Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was established as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in 1969. In 1988, the foundation made a commitment to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education through the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF). In 2003, the foundation broadened its mission and changed the program’s name to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program to symbolically connect the mission to the stellar educational achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

The fundamental objective of MMUF is to increase the number of minority students and others with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue PhDs in an eligible discipline of the humanities or humanistic social sciences (a list of eligible fields can be viewed below). The program aims to reduce the serious underrepresentation on university faculties of people of certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities.

Some research themes and rubrics that may satisfy this goal 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.

MMUF at Rice University

Core fields include:

  • Anthropology
  • Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies
  • Art History
  • Classics
  • Geography and Population Studies
  • English
  • Film Cinema and Media Studies
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
  • Philosophy and Political Theory
  • Religion and Theology
  • Sociology
  • Theater (theoretical focus)
  • Interdisciplinary studies: Interdisciplinary areas of study may be eligible if they have one or more eligible fields at their core, but must be approved by the MMUF staff at the Mellon Foundation on a case-by-case basis. Please note that interdisciplinary education graduate programs, even those that incorporate one or more eligible fields, are not eligible for MMUF graduate benefits.

The program chooses students most likely to benefit from a close mentoring relationship with a faculty member. Selection is based on a number of attributes, including, but not limited to, academic standing and potential, life experiences and interests, commitment to building bridges in multicultural settings, and interest in pursuing graduate education. Students who are undocumented or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients may apply.

Students—who enter the program at the end of their sophomore year—can generally expect two years of mentoring and a close working relationship with selected faculty members, preferably in their areas of interest. The hope is that such interaction with faculty and other fellows will provide students with additional incentives to enroll in a Ph.D. program in a Mellon Mays-designated field. Typically, fellows assist their mentors with research, editorial projects, or other initiatives related to their scholarly interests. Opportunities also exist for fellows to attend professional meetings, special seminars, and workshops.

Each year, fellows receive a stipend of $4,000.00 which should render it unnecessary to seek employment while obtaining financial support from the MMUFP. In addition, if they choose to intern or engage in research activities at the end of their sophomore or junior years, they will be eligible for a stipend of $4,500.00 per summer.

Fellows who enroll in a Ph.D. program in a Mellon Mays-eligible field within three years of graduation from Rice can expect repayment of up to $1,250 per year, for up to four years, of their undergraduate student loans. In short, up to $5,000 of their undergraduate loans will be repaid over a four-year period while they are working toward the Ph.D. Those who complete the Ph.D. within six years after enrollment in a graduate program will be eligible for an additional payment of up to $5,000.

Students will receive further information regarding the loan repayment process toward the end of their senior year.

MMUF Application

APPLY HERE, the application deadline is August 1, 2024

Eligibility requirements for MMUF can be found here. Students who are undocumented or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients may apply.

If you have questions about the Mellon Program or the application process, please get in touch with Ceola "CJ" Curley III at