Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)


With the support of the Mellon Foundation, Whittier College offers the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, dedicated to increasing faculty diversity in institutions of higher learning.

Established in 1988 to address the barriers that result in the problem of underrepresentation in the faculty ranks of higher education, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is committed to supporting a diverse professoriate and to promoting the value of multivocality in the humanities and related disciplines, elevating accounts, interpretations, and narratives that expand present understandings. Its name honors Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the noted African-American educator, statesman, minister, and former president of Morehouse College.

Founded with an initial cohort of eight member institutions, the program has grown to include forty-seven member schools and three consortia, including the UNCF consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Whittier College is part of the MMUF West Coast Region which includes Caltech, Stanford, University of New Mexico, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCR, USC, and two consortia (five Cal State campuses and the Claremont Colleges). 

Open to students of all races and ethnicities, the MMUF program is committed to multivocality -- amplifying perspectives and contributions that have been marginalized within the conventional scholarly record and that promote the realization of a more socially just world. The program seeks to increase the number of students who will pursue a Ph.D. and enter the professoriate in core humanities and social science fields. Fellows must demonstrate the potential to bring historically marginalized or underrepresented perspectives to the academy, including the production of scholarly research that contributes to more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures. 

Up to five Whittier College students will be selected as Mellon Mays Fellows annually and will explore their interest in college teaching in disciplines of special interest to the Foundation. Under the two-year fellowship, selected students will receive financial support to engage in independent research through the academic and summer periods, attend and present their research at local and national conferences, one-on-one support from faculty mentors at Whittier, and will engage with other MMUF Fellows at Mellon-sponsored events.

  • US Citizen, permanent resident, DACA
  • Must have sophomore or first-semester junior standing
  • GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Fulfill the fundamental objective of MMUF: demonstrate the potential to bring historically marginalized or underrepresented perspectives to the academy, including by producing scholarly research that elevates the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures
  • Fellows will pursue graduate education, especially a Ph.D. degree, in one of the core Mellon-designated fields: 
    • Anthropology and archaeology
    • Area/cultural/ethnic/gender studies
    • Art History
    • Classics
    • English
    • Film, cinema, and media studies (theoretical focus)
    • Foreign languages and literatures
    • Geography and population studies
    • History
    • Interdisciplinary studies: Interdisciplinary areas of study may be eligible if they have one or more eligible fields at their core, but they must be approved by the MMUF staff at the Mellon Foundation on a case-by-case basis.
    • Linguistics
    • Literature
    • Musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory
    • Performance studies (theoretical focus)
    • Philosophy and political theory
    • Religion and theology
    • Sociology
    • Theater (theoretical focus)

Some research themes and rubrics that may satisfy MMUF’s commitment to multivocality include but are not limited to, the following: historical and contemporary treatments of race, racialization, and racial formation; intersectional experience and analysis; gender and sexuality; Indigenous history and culture; questions about diaspora; coloniality and decolonization; the carceral state; migration and immigration; urban inequalities; social movements and mass mobilizations; the transatlantic slave trade; settler colonial societies; and literary accounts of agency, subjectivity, and community. While it is not required that student applicants work within the above or related rubrics, preference may be given to applicants who do.

Selection Criteria

  1. Strong academic promise and standing
  2. Interest in pursuing graduate education, especially a Ph.D. and an academic career in a Mellon-designated core field of study.
  3. Potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students
  4. Activities and leadership that reflect an interest in social justice issues and the promotion of multivocality
  5. Availability for, and commitment to, full and enthusiastic participation in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and regular meetings

Program Benefits

  • $4,500 for two summers (sophomore/junior) to conduct research with a faculty mentor
  • $4,000 for two academic years (junior/senior) to continue ongoing research with a faculty mentor, cover travel expenses, conference attendances, etc.
  • $1,300 for graduate school preparation
  • $800 for research & miscellaneous expenses
  • Up to $10,000.00 for repayment of undergraduate loans, once the student has matriculated into a Ph.D. program.
  • Continued moral support throughout undergraduate and graduate-level studies.
  • Students will continue their studies along with their other MMUF fellows, creating a local, regional, and national cohort of fellows engaged in the same process and moving towards the same goal.

Applying to the Program

Fall Semester Cycle: The application is due on November 10, 2023.
Spring Semester Cycle: The application is due on March 4, 2024.

Use this guide to help you gather your application documents. Request these items two weeks prior to the deadline.

Students may be nominated by Whittier College instructors or they may nominate themselves. Each nominated student will receive an email and letter encouraging them to apply. 

A complete application consists of:

  • Unofficial transcripts.
  • Current semester Course Progress Report for each 3-4 credit course you are enrolled in.
  • Signed sample Student Contract.
  • Signed Mentor Contract.
  • MMUF Mentor letter of recommendation.
  • Contact Information for an outside recommender: a faculty member that is not within your major or in your project’s area of study 
  • Two Essays
    • Personal Essay: In 5000 characters or less, please describe how your interest developed to pursue a career in academia. Provide examples of the steps you have taken outside of applying for this fellowship to pursue this career goal. In addition, describe how attaining a Ph.D. will enable you to elevate the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures.
    • MMUF Essay: In 3200 characters or less, please explain how your personal goals reflect the ideals of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, for whom the MMUF program is named. You can find a brief biography of Dr. Mays at the MMUF website.
  • One graded paper as a writing sample of your work. No blue books.

MMUF Coordinators

Julie Collins-Dogrul
Associate Professor of Sociology
Public Health Program Coordinator
Office: Platner 122

Irfana Hashmi
Associate Professor
C. Milo Connick Chair of Religious Studies
Office: Platner 115

Elizabeth Sanchez '15
MMUF Administrative Coordinator
Office: Science & Learning Center 314

About Dr. Benjamin Mays

Benjamin Elijah Mays, was born in 1895 in South Carolina, and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920. He went to the University of Chicago for his master's degree and doctorate, and while he was working on those degrees, he was ordained into the Baptist ministry. He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College. From 1934 to 1940, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he distinguished for the next quarter of a century. He also served his community well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board.

He spoke early and often against segregation and for education. He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored. He had been a model for one of his Morehouse students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served the young minister as an unofficial senior advisor. He gave the eulogy at King's funeral. Among his books were the first sociological study of African-American religion, The Negro's Church, published in 1933; and The Negro's God, of 1938; Disturbed About Man, of 1969; and his autobiography Born to Rebel, of 1971. These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect with religious commitment and prophetic conviction.

The American National Biography website has a comprehensive biography on Dr. Mays.