordinator
Allen Building 304D, Box 90015
Phone: (919) 684-2741




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.

benjamin mays photoBenjamin Elijah Mays, was born in 1895 in South Carolina, and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920.  While obtaining his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago, he was ordained into the Baptist ministry.  He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College.  From 1934 to 1940, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he distinguished for the next quarter of a century.  He also served his community well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board.

He spoke early and often against segregation and for education.  He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored.  He had been a model for one of his Morehouse students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served the young minister as an unofficial senior advisor. He gave the eulogy at King's funeral.  Among his books were the first sociological study of African-American religion, The Negro's Church, published in 1933; and The Negro's God, of 1938; Disturbed About Man, of 1969; and his autobiography Born to Rebel, of 1971.  These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect with religious commitment and prophetic conviction.

The American National Biography website has a comprehensive biography on Dr. Mays.

Also, see:

How to apply

You may apply to the MMUF Program in one of two ways:

1. You may identify a faculty mentor with whom you would like to work over the two-year fellowship period, and a specific research topic, designed collaboratively with your chosen mentor, for the first summer of the program.

Your faculty mentor should be in the discipline in which you plan to major and in which you plan to attend graduate school. Frequently, our fellows select their mentors from among the professors with whom they have become acquainted in a course. You also may be able to identify a faculty member whose research interests are close to yours, whether or not you have had him or her in a course. If you have questions about this process or would like help identifying a mentor, please make an appointment to see the MMUF Program Coordinator, Prof. Tsitsi Jaji (, who will advise you.

BUT, do not allow the issue of finding a faculty mentor prevent you from applying to this program:

2. You may apply to the MMUF Program without a faculty mentor or project. If selected to participate in the program, you will work with the MMUF program coordinators to identify an appropriate mentor at Duke. You will then have the choice of either working with that mentor to design a research project for the first summer OR working with the Mellon program coordinators to identify a summer research program elsewhere in which you would participate.

All applicants must submit an application, as well as the following letters of recommendation, which are in Word format below.

  • If you are applying with a mentor: one (1) Faculty Reference Form and one (1) Faculty Mentor Support Letter, OR
  • If you are applying without a mentor: two (2) Faculty Reference Forms

The Faculty Reference Forms and Faculty Mentor Support Letters should be sent directly by the writers, by email attachment to:

Prof. Tsitsi Jaji
Faculty Coordinator
Allen Building 304D, Box 90015
Phone: (919) 684-2741

Application Deadline

Friday, February 23, 2018, 5:00 p.m.

The application and support letters should be submitted no later than Friday, February 23, 2018 5:00 p.m.

Duke MMUF Forms:

Eligibility and Selection Criteria:

All sophomores (Class of 2019) who are currently enrolled at Duke, who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States, and who have a 3.0 or higher GPA are eligible to apply to the program. Applicants should intend to (1) pursue a PhD in a Mellon-designated field of study and (2) pursue an academic career in that field. Up to five fellows are selected each spring.

NOTE: Exceptions to the GPA requirement may be made on a case-by-case basis, and on occasion, junior applicants are considered if they fulfill the above requirements.

The Mellon Foundation has identified the following selection criteria to be used by campus selection committees:

  1. Academic promise and strength of academic record
  2. Interest in pursing an academic career in a Mellon-designated field of study (see below)
  3. Potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students
  4. Race and ethnicity (in relation to underrepresentation in designated fields of study)
  5. 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 may include serious undergraduate research into racial disparities in higher education; a strong record of tutoring students from underrepresented groups; or sustained mentoring of children from such groups.
  6. Commitment to participating fully and enthusiastically in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and meetings.

No one candidate will have to satisfy all criteria, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by comparing each applicant's qualities with those of the rest of the applicant pool. Finalists will be interviewed.

Only students majoring in one or more of the following areas are eligible to apply to the program:

  • Anthropology and Archeology
  • 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
  • Religion and Theology
  • Sociology
  • Theater (theoretical focus)
  • Interdisciplinary Studies: Interdisciplinary areas of study may be eligible if they have one or more Mellon 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.

Program Requirements:

  • Eight (8) weeks of full-time research during the summers following the sophomore and junior years
  • Ongoing research during the academic year in lieu of work/study or other employment
  • Full participation in all Mellon Mays program activities
  • Maintenance of a strong working relationship with the faculty mentor
  • Presentation of Mellon research at Visible Thinking, Duke’s Undergraduate Research Day, in both junior and senior years
  • Preparation and submission of a senior thesis in the major department

For more information about the Mellon Mays Program contact our Program Coordinator:

Prof. Tsitsi Jaji
Faculty Coordinator
Allen Building 304D, Box 90015
Phone: (919) 684-2741

Information about Visible Thinking Day

In April, Duke celebrates the achievements of Duke undergraduates in research and original scholarship in the humanities, the natural sciences and engineering, and the social sciences. The contributions of students to their respective disciplines are manifested in VISIBLE THINKING, a presentation of undergraduate research for the entire university community. Students who have received research fellowships during the summer and academic year and candidates for departmental Graduation with Distinction are among the participants.

This year, Visible Thinking will take place this year on Thursday, April 13, 2017 from  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in C.I.E.M.A.S.  Registration will open in March.

Senior Fellows

  • Elizabeth Barahona
  • Razan Idris
  • Attyat Mayans
  • Patricia Pinckombe

Junior Fellows

  • Malcolm Brown
  • Amber Hall
  • Tae Markey
  • Adaír Necalli
  • Alexandra Sanchez Rolón
  • Alexus Wells

Current Research Topics

  • The History of Latinx Students at Duke University
  • al-Kafa'a fil Nasab: Race and Lineage in Muslim Maliki Marriage Law
  • Hip Hop Culture and Muslim Twitter
  • Chinese Students Studying "Abroad" at Duke Kunshan University
  • Indigo Children and Black Youth Spirituality
  • Building the Boat: Documenting and Revitalizing the Cherokee Language
  • Theories of Self in the Digital World
  • Nahuatl Language Use, Linguistic Identity and Language Politics in the State of Puebla and Mexico City
  • Power Acquisition Among Women in the Latino-Caribbean Community
  • Hip Hop as a Site for the Affirmation of Afro-Latinx Identity

Duke Mellon Mays Alumni

Class of 2017- 19th Cohort

  • Indrani Saha
  • Henry Washington, Jr.

Class of 2016 - 18th Cohort

  • David Builes
  • Katrina Miller

Class of 2015 - 17th Cohort

  • Asraiel Harewood
  • Destiny Hemphill
  • Virginia Isava
  • Nicole Rudden

Class of 2014 - 16th Cohort

  • Nicole Daniels
  • Maria (Angie) Diaz
  • Christopher-Marcus Gibson
  • Yvette Vasquez

Class of 2013 - 15th  Cohort

  • Tracie Canada
  • Christian James
  • Diana Ruiz

Class of 2012 - 14th Cohort

  • Alejandro Cortese
  • Julius Jones
  • Kadeisha Kilgore
  • Nusaibah Kofar-Naisa
  • Braxton Shelley
  • Rachel Simon

Class of 2011 - 13th Cohort

  • Debra Armour
  • Naomi Johnson

Class of 2010 - 12th Cohort

  • Amanda Boston
  • Elizabeth Canela
  • Nicole Gonzalez
  • Alexander Robel 

Class of 2009 - 11th Cohort

  • Charisma Nelson
  • Christopher Tounsel

Class of 2008 - 10th Cohort

  • Kelley Akhiemokhali
  • Brennen Britton
  • Trinity Brown
  • Kristen Jenkins
  • Ashley Southerland

Class of 2007 - 9th Cohort

  • Adair Hill
  • Brigid Ndege
  • Luke Stewart
  • Kendrea Tannis
  • Susanna Temkin

Class of 2006 - 8th Cohort

  • Peter Blair
  • Brandon Hudson
  • Tiana Mack
  • Rylan Smith
  • Candis Watts
  • Tiffany Weber

Class of 2005 - 7th Cohort

  • Zane Curtis-Olsen
  • Laquisha Douglas
  • Tameeka Norton
  • Rocio Nunez
  • Crystal Sanders

Class of 2004 - 6th Cohort

  • Yousuf Al-Bulushi
  • Ekua Annan
  • McKinley Melton
  • Victoria Munoz

Class of 2003 - 5th Cohort

  • Donnel Baird
  • Janaka Bowman
  • Shevon Rockett
  • Martin Wilkins

Class of 2002 - 4th Cohort

  • Dede Addy
  • Ariana Curtis
  • Jonathan Nwagbaraocha
  • Danielle Squires
  • Martin Wilkins

Class of 2001 - 3rd Cohort

  • Kelvin Black
  • Andrew Christensen
  • Keona Ervin
  • Joanne Gonzales
  • Samantha Murray
  • Torrence Thomas

Class of 2000 - 2nd Cohort

  • Tanya Copeland
  • Roberto Gonzalez
  • Simone Manigo
  • Susan Moore

Class of 1999 - 1st Cohort

  • Diahnna Baxter
  • Joy Jenkins
  • LeRhonda Manigault
  • Andres Oliveros

General Information


MMUF students entering PhD programs in Mellon Designated Fields (see section on Eligibility) are eligible for repayment of their undergraduate loans up to a maximum of $10,000. Only undergraduate debt accrued through Perkins, Stafford, or college loan programs qualify for repayment.


Under the terms of the MMUF program, each undergraduate institution establishes its own procedure for facilitating the loan repayment process and record keeping. Coordinators work directly with their undergraduate financial aid offices. Generally, institutions require fellows to participate in an exit interview, during which time the undergraduate coordinators familiarize students with loan repayment procedures and provide them with necessary information to apply for repayment

For each of the first four years for full-time graduate study, the Mellon Foundation, through students’ undergraduate institutions, will repay one-eighth (up to $1,250) of the fellows’ undergraduate debts. Thus, if students pursue full-time graduate study for four years, they will receive $5,000. When students complete the doctorate, they will qualify for an additional $5,000. Students are required to submit a Graduate Study Verification Form (see form on right) when requesting payments.

If a student has undergraduate debt totaling less than $10,000, the balance loan repayment funds may be used to repay graduate students loans. Graduate students loans may only be repaid upon completion of the PhD. The total amount of loan repayment funds will not exceed $10,000 and may only be used toward designated educational loans from recognized lenders for graduate study.

How to Arrange for Debt Repayment by the MMUF Program

  • Before graduation, Mellon Fellows should meet with their Duke financial aid adviser to receive an accounting of their outstanding Perkins and Stafford loans. Please ask your adviser to complete a copy of the Statement of Loans Eligible for Repayment Form. Retain a copy of this form for your records.
  • Fellows should then meet with the Duke Mellon Coordinator to discuss the Mellon loan repayment procedures and give him or her a copy of this form for the program records.
  • At the end of each academic year of graduate study, Fellows should complete their section of the Graduate Study Verification Form and then submit the Form to your graduate school registrar for verification of your completion of the year.
  • The registrar should send the completed form to:

Prof. Tsitsi Jaji
Faculty Coordinator
Allen Building 304D, Box 90015
Phone: (919) 684-2741

  • Upon receipt of the completed form, the MMUF Program at Duke will prepare an Accounts Payable Check Request and submit it to Accounts Payable at Duke, who will then issue a check to the lender. It is very important for you to include the name of the lender, the correct address, and the appropriate account number of other information that will identify you as the holder of the account.
  • The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Duke University will retain copies of the paperwork mailed to Accounts Payable and follow-up with the student should there be any questions.
  • If yo have any questions, please contact Paul Noe at (919) 660-3139 or


mmuf graduate study verification form

statement of loans eligible for repayment form