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 Dean Ekaterina Pirozhenko, 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 Application Deadline: February 15, 2022
Links to forms:
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.
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 rising junior studying American Studies and Government with a minor in Latinx Studies. She currently resides in Miami, Florida, but was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her research intends to study the Puerto Rican movement for independence across time and space, first from the Spanish Empire and, since 1898, from the United States. She particularly wants to focus on historical moments of contingency wherein Puerto Rican sovereignty might have been achieved were it not for particular events and actors, and what this means for pro-independence organizing today. On campus, Claudia is a research assistant for Professor Sabrina Karim of the Government Department, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity, co-president of Body Positive Cornell, and a Humanities Scholar. She is also serving on the Student Assembly for the 2021-2022 school year as a Representative to the College of Arts and Sciences. In her free time (and if the Ithaca weather allows it), she likes to drink Gimme! Coffee and hang out at the Cornell Botanic Gardens.
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.
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.
Karen Cardona-Sánchez is a Junior studying English and Latinx Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on queer of color representations in U.S. television and movies. While still in development, she hopes to explore how certain portrayals of queer bodies are more acceptable and palatable on screen than others. Aside from her research, Karen is very involved in the Latinx community on campus, having formerly served as the Vice-President of Communications for La Asociación Latina. Currently, she serves as the Co-Outreach Chair for Underrepresented Minorities in Computing, the Events Coordinator for the Literary Society, and is also a supervisor at the North Campus Service Center. In her free time, Karen enjoys hiking through Ithaca, playing instruments, and taking care of her cat, Winston.
Cassandra Zhen is a rising senior in the American Studies program. Her research focuses on the histories and cultures of Asian diasporic communities. She is particularly interested in the role of academia and the education system in how they overshadow narratives of ethnic minorities. On campus, Cassandra interns at the Cornell Women's Resource Center and works closely with various programs in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. Additionally, Cassandra is an Oral History Fellow at The History Center in Tompkins County. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys visiting museums, exploring new areas, and watching sunsets.
Samantha N. Sheppard, Ph.D.
Mary Amrstrong Meduski '80 Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies
Faculty Director, Cornell's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program
Department of Performing and Media Arts
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Ithaca, NY 14850
MMUF Administrative Director
Senior Lecturer, Department of German Studies
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Brittnie Hamlin Riccardi
Operations Administrative Assistant
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In the News
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.