Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program | Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays | Amherst Program | Program Expectations and Requirements | Application Timeline | Eligibility and Selection Criteria | Mentoring | Special Opportunities with Faculty | MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee | Other Benefits

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF), established in 1988, is the centerpiece of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s initiatives to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning. In 2003, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment and broadened the mission of MMUF. The name of the program was changed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, to symbolically connect its mission to the stellar achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. MMUF operates on many campuses throughout the United States and South Africa.

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.

MMUF 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.

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays

The life achievements and distinguished service of Benjamin Mays (1894–1984) have been fully elaborated by historians and political commentators: among many things, he was an educator, mentor, newspaper columnist, scholar, author and civil rights activist. Bound by the culture of social justice, Mays also served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion, president of Morehouse College, advisor to U.S. Presidents Johnson and Carter and president of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education—the first African American to serve in that capacity. the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship was renamed in 2003 in honor of Dr. Mays’ vision, service to community, and commitment to the promotion of undergraduate education among traditionally marginalized populations, including those with interest in studies aimed at eliminating racial inequalities.

Amherst Program

Consistent with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s objective of promoting excellence and diversity, the Office of Academic Engagement and Student Success, under the direction of Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Norm J. Jones, administers the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship established at Amherst College in 2018. MMUF is administered in ways that reflect Mays’ legacy of supporting talented students who are committed to increasing cross-racial and ethnic understanding and who are interested in enabling others to better understand persons of different races and cultural backgrounds, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities.

Each spring, up to five qualified candidates who have demonstrated the appropriate intellectual drive for higher education are targeted, encouraged and provided access to:

  • participation in a rigorous intellectual program, and engagement in independent research and other scholarly activities with faculty mentors
  • institutional support and an academic environment that is saturated with the values and principles of excellence in education
  • structured programming and faculty mentoring, term-time stipends and support for research activities, and limited repayment of undergraduate loans upon pursuit of doctoral study in a Mellon-designated field.

There are two broad conditions applicable to the program: Fellows are expected to (i) apply to a doctoral program in a Mellon-designated field within 39 months of graduation and (ii) teach at the college or university level.

Please note that the program is not intended to support students who plan to go on to medical school, law school or other professional schools. 

Program Expectations and Requirements

Prospective beneficiaries are expected to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Demonstrate academic promise and interest in pursuing an academic career
  • Commit to engage in research over the course of two years, with intent to enroll in a Ph.D. program in Mellon-designated field
  • Enroll in two fast-paced, challenging and exciting MMUF Summer Research Training Programs (usually held in June/July)
  • Take at least one research methods course in your major, preferably during junior year
  • Participate in approximately eight two-hour semi-monthly seminar meetings and other MMUF programming designed to prepare you for doctoral study
  • Meet regularly and nurture a strong, meaningful relationship with a faculty mentor for the duration of your fellowship
  • Design and complete an independent research project in consultation with your faculty mentor. This project may be related to a senior honors thesis. Be prepared to discuss and present research findings during your semi-monthly seminar.
  • Meet regularly with the program director and faculty advisory committee and be prepared to receive feedback on and evaluation of your overall academic performance at the end of each semester
  • Co-author articles with faculty, where possible, and publish an academic paper in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal
  • Reside at Amherst for the first semester in the program before undertaking any study-abroad plans, which should not extend beyond one semester
  • Attend two regional MMUF conferences, as well as other conferences and meetings
  • Apply to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers for support and assistance with graduate school preparation
  • Actively participate in the recruitment of next year’s cohort of Mellon Mays Fellows
  • Maintain regular contact with the MMUF program office and adhere to program rules and regulations
    Successfully complete your undergraduate education at Amherst College.
  • Complete an exit interview

Application Timeline


  • Applications available to prospective candidates


  • Application deadline


  • Applications reviewed by the MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee
  • Finalists invited for interview
  • Applicants notified of the outcome of their applications
  • New cohort orientation


  • Summer research plans due to the MMUF Office

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship is open to all students—regardless of race and ethnicity—who are committed to promoting diversity within the academy by pursuing doctoral degrees in Mellon-designated fields.

Students must formally apply during the second semester of their sophomore year. Applicants must have acquired a minimum grade-point average of 3.3, preferably higher, and must be American citizens or have Permanent Resident Visa Status in the United States. The program seeks students who:

  • possess intellectual and academic promise and come from a traditionally marginalized group (non-minority candidates who have shown adequate interest in studies aimed at eliminating racial inequalities may also qualify)
  • demonstrate abilities and potentials for successful graduate studies leading to a doctoral degree in one of the Mellon-designated fields of study within 39 months of completing an undergraduate degree
  • show potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students
  • plan a career in research and teaching at the college or university level

Please note that extensive preparation time is required. The most successful candidates have been those who began early and who therefore had adequate preparation and help with the lengthy and exhaustive application process.

To receive full consideration, applicants must submit their complete documents on or before the deadline. Incomplete application packages will not be considered. Program staff and current Mellon Mays Fellows are available to provide full assistance to candidates throughout all the phases of the application process.

Selection will be competitive and based on the strength of the overall application. Eligible applicants will be invited for an on-campus interview with members of the MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee, and the program coordinator, after spring break.

Selection will be competitive. All students are welcome to apply for MMUF, but applications are particularly encouraged from African American, Latinx, Native American and other historically underrepresented minorities. In particular, the Committee will look for strong academic promise and enthusiasm for proposed theme of study. We expect candidates to understand and appreciate the responsibilities and opportunities offered by MMUF.


Mentoring forms the core of MMUF. The mentor serves as a research advisor and role model to fellows, offering them insight into the life and work of a professor. In addition to faculty mentors, Amherst librarians also play a supportive role. The librarian mentors are subject specialists who work with fellows based on their areas of expertise, as well as their interest in the research topics. 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation describes its mentoring philosophy in the following way:

Mentoring embodies the core principles of the MMUF program, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recognizes the faculty/student relationship as the driving force beneath the sustainability and success of this program. Only a consistent commitment to this relationship will enable us to achieve the goals of the program and to bring greater diversity to the academy.

As mentors, faculty members have the knowledge and responsibility to demystify the formal and informal aspects of earning a doctorate. Mentors also give fellows insight into the fulfillment and rewards of a career in scholarship and teaching. In the mentoring relationship, the sharing of personal experience and the transmission of knowledge intersect in a trusting learning environment that provides opportunities for both mentor and student to stretch beyond her or his boundaries.

Special Opportunities with Faculty

Mellon Mays Fellows will be encouraged to publish their research or co-author with a professor, and to attend scholarly conferences either on their own or with a mentor during the academic year as a way of exchanging ideas and sharing valuable research experiences. We will, of course, create additional opportunities for Mellon Mays Fellows to participate in campus seminars, lectures and symposia. 

MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee

The MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee consists of committed, highly qualified and distinguished faculty members. This committee serves as the recruitment and selection forum; the members serve as faculty mentors and also help to formulate and implement the policies of the fellowship.

Committee members:

Lisa Brooks, Professor of English and American Studies
C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander, Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of Black Studies and English
David A. Cox, William J. Walker Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
Rosemary Effiom, Director, Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success (ex-officio)
Solsiree del Moral, Associate Professor of American Studies and Black Studies; Chair of Black Studies
Allen J. Hart ’82, James E. Ostendarp Professor of Psychology; Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer
Norm Jones, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer
Paul A. Schroeder Rodriguez, Professor of Spanish; Chair of Spanish

Other Benefits (log-in required)