Office of Special Academic Programs

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

Andrew W. MellonThe life achievements and distinguished service of the African American scholar, 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 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 program was established (1988) through the generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand minority faculty in higher education. It was considered appropriate to rename (2003) the fellowship in honor of Dr. Mays based on his 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.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship established at Bowdoin (1992) is administered in ways that reflect Mays’ political legacies. Traditionally marginalized persons of color and those who are qualified and 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 one of the designated fields

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; (ii) pursue doctoral degrees in one of the Mellon-identified areas of academic studies.

Member Institutions

Bowdoin College
Brown University
Connecticut College
Dartmouth College
Harvard University
Smith College
Wellesley College
Wesleyan University
Williams College
Yale University

New York City
Barnard College
Brooklyn College
City College of New York
Columbia University
Hunter College
Queens College

Bryn Mawr College
Cornell University
Haverford College
Princeton University
Swarthmore College
University of Pennsylvania

Duke University
Emory University
Rice University
UNCF Member Institutions

Carleton College
Macalester College
Northwestern University
Oberlin College
University of Chicago
Washington University in St. Louis

West Coast
California Institute of Technology
Heritage University
Stanford University
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Los Angeles
University of Southern California
Whittier College

University of Cape Town
University of Western Cape
University of the Witwatersrand

Program Expectations and Requirements

Prospective beneficiaries are expected to fulfill the requirements stated below:

  • Academic promise Interest in pursuing an academic career 
  • Commitment to engage in research over the course of two years, with an eye to enrolling in a Ph.D. program in one of the Mellon-designated fields
  • Enroll in two mandatory fast-paced, challenging, and exciting MMUF Summer Research Training Programs (usually held June/July)
  • Participate in approximately eight two-hour mandatory semi-monthly seminar meetings and other MMUF programming designed to prepare students for doctoral study. Please note: unexcused absences will have consequences and a portion of the fellowship stipend will be withheld if more than one activity is missed; repeated tardiness or general lack of participation or enthusiasm in MMUF activities and failure to submit a finished well-argued paper for publication by the Bowdoin Mellon Program may result in suspension from the program
  • Meet regularly and nurture a strong and meaningful relationship with a faculty mentor for the duration of the two-year fellowship
  • Design and complete an independent research project in consultation with the faculty mentor. This project may be related to a senior honors thesis. Be prepared to discuss and present research findings during bi-weekly seminar
  • Meet regularly with the program director and faculty advisory committee and be prepared to receive feedback and evaluation of overall academic performance at the end of each semester
  • Co-author articles with faculty, where possible, and publish a full-length academic paper in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal 
  • Be in residence at Bowdoin 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, including attendance at other conferences and meetings.
  • Actively apply to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, which supports and provides 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 undergraduate education at Bowdoin College

Application Timeline


  • Applications available to prospective candidates


  • Applications deadline
  • Applications reviewed by the Faculty Advisory Committee
  • Finalists invited for interview
  • Applicants notified of the outcome of their application


  • New cohort orientation
  • New cohort meeting with the Dean for Academic Affairs


  • Summer research plans due to the MMUF Office (Boody Johnson House 100)

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

Students are required to apply during the second semester of their sophomore year.  Applicants must have acquired a minimum grade point average of 3.0, and must be American citizens or have a Permanent Resident Visa Status in the United States. The Bowdoin Mellon Mays program seeks students who:

  • Possess intellectual and academic promise, and are from traditionally marginalized groups (and non-minority candidates that have shown or demonstrated adequate interest in studies aimed at eliminating racial inequalities qualify for the support)
  • 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 your undergraduate degree
  • Show potential for serving as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students
  • Plan careers in research and teaching at the college or university level

To receive full consideration, applicants must submit their complete documents on or before the deadline (usually in February).  Incomplete application packages will not be considered. The Office of Special Academic Programs and current MMUF fellows are available to provide full assistance to candidates throughout all the phases of the application process.

Eligible applicants will be invited for an on-campus interview with the program coordinator, program administrator, and members of the MMUF faculty advisory committee after spring break.

Selection will be competitive.  All students are welcome to apply for MMUF, though applicants are particularly encouraged from African American, Hispanic American, Native Americans, and other historically underrepresented minorities. In particular, the Committee will look for strong academic promise, and enthusiasm for proposed theme of study. We expect the candidate to understand and appreciate the responsibilities and opportunities offered by the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.

Successful applicants will be informed in late spring.


At the core of the Mellon Mays Program is the commitment to enhance and sustain interactions among the Program Staff, Mellon Fellows, Faculty Advisory Committee, and Faculty Mentors.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is predicated on a philosophy that: 

  • Mentoring embodies the core principles of the MMUF program
  • 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 (

Responsibilities of faculty mentors to Fellows will include providing guidance as follows:   

  • Formulation and development of research ideas; and writing of research proposal and essays
  • Review research progress during regularly scheduled meetings during the summer (6-week research period)
  • Discuss new themes and clarify issues during regularly scheduled meetings throughout the duration of the two-year fellowship. To accommodate long distance students e-mail and phone meetings are acceptable substitutes
  • Introduce relevant, fresh readings, supervise independent research, and schedule oral presentations
  • Teach one class, during the Summer Research Colloquium
  • Evaluate the Fellow at the end of each summer and semester
  • Maintain contact with the Program Office and Faculty Advisory Committee, and submit summer and semester reports
  • Expose student to informal learning opportunities including teaching assistantship, conference simulation events, lectures, and symposia, among other engagements

Fellowship Experience

Summer Research Training Institute (Summer before Junior Year)

The Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) is a forum that introduces the new cohort of Mellon Mays Fellows to research methodologies relevant to their respective fields through a range of workshops, lectures, seminars, documentaries, mentoring, and public service activities. Students are introduced to rigorous research. Workshops and seminars are taught and directed by faculty members, expert instructors, and student mentors. Fellows participate in peer review sessions to learn the fundamentals of presenting, sharing, and critiquing each other’s work. The summer culminates in final presentations of research findings.

Junior Academic Year

Fellows begin participation in semi-monthly MMUF seminars during their junior year. The seminar provides opportunities for Fellows to improve their research. Guided by their mentors, they will engage in independent research, present their work in seminars, and provide their cohort and peers with constructive criticism. Fellows are expected to:

  • Meet with Bowdoin Career Planning representatives for advice
  • Meet with Financial Aid Office representatives about how graduate education is financed  
  • Participate in workshop programs sponsored by the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT)

Each semester culminates in presentations of research findings. 

Summer Research before Senior Year

Research and related intellectual skills acquired in previous years must be applied consistently for personal development, and in preparation for tasks ahead. Indeed, each participant is expected to continue to work with a designated faculty mentor and to expand or improve on research projects throughout summer.

In addition, each fellow is required to:

  • Propose a research agenda for the summer months. If research programs or fieldwork opportunities are available, Fellows are strongly encouraged to participate. The research completed during this summer may be used toward a senior honors project or toward a single-author article for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Program Journal
  • Begin work on their personal statement for application to graduate school in consultation with the faculty mentor, and begin GRE preparation
  • Present progress report on ongoing research

Senior Academic Year

Fellows are expected to continue work on independent research. We expect that the successful MMUF research will form the basis or foundation for a senior honors thesis.

Each semester culminates in presentations of research findings.

Lastly, Senior Fellows are expected to join the larger community of Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows by attending the SSRC-Mellon Mays Annual Graduate Student Conference (June/July after senior year). Information about registration and forums for the presentation of research are available (

Financial Benefits


Fellows are expected to work full-time on their research and relevant programs. With this in mind, Fellows are awarded summer and academic term stipends to eliminate any need for additional paid employment or distractions that will negatively impact the quality of work and expectations of the MMUF program.  

GRE and IRT Preparation

Fellows who have paid for the GRE prep course and general test can apply for reimbursement. 

Loan Repayment

If a Mellon Undergraduate Fellow matriculates into a Ph.D. program in a Mellon-approved discipline within three years (or 39 months) of graduating from Bowdoin, he/she is entitled to a maximum of $10,000 in undergraduate debt repaid by the Mellon Foundation. Fellows receive $1,250 after completing each of the first four years of graduate school (a total of $5,000). The remaining $5,000 will be awarded after the completion of the Ph.D. program. If a fellow incurs less than $10,000 of undergraduate debt, the balance of loan repayment funds may be used to repay graduate student loans.

Fellows may apply for predissertation research writing grants, competitive travel and research grants, and dissertation grants through the Social Science Research Council-Mellon Mays Graduate Initiatives Programs. In addition, Fellows may also apply for funds to finance a sabbatical if they take a faculty job while still completing their doctoral work.

Special Opportunities

Mellon Fellows will be encouraged to publish their research or coauthor with a professor; 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 Fellows to participate in on-campus seminars, lectures, and symposia.

Evaluation Process

Fellows are evaluated in a variety of ways throughout the duration of the two-year fellowship.  Specifically, they will be required to:

  •  Maintain a 3.0 GPA or better
  •  Attend and actively participate in all bi-weekly seminars and other workshops, programs, and events sponsored by the MMUF program. Unexcused absences are not acceptable
  •  Present their independent research and report on their progress at the end of each semester and summer (see the Mellon Mays Fellowship Program Experience at Bowdoin College for more information)
  •  Mentee evaluations will be submitted by Faculty mentors and reviewed by the MMUF Coordinator and the Faculty Advisory Board, at the end of each summer or semester 
  •  Meet (at the end of the Junior Year) with faculty mentors, the MMUF Coordinator and the Faculty Advisory Board before being approved for the summer stipend and the second fellowship year
  •  Submit regular and up-to-date reporting forms to the Foundation and Bowdoin College. Prompt responses are required

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews will be conducted at the end of both summer research-training programs, and at the conclusion of the Mellon program experience at Bowdoin. Fellows will be asked to provide an overall summary of their experience on the program. The survey will include:

  • Administration of the program
  • Mentors and research experience
  • Seminars, support programs, and extracurricular activities
  • Summer experience and program structure
  • Future career planning

The exit interviews will provide opportunity for open discussions on the following topics:

  • Overall direction of the program
  • Strengths and weaknesses in the program
  • How to request repayment of the academic loan obligations
  • Stated objectives of the program
  • Financial opportunities available through the Mellon Foundation such as those offered by SSRC and IRT