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.

Mellon Mays students

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

Core Components

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.

Designated 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)

Important Dates and Forms

In-Person INFO Session

  • Tuesday, October 5th at 12 p.m. – Rockefeller Hall 103
  • Monday, November 15th 4.30 p.m. – Rockefeller Hall 105

Zoom INFO Session

If you are interested in applying to the Mellon Mays program, contact Dean Ekaterina Pirozhenko.

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 Application Deadline: February 15, 2022

Links to forms: 


Current Fellows

Male student smiling outside an open field with a bronze status behind him

Youssef Aziz is a rising senior double majoring in Sociology and Psychology and minoring in Inequality Studies (Health Equity Track). He is originally from Southern California and is of Egyptian descent. He migrated from Egypt at the age of 12 due to the increasing threat of Coptic persecution. Youssef's research focuses on identity formation for indigenous North Africans throughout different political regimes and colonizing forces. He hopes to use his research as a way to critically analyze and understand his identities and how they've been westernized throughout colonization. At Cornell, Youssef is the Co-President of the First Generation Student Union, Vice President of Black Ivy Pre-Law Society, RA at William T. Keeton House, and is involved with research at the law school examining jury awards to pain and suffering. In his free time, Youssef loves playing his flute in Lincoln, making new Spotify playlists, and just walk around Ithaca. After graduation, Youssef hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology and conduct field research in Upper Egypt and Morocco.

Student with smiling face

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. 

Student smiling standing next to a tree in front of a building

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. 

Student with a yellow flower on his head standing in front of a building

Christopher Moy-Lopez (He/They) is a rising junior majoring in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with a possible double major in Government. He is of Chinese and Guatemalan descent and was born and raised in Chicago Illinois. His research with Mellon Mays, while still in development, will have a focus on the effects of Covid-19 on the compensated dating, colloquially known as sugar dating, landscape. This topic was sparked by Christopher’s academic interests in mainstream media and sex work. Moreover, Christopher also shares interests in writing, advocacy, and marketing. Translating these interests into on-campus activities, Christopher is the founding president of Queer Magazine, a Posse Scholar, and a dedicated Advocacy-project member. Additionally, Christopher holds intermediate fluency in Mandarin and basic fluency in both Turkish and Spanish. Lastly, in his spare time, Christopher enjoys writing, drawing, and cooking.

Student with long hair and eyeglasses smiling in front of a tree surrounded by houses.

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.

Student smiling while jumping

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.  

Student smiling in front of two green bushes

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.

Program Contacts

Samantha N. Sheppard, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies
Faculty Director, Cornell's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program
Department of Performing and Media Arts
Cornell University
430 College Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850

Ekaterina Pirozhenko, Ph.D. 
Advising Dean
MMUF Administrative Director
Senior Lecturer, Department of German Studies
Office of Student Services and Admissions
KG17 Klarman Hall

Alyssa Hingre
Assistant Registrar
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"

August 18, 2018: Raven Schwam-Curtis: "MMUF Scholar explores intersection between African, Asian cultures" 

November 21, 2019: "Student Spotlight: Diana Ceron '20"

April 2, 2020: Allen Porterie: "Exceptional student work honored through dramatic writing competition awards"

April 23, 2020: "Senior student spotlight: Raven Schwam-Curtis '20"

May 7, 2020: Raven Schwam-Curtis: "Access Fund eased pandemic's burden on students"

May 11, 2020: Raven Scwam-Curtis: "All My Classes Have Challenged Me Deeply"

May 26, 2020: "Senior student spotlight: Allen Porterie '20"

Allen Porterie: "From the perspective of the stage"

Allen Porterie: "Drama Book Award" 2020

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"

April 26th, 2019: "Karen Monique Loya: You never know when you will learn something that will change the course of your academic interests"

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 29th, 2018: "Raven Schwam-Curtis: MMUF scholar explores intersection between African, Asian cultures"

August 28th, 2018: "Karen Loya: Senior investigates Latinx identity formation in higher education"

August 20th, 2018: "Abi Bernard: ‘Serendipity’ leads to summer research for history major"

June 21st, 2018: "Allen Porterie: Summer research project explores black masculinity in theatre"

May 2nd, 2018: "Kevin Cruz Amaya: 'Find a community that genuinely embraces and supports who you are'"

May 2nd, 2018: "Paola A. Camacho-Lemus: 'Find work that fulfills your sense of purpose'"

April 26th, 2018: "Leighton Fernando Cook: ' Study abroad helps students immerse themselves in the foreign'"

April 25th, 2018: "Jendayi Brooks-Flemister: 'Not one student at Cornell can say they've had the same experience as another'"

April 25th, 2018: "Courtney Carr: 'I value the flexibility in a liberal arts education'"

April 25th, 2018: "Jose Armando Fernandez Guerrero: 'A liberal arts education is about developing critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills'"

April 25th, 2018: "Salvador Herrera: 'In all of our differences I have only found more points to bond over'"

Cornell Chronicle:

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 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.