Mellon Mays

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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.

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.

Important Dates

Open House and Information Sessions:

Tuesday, October 30, Rockefeller 128, 2-3 pm

Wednesday, October 31, Rockefeller 112, 3-4 pm

Tuesday, November 6, Rockefeller B15, 3-4 pm

MMUF Application Deadlines: 

Fall 2018: Sunday, December 9th
Spring 2019: Saturday, March 30th

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)

Applying to the Program

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 Form that requires letters of recommendation and two essays.

Forms & Contact Information


Loan Repayment Forms (for fellows in graduate school)

Contact Information

Britt Hamlin
KG17 Klarman Hall

Samantha N. Sheppard, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies
Department of Performing and Media Arts
Cornell University
430 College Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850

Ekaterina Pirozhenko
Administrative Director
Assistant Dean
Office of Advising and Admissions
KG17 Klarman Hall

Current Fellows

Abi Bernard is a rising senior majoring in history and minoring in government with a concentration in public policy. Her research is centered on the politics of Southern California in the mid-20th century. Throughout the New Deal Era and after, this region experienced a great shift toward conservatism in tandem with the nationwide realignment of both US political parties. Abi hopes to explore how the rise of conservatism in this area was influenced by gerrymandering, and the degree to which such an analysis may help illuminate the intersection of grassroots and political elite discourse on race and political realignment. Abi has also participated in the Mellon Mays Internship Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia and works as a research assistant to Professor David Bateman of the government department. She enjoys editing for the Cornell Historical Society’s research journal, Ezra’s Archives, and participating in Cru, her Christian fellowship on campus.

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. 


Benjamin Montaño is a senior studying government and comparative literature. His present research interests revolve around the intersection between politics, architecture, and the formation of national identity. His honors thesis project, “Modernity, Utopia and the State: Contextualizing the Construction of Mexico’s Conjunto Urbano Nonoalco-Tlatelolco” delves into this problematic by assessing the relationship between urban planning and so-called “rational” forms of governance. Benjamin was formerly a Mexico Program Intern at the Washington Office on Latin America, research assistant to Professor Gustavo Flores-Macias, translator and researcher with the Cornell Farmworker Program, and Education Chair at Watermargin Cooperative. He currently plays in Cornell's Improvisation Ensemble and serves as the director of Along with fellow Cornellians Prakriti Shukla and Rhea Lopes, Benjamin reviewed Dominant Elites in Latin America: From Neo-Liberalism to the ‘Pink Tide’ (North, L.L. and Clark, T.D.; Cham, Springer.); this critique will be published in the quarterly Journal of Planning Education and Research (JPER) during Spring/Summer 2019. 

Karen Loya is a senior sociology major with minors in Latina/o studies, inequality studies, and Spanish. Her interests lie in education and public policy, and how they can be used to uplift Latinx communities at-large. Her current research investigates the ways in which universities influence their Latinx students’ identities. Specifically, she analyzes the resources, population dynamics, and historical relationship between students and administrations on different university campuses to see how they combine to form Latinx students’ ethnic and racial identities, and intends to interview students to hear about their personal experiences. She hopes to one day use her findings to create systematic change in higher education settings to better support Latinx students. Karen currently serves as the Chair of La Asociación Latina, is a Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar, and an intern for the Latinx Student Success Office.

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.

In The News

2019 Mellon Fellows:

January 4th, 2019: "Benjamin Montaño: Senior studies how architecture shapes community life"

2018 Mellon Fellows:

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"



Benjamin Montano


Prof. Samantha Sheppard, MMUF Faculty Coordinator


Raven Schwam-Curtis


Allen Porterie


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 here.