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.

In The News: Cornell Chronicle - Mellon Mays fellows score grad school admissions


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

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)

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

Kurt Fritjofson
Assistant Registrar
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

Important Dates

Open House and Information Sessions:

Dates forthcoming.

MMUF Application Deadlines: 

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

In The News

2018 Mellon Fellows:

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

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 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.