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.
Open House and Information Sessions:
Tuesday, January 28th, 11:30am - 1:00 pm in OADI:
I am looking forward to meeting you at the OADI lunch on Tuesday, January 28th from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be my pleasure to share with you information about Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program. It is a two year long program for students in the designated MMUF fields (Social Sciences and Humanities) who would like to pursue a PhD. The program supports students financially and academically, prepares students to apply to graduate schools and demystifies the academia. The deadline for application is February 15th. Please feel free come to have lunch on January 28th from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hear more about MMUF in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives on the second floor of the Computing and Communication Center, 235 Garden Avenue.
MMUF Application Deadline:
February 15th, 2020
- 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)
Applying to the Program
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 Form that requires letters of recommendation and two essays.
Forms & Contact Information
Loan Repayment Forms (for fellows in graduate school)
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
430 College Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850
MMUF Administrative Director
Senior Lecturer, Department of German Studies
Office of Student Services and Admissions
KG17 Klarman Hall
Brittnie Hamlin Riccard
Assistant Registrar of Student Records
Office of Student Services and Admissions
KG17 Klarman Hall
Allen Porterie is a junior English major and theater minor with a concentration on African American literature. His research project is focused on the representation of Black male masculinity in theater, and how such representations function as tools for cultural storytelling. This project incorporates literary analyses, masculinist theory, and performance theory. Allen examines Black masculinity through plays, novels, and documentaries to better grasp the inner-workings of masculinity as a performance in itself. As an actor and gay Black man, this work is constantly present in Allen's life. Allen is a brother of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, an avid singer and actor, and Treasurer of the Festival of Black Gospel. He plans to complete a Ph.D program in performance studies after earning his Bachelor's in English, and Allen is interested in Northwestern University, University of Chicago, New York University, and Yale University. Allen really enjoys acting, singing, and dancing, and many of his friends will say that he is always performing in some way. Allen's favorite class at Cornell was Introduction to African American Literature; it opened his eyes to another side of literature, with characters whose voices sounded like his, and whose experiences Allen could relate to.
Diana Ceron is a junior double majoring in Government and Spanish with minors in Latina/o Studies and Latin American Studies. Her research project centers on how female authors in Mexico used literature to advance feminist movements, specifically during 1950s-1980s. She wishes to uncover how they fought back against the expectation of the “perfect” woman that religious and cultural archetypes in Mexican society imposed on women. Diana hopes to use this research to understand how literary rhetoric helped empower women and progress Mexican society. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either Latin American Studies or Spanish Literature and Culture. Diana currently works as an undergraduate consultant for the Center for Teaching Innovation and as an assistant at the Carol Tatkon Center. On campus she is involved in El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A), The Smart is Strong Foundation, the Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR), and Friends of Farm Workers.
Raven Schwam-Curtis is a junior majoring in Asian studies and feminist, gender & sexuality studies. Her research aims to uncover radical ways of coalition-building between Asian and Black diasporas. Most of her work focuses on Afro-Asia as a cite of tension and possibility. She is also fascinated by the intersections of various racial and ethnic identities in the self. As a self-identifying African American and ethnically Jewish woman, she has always been interested in the work that bi, tri, and multi racialism and culturalism can do. Specifically, in the context of Afro-Asia, blasian (Black and Asian) identities hold within them a tension that she hopes to unpack. Raven draws on a diverse archive of YouTube videos, movies, articles, books, and more. She plans to pursue a Ph.D in Africana Studies, and hopes to subsequently remain on the east coast, where she would like to work with an Africana Studies department that has a strong focus on feminist theory; Raven would like to expand the discipline's scope internationally, by enlisting her Mandarin skills to do ethnographic research in China. Raven currently works at the Asian American Studies program as a Student Administrator and serves as a Co-Chair for the Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service Peer Mentorship Program (B.O.S.S.). In her free time, Raven enjoys playing guitar, working out, and braiding her hair. Some of her passions include studying languages (i.e. Chinese and French), traveling, and community service.
Gabriel Vergara is a rising junior majoring in government, with a concentration in political theory. He is originally from Miami, FL and is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. His research is focused on determining the relation of Fidel Castro to Niccolò Machiavelli through the work of Antonio Gramsci. By putting Fidel Castro in conversation with these Italian thinkers, Vergara hopes to uncover new aspects of power relationships and better understand the Cuban situation. This project is part of Vergara’s larger goal of putting Latin American thinkers in conversation with mainstream political theorists. At Cornell, Gabriel serves as a research assistant for Professor David Bateman of the Government Department, a Resident Advisor in Kay Hall, a member of American Enterprise Institute’s Executive Council, and the Treasurer of Amnesty International. In his free time, Gabriel enjoys playing basketball, going to the gym, and fishing with his family. Finally, Gabriel has a native fluency in English and Spanish, an intermediate fluency in French, and one day hopes to be fluent in German.
Marco Antonio Peralta-Ochoa is a rising junior double majoring in American Studies and Science and Technology Studies. Their research project deals with the development of Western Medicine whose practices and technologies were institutionalized off the treatment of colonized and enslaved bodies. With a particular focus on the experiences of test subjects and patients, they concentrate on the experiences of minorities with American health practitioners/practices as legacies of colonial treatment. Marco is interested in the foundations of modern medicine and the role that marginalized bodies have played in medical research. Adjacent to their academic interests, Marco is passionate about the neocolonial occupation of Palestine, the role of images and visual representations in scientific learning, and community based strategies geared towards ensuring the livelihood of vulnerable populations. On campus, they were formerly an intern for Voices for a Second Chance, D.C., a member of the Student Assembly, and translator and researcher with the Cornell Farmworker Program. After Cornell, Marco plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Science History and Medical Anthropology and moving back to the West Coast to do research in the field of Science and Technology Studies.
Christian Thomas Nielsen is a junior majoring in Performing and Media Arts. From an early age, his Danish-Peruvian heritage and Spanish-American upbringing, ingrained a sense of duty to convey the positive lens through which he perceives diversity. His research delves into the upsurge of neo-nationalist xenophobia in Europe by examining Islamophobia in Denmark. Throughout Europe, along with much of the world, neo-nationalist governments have attracted voters by reframing aspects of globalization as threats to national identity. For the most part, the xenophobic narratives have been framed by the political right. During Denmark’s 2019 Parliamentary election, the traditionally internationalist Social Democrats managed to take power by adopting the Islamophobic policies of the country’s more conservative parties. Christian’s research examines how the left leaning Social Democrats perform neo-nationalist anxieties differently from their right-wing counterparts. Beyond Cornell, Christian will pursue a Ph.D in political anthropology where he aims to continue working on, and through, political identity and difference.
Lucy Contreras is a current junior double majoring in Government and Sociology and minoring in Business and Education. She was born and raised in Chicago and is the proud daughter of two Mexican immigrants. Her research addresses the physical, psychological, and social effects of slaughterhouse work on Latino immigrants. Through her study, she intends to demonstrate how the routinized violence involved in slaughterhouse work perpetuates the trauma already held by Latino immigrants as a result of their pre-migration, migration, and post-migration experiences. She draws on literature and will be conducting interviews and surveys for her research. This project is part of Lucy's larger goal of espousing the abuses of animal agriculture, towards humans and non-humans alike. During her spare time, Lucy enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, and exploring nature. What she is most passionate about, however, is activism. She loves organizing demonstrations and other outreach events to advocate for marginalized communities, the environment, and animal rights. At Cornell, she is the president of the Cornell Vegan Society. She is also an opinion columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun and works for the Prisoner Express program. After Cornell, Lucy plans on pursuing a PHD in Sociology or Social Policy.
Laurence Steven Minter is a current junior majoring in Sociology and minoring in Inequality Studies and Education. As a proud Chicago native and Chicago Public School product, he has a profound interest in inequality facing underrepresented students in higher education. His research project focuses on the relationship between social movements and movement centers on college campuses. Using Aldon Morris’s typical local movement center framework, this research parallels the role of the black church during the civil rights movement to Wanawake Wa Wari (a cooperative living space for black women at Cornell University) during the Willard Straight Hall Takeover. Ultimately, he hopes to better understand Wari’s role in enabling the eventual creation of subsequent movement centers at Cornell such as the Africana Studies & Research Center and Ujamaa Residential College. This connects to Laurence’s larger goals of uncovering and promoting the underlying importance of movement centers within the context of student life in higher eduction institutions. On campus he serves as the President of the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and enjoys writing spoken word poetry. After Cornell, he plans on pursuing a Ph.D in either Sociology or Africana Studies.
Solomon Lawrence is a junior majoring in Africana Studies, and Government. His research focuses on racial segregation of public schools in central New York. Solomon intends on uncovering why segregated education persists despite the monumental efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. By highlighting systemic issues such as busing and white flight, Solomon plans on explaining how both state, and federal policies have failed to integrate communities in central New York. Solomon is intrigued by the malleability of American democracy. He believes that the institutions that empowered Brown v Board and led to desegregation efforts are the same democratic institutions that have slowly divested their commitment to integrate public schools. Solomon enjoys exploring this paradoxical nature of democracy and hopes that his project can highlight how policy can both exacerbate and remedy inequality. At Cornell Solomon runs for the varsity Track and Field team and works at the A&S Career Development office where he helps students revise their resumes. In his free time, Solomon enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with his poodle named Rex. After Cornell, he plans on pursuing a Ph.D in Political Science or Sociology.
Sarah Emily Lorgan-Khanyile is a junior majoring in Comparative Literature and English. Her research project is focused on exploring the intersection between Jacques Derrida's notion of archive and Martin Heidegger's phenomenology and onto-theology. By linking the question of Being to the question of archive, Sarah hopes to reinform thinking of spectrality, testimony, temporality, address, and history while attending to their ethical, nomological, ontological, and institutional ramifications. Sarah's research interests focus on theories of lyric (exploring lyric temporality as a model for lyric exceptionality, the license for transgression afforded by the lyric, thinking beyond lyric subjectivity through the vocative and deictic forces of lyric, and the possibilities afforded by lyric "thinking" of alterity as in Celan, Heidegger, Derrida, Agamben, etc.). She works with Continental Philosophy on questions of aesthetics, temporality, politics, theology (messianism, negative theology, immanence), ontology, phenomenology, and the reception of German thought by French thinkers. She is also interested in questions of Psychoanalysis and Trauma Theory, such as problems of transmission and the conditions of possibility for survival in traumatic events. On the literary side, she is interested in English and German traditions of Romanticism, Holocaust literature, Modernism, and the Poetics/Hermeneutics of Literary Criticism. Additionally, Sarah has a burgeoning interest in Philosophy, Tragedy, and Poetry of Greek Antiquity. At Cornell, Sarah previously worked as the Student Administrative Assistant for the A. D. White Professors-at-Large program and currently works as a Research Assistant for Professor Jonathan Culler of the English Department. She is co-president of the Literary Society, a Rose House Scholar, a Meinig Family National Scholar, and participates in Marginalia. Sarah has intermediate fluency in Spanish and French and has just started studying German. After Cornell, Sarah plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (or possibly Philosophy). In her free time, Sarah loves writing poetry, working out, singing, reading, and giving back to others with community service.
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"
Prof. Samantha Sheppard, MMUF Faculty Coordinator
Dean Ekaterina Pirozhenko, MMUF Associate Director
Raven Schwam-Curtis and Allen Porterie
L-to-R: Prof. Samantha Sheppard, Jose Montano, MMUF Graduate Student Mentor Lissette Lorenz, Raven-Schwam Curtis, Allen Porterie, Dean Ekaterina Pirozhenko
Benjamin Elijah 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.