Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program is the centerpiece of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s initiatives to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning. The MMUF program is administered at 48 institutions and a consortium of historically black colleges and universities within the membership of the UNCF. As of 2014, more than 4,000 students have been selected as fellows, more than 500 of whom have earned a Ph.D. and 85 of whom are now tenured faculty members.
The fundamental objective of MMUF is to address, over time, the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties. This goal can be achieved both by increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue Ph.D.s and by supporting the pursuit of Ph.D.s by students who may not come from traditional minority groups but have otherwise demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF. The MMUF program is designed to encourage fellows to enter Ph.D. programs that prepare students for professorial careers; it is not intended to support students who intend to go on to medical school, law school or other professional schools.
Toward a More Inclusive Academy: MMUF at 30
Research: Each undergraduate fellow is required to conduct an individual research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Guided research is a foundation of MMUF and provides the opportunity to prepare for advanced scholarly work.
Mentoring: Each Mellon fellow is paired with a faculty mentor, with whom they are expected to meet on a regular basis. Students work with their mentors to develop their scholarly interests into research directions.
Meetings/Workshops: During our two meetings per month, students come together to present their research, exchange ideas and discuss various topics related to academic life and preparation for graduate school. Workshops are conducted on topics such as taking the GRE, writing and research, presenting at academic conferences and applying to graduate school.
Conferences and Publication: Fellows will attend and present their research at the MMUF annual conferences. Conference attendance provides invaluable professional development and networking experience. Fellows are also encouraged to submit their research papers for publication in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal.
Research Prize: Fellows receive funding during the academic year so that they may have more time to focus on their academic work and research. Summer funds are also awarded to conduct research and to travel.
- Academic promise (3.0 GPA or better)
- Interest in pursuing an academic career in an eligible field
- Demonstrated commitment to the goals of MMUF
- Availability for, and commitment to, full and enthusiastic participation in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and meetings
- US citizens, permanent residents, and DACA status students
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.
- Anthropology and Archaeology
- Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies
- Art History
- Geography and Population Studies
- Film, Cinema and Media Studies (theoretical focus)
- Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Music Theory
- Foreign Languages and Literatures
- Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
- Philosophy and Political Theory
- Religion and Theology
- Theater (theoretical focus)
Important Dates and Forms
If you are interested in applying to the Mellon Mays program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also be nominated to apply by a Cornell faculty. If so, you’ll receive a letter encouraging you to apply to the program, along with an application form and instructions.
When applying, you will be asked to provide an official transcript and fill out an application that requires letters of recommendation and two essays.
MMUF 2024 Application will be available in February.
Links to forms:
Aliou Kamau Gambrel is a riding fourth year College Scholar & Africana Studies major. His project attempts to locate the critical and conscious cognitive processing of development in hearsay, and rumor, as constructed through borrowing and interaction between the Pulaar of Wolof languages. Gambrel’s larger work attempts introduction of the cultural schemas, and collective narratives present within (the ever evolving adages, proverbs and expressions of) Pulaar, and Wolof into De-colonial and Post-colonial discourse of consciousness. The significance of which would be the interpolation of these languages, their people, perspectives and beliefs into academic discussions of their consciousness, but also development's discernment and determination of their futures. During his time as an undergraduate at Cornell, Aliou has served as the director of International students for the Office of the Student Advocate, conducted economic development research in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zambia (virtually), and is a current Humanities Scholar, and Migrations Scholar. Gambrel is passionate about human rights photography, all things music, and increasingly magical realist fiction. He speaks (and is forever developing in his) English, French, Haitian Creole, Pulaar, and Wolof.
Claudia León is a junior double majoring in American Studies and Government with minors in Latino/a Studies and History. She lives in Miami, Florida, but was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her research intends to study the Puerto Rican movement for independence during the 1970s, centering revolutionary nationalist groups on the island and in the diaspora, with special consideration on their relationships to and interactions with the State through surveillance programs. By focusing on this understudied decade, she hopes to shine a light on the state of the movement today. On campus, Claudia is Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of the Student Assembly, President of the Puerto Rican Student Association, Co-President of Body Positive Cornell, and a Humanities Scholar. Additionally, she is working with Dr. Stephen Vider, director of the Public History Initiative, and Brenda Marston, curator of the Human Sexuality Collection, on a project to digitize material from the Cornell LGBT Coalition records. Outside of academics, she likes to drink Gimme! Coffee and hang out at the Cornell Botanic Gardens.
Trinity Stewart is a Senior studying Anthropology and Sociology with minors in Religious Studies and East Asian Studies. Her research, while still growing and developing, utilizes Oral History methods in order to explore how muralists with marginalized identities engage with the public sphere and create space to share their narratives through art. On campus, Trinity works with the Cornell Public History Initiative and the History Center in Tompkins County conducting and transcribing Oral History interviews. In her free time, Trinity enjoys photography, graphic design, and listening to music. After graduation, Trinity hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Anthropology with a focus in Visual Studies.
Isaac Salazar is a junior studying English, with minors in Creative Writing and Latina/o Studies. He is originally from Kyle, TX and has proud Michoacán roots. His research, which draws from the pastoral landscapes familiar to him, centers on the environmental reinterpretation of the age-old Marxist mode of the literary pastoral. By investigating the different versions of an ethnic and environmentally-motivated pastoral motif in the ideas, concepts, aesthetic strategies, and internal tensions and contradictions of Mexican American authors, Isaac hopes to uncover the underprivileged situation in which Mexican Americans have found themselves in. At Cornell, Isaac serves as the managing editor for the Cornell Book Review, a staff writer for the Cornell Daily Sun, and a soon-to-be Writing Tutor for the Knight Writing Institute. Isaac is also a scholar through the Humanities Scholars Program. In his free time, Isaac enjoys running, playing mellophone in the Big Red Marching Band, and [re]watching good rom coms. After graduation, Isaac hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Literature, American Studies or Latin American Studies.
Gabrielle Hill is a rising junior majoring in Africana studies as well as Environment and Sustainability, with a concentration in Policy and Governance. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Grounding her research in the work of Sylvia Wynter and Kathrine McKittrick, Gabrielle places Harriet Jacobs and Alexis Pauline Gumbs in conversation with one another to investigate the relationship between slavery, racial capitalism, and environmental harm through a Black feminist lens. At Cornell, Gabrielle is a member of the epee squad on the women’s varsity fencing team. Gabrielle is also a member of Cornell’s B.OS.S. (Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service) club. She is the founder of ‘Bike4BlackLives,’ a fundraising organization that was created after the death of George Floyd. In her free time, Gabrielle enjoys embroidery, listening to music, and crocheting. After graduation, Gabrielle hopes to pursue a PhD in African American literature.
Alicia Gonzalez is a junior studying Sociology with minors in Public Policy and American Studies. Her developing research interests examine museums through a sociological lens to analyze which features are associated with variation in their engagement with diverse publics. Through this research focus, she hopes to highlight how cultural institutions can meaningfully impact their local communities through outreach and education programs. On campus, Alicia is a Humanities Scholar, a policy analyst at the Cornell Roosevelt Institute, and a member of Cornell Votes. She enjoys reading, engaging with sustainability through upcycled fashion projects, and checking out local art and theatre events.
Chris Rivera is a rising junior majoring in Environment & Sustainability, with a student-designed concentration: Forced Migration, Urban Absorption, and Food Security for Vulnerable Populations in the Anthropocene. He is of Puerto Rican descent and was born and raised in the South Bronx. Rivera’s research is established at the interdisciplinary crossroads of geography and population studies, migration studies, and religious studies, all situated within the climate crisis. More specifically, his research focuses on urban food security within marginal and refugee populations. At Cornell, Chris is a student researcher and lab assistant at the Lab of Ornithology, and is a current Laidlaw Scholar and Cornell Tradition Fellow. In his free time, Chris enjoys watching horror films, writing poetry, Latin dance, and expanding his Pokémon card collection. After graduation, Chris hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Human Geography & Environmental Sciences.
Milan Taylor (she/they) is a rising junior with a double major in Anthropology and Archeology and a minor in LGBT studies. She is from Charlotte, NC and also spent portions of her life living in New York City. Milan’s research, which she lovingly calls her “baby,” focuses on queer mortuary practices during the AIDS epidemic and the material culture of Hart Island, a public cemetery in New York City where numerous people who died of AIDS are buried. She believes that comparing the preservation of the body material culture with the choice to display its destruction as a form of protest is a challenging and urgent conversation. Her research is supported by Professor Matthew Velasco and Professor Sara Warner. Outside of Mellon Mays, Milan is the Vice President of Outreach for Cornell Minds Matter, an Outreach Coordinator for CU IMAGE, a Laidlaw scholar, a Meinig Family Cornell National Scholar, and a member of the Magnificent Mu Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She also performs with Pole Posse and in the annual performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Axaraly Ortiz is a junior majoring in History and minoring in Latina/o Studies and Psychology. She is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her research utilizes oral history to humanize migrant’s experience with cultural syncretic practices and sainthood as they cross the US-Mexican border. On campus, Axaraly is an Editor for Ezra’s Archives, a mentor for La Asociación Latina, a Student Career Advisor at Cornell’s Career Service Development Center, and a recurring intern for Cornell’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program. Axaraly is also a scholar through the Humanities Scholars Program. In her free time, Axaraly enjoys carefully curating her Spotify playlists, hiking, and baking. After graduation, Axaraly hopes to pursue a Phd in History and conduct oral history research in the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental.
Nile Johnson is a sophomore studying Government and China Asia-Pacific Studies. Originally from New York City, he is half-black and half-Japanese and is bilingual. His research focuses on the relationship between student perceptions of school security and their academic performance. He hopes that this research will empower student voices regarding policies affecting learning environments. On campus, he is part of the Roosevelt Institute, POLIS, and the Undergraduate Law Review. In his spare time, he loves practicing Karate and is a proud member of the Cornell Karate Club.
Kim Montpelier is a rising junior double majoring in Classics and Philosophy. She is originally from Papua New Guinea but was raised in Washington, D.C. During her time at Cornell, Kim has been involved with the Prison Reform and Education Program, Prisoner Express, and planning events at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. She loves Kurt Vonnegut, looking at art, and playing soccer. Her project plans to track the stoic influence on panpsychism (the idea that nature is a material substance with rational components) and specifically the philosopher Margaret Cavendish. Kim hopes to reconcile Cavendish’s belief that nature is corporeal and lacks spiritual beings with her assertion that God exists and created nature.
MMUF Distinguished Guest Speaker
In March 2022, MMUF distinguished guest speaker, Victoria Saramago, presented on “Reimagining Hydropower: Environmental Art in the Age of Belo Monte” in Kaufman Auditorium.
Reimagining Hydropower: Environmental Art in the Age of Belo Monte
Since Brazil started producing electric power in the late nineteenth century, the country has widely adopted hydroelectricity as a major form of energy generation. As more and more dams have been built to power hydroelectric plants since the second half of the twentieth century, they have disrupted an ever-increasing number of lives and communities in the Amazonian region. A case in point is the Belo Monte dam, whose construction began in 2011 and was fully completed in 2019, after many decades of planning and protest. Few hydroelectric plants have generated as much public outcry as this one—from the objections of indigenous groups directly affected by the dam to demonstrations against it across the country and abroad. A sense of grief and resentment about Belo Monte marked Brazilian environmental activism in the 2010s. Likewise, environmentally committed cultural production in the period has approached the hydroelectric plant from a myriad of perspectives.
This paper investigates how a writer and a visual artist have engaged with the traumatic experience of the construction of Belo Monte in the late 2010s by focusing on the perspectives of indigenous women and female fictional characters. It analyzes the accordion fold artist-book, Serpent River Book (2017), by Colombian visual artist Carolina Caycedo and Maria José Silveira’s novel, Maria Altamira (2020). Both works place Belo Monte in a larger South American framework in which extractive zones have been steadily expanding under global capitalism. In this context, this paper aims to understand the politics of visibility in a space that, like the Amazonian rainforest, is often understood in abstract, idealized ways, and that, for the same reason, can be easily erased by the discourse of progress undergirding many facets of Brazilian developmentalism. The visual and literary works discussed in this paper offer a counterpoint to the numeric monumentality of the amount of energy that Belo Monte—the third largest hydroelectric plant in the world when construction started—produces.
About Victoria Saramago
Victoria Saramago is an assistant professor of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago. Her research interests include twentieth- and twenty-first-century Latin American literatures and cultures with a focus on narrative, the environmental humanities, the energy humanities, the Great Acceleration and the Anthropocene, fiction theory, mimesis, and interdisciplinary approaches to literature and the environment. She is the author of Fictional Environments: Mimesis, Deforestation, and Development in Latin America (Northwestern University Press, 2021), which won the Brazilian Studies Association's Roberto Reis Book Award for First Monograph. She is currently co-editing two books: The Handbook of Latin American Environmental Aesthetics (under contract with De Gruyter) with Jens Andermann and Gabriel Giorgi; and Literature Beyond the Human: Post-Anthropocentric Brazil (forthcoming with Routledge) with Luca Bacchini. She is also the author of O duplo do pai: O filho e a ficção de Cristovão Tezza (É Realizações, 2013), and her articles have been published or are forthcoming in journals such as Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Revista Hispánica Moderna, and Luso-Brazilian Review, among others.
Tamika Nunley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Sandler Family Faculty Fellow
Faculty Director, Cornell's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (January 2023)
Department of History
450 McGraw Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Advising Dean, Arts & Sciences
Administrative Director, Cornell's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program
A&S Office of Student Services
KG17 Klarman Hall
232 Feeney Way
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office of Student Services and Admissions
KG17 Klarman Hall
In the News
2021 Mellon Fellows:
May 10, 2021: "Senior student spotlight: Marisabel Cabrera '21"
May 10, 2021: "Senior student spotlight: Sarah Lorgan-Khanyile '21"
May 10, 2021: "Senior student spotlight: Laurence Minter '21"
2020 Mellon Fellows:
October 31, 2017: Allen Porterie: "Syrian political satire 'Hamlet Wakes Up Late' to premier at Cornell"
November 21, 2019: "Student Spotlight: Diana Ceron '20"
April 23, 2020: "Senior student spotlight: Raven Schwam-Curtis '20"
May 26, 2020: "Senior student spotlight: Allen Porterie '20"
2019 Mellon Fellows:
May 10th, 2019: "Benjamin Montaño: Caring about my friends only solidified my conviction that I had to stand by their side and engage in solidarity"
January 4th, 2019: "Benjamin Montaño: Senior studies how architecture shapes community life"
2018 Mellon Fellows:
May 11th, 2020: Ruby Bafu'18: awarded the prestigious NSF fellowship
August 20th, 2018: "Abi Bernard: ‘Serendipity’ leads to summer research for history major"
April 25th, 2018: "Courtney Carr: 'I value the flexibility in a liberal arts education'"
May 18th, 2017: "Mellon Mays fellows share research at Cornell conference"
March 11th, 2014: "Mellon Mays celebrates 25th year with symposium"
September 3rd, 2014: "Mellon Mays program: 25 years of diversifying faculty"
About Benjamin Mays
Benjamin Elijah Mays (1895-1984) was an educator, college president, and civil rights activist. His tenacious stand against racial discrimination and broad social vision inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.; his commitment to education earned Mays 49 honorary degrees. Read more about Benjamin Mays.