Published June 01, 2020 by Rebecca Goldfine

Meet the Newest Mellon Mays Fellows

Each spring, a small group of Bowdoin sophomores is selected as Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows. Starting in the summer, the students begin independent research projects and participate in other activities as a community of scholars.
2020 Mellon Mays fellows

The mission of the Mellon Mays program is to increase diversity in higher education by providing promising undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds two years of faculty mentoring and preparation for a PhD program. Many fellows go on to pursue doctoral studies and academic careers. 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation selected Bowdoin to be part of its Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program in 1992. This summer, for the first time, because of the COVID-19 crisis, the five-week research training program for rising juniors will not be happening on the Brunswick campus. Instead, director Elizabeth Muther and three MMUF graduate faculty—Kris Hernandez ’12, Golden Owens ’15, and Faith Macharia ’17—will be running the program virtually.

In addition to the six Bowdoin students, students from Smith College and University of Witwatersrand in South Africa will be joining the summer research program. These two schools partnered with Bowdoin in 2015 and 2009, respectively.

"All will be enmeshed in one program, working collaboratively and cross-culturally, giving each other feedback on their work, and attending two powerful short courses—Interrogating the Academy [taught by Owens] and a research seminar [taught by Hernandez]," said Muther.

In addition to the two short courses, the fellows will be involved in writing clusters, faculty workshops, GRE training, virtual cultural excursions (to online exhibitions, for instance), and a research colloquium.

Sulwan Ahmed ’22

Sulwan Ahmed ’22

Growing up in Portland, Maine, as a refugee, Ahmed is majoring in gender, sexuality, and women's studies and minoring in sociology. She is interested in pursuing research on the narratives of women in her Muslim community. "I am not shy to say that I've been an activist for women in my identity communities from a young age," she wrote in her Mellon Mays application.

Once she arrived at Bowdoin, Ahmed came to realize the lack of firsthand accounts of "black and brown bodies" in scholarly literature. She will focus her Mellon Mays project on the role of Sudanese women in the nation's 2018 uprising. "Sudanese women at home and within the diaspora utilized forms of resistance to topple down one of the world's most corrupt dictatorships through peaceful everyday practices," Ahmed wrote. "Still, most of their efforts have gone unnoticed and remain obscured from the public eye."

Mulki Hagi

Mulki Hagi ’22

Also from Portland, Maine, Hagi is majoring in sociology and Africana studies and minoring in education. Her research will address the disparity in higher education between men and women in her Somali community in Portland. Though academic support systems, diversity initiatives, and college readiness programs at schools target both girls and boys, Somali boys tend to be left behind, Hagi says. 

"This research project holds personal and emotional value for me because I want to help heal marginalized communities, especially my own, who have been hurt, neglected, and criminalized by larger networks of power," she wrote in her application. 

Symone Marie Holloway

Symone Marie Holloway ’22

From Pelham, Alabama, Holloway is majoring in philosophy and German and minoring in cinema studies. In her research proposal, she lays out philosophical foundations steeped in racism and anti-Semitism, and points out the "gap in the philosophical traditions on race." She aspires to fill it.

"I want to see how Heidegger's anti-Semitism manifests across racial lines. I want to research Nietzche through the lens of critical race theory. I want to study the things that ignite a fire in me," she wrote.

Ella Jaman ’22

Ella Jaman ’22

From Elmhurst, New York, Jaman is majoring in physics and Asian studies. She immigrated to the US at the age of five from the Philippines, and, under pressure to assimilate, lost her fluency in her native languages of Tagalog and Bisaya. 

Upon arriving at Bowdoin, she began to feel a need to "reclaim her heritage." Jaman will focus her research on contemporary Filipino literature, and wants to challenge "the narrative that exists around the country as a poor, developing nation with a troubled colonial past." She will analyze how Filipino authors imagined their nation post-independence from the United States and Japan, and examine how colonial legacies contribute to different ideas of citizenship and belonging within the Philippines. 

Daniela Quezada

Daniela Quezada ’22

From San Bernardino, California, Quezada is majoring in Latin American studies and education and minoring in sociology.

Since high school, Quezada has been committed to helping improve the lives of disabled people, and she will focus her research on disability rights in Latin American cultures, focusing on a Mexican case study. Her preliminary research question is: how has policy, or lack thereof, within the past decade influenced the incorporation of disabled peoples in Mexican society?

"...Research regarding disabled peoples in Latin America is a slowly growing field at the moment," she wrote. "I would love to participate in this social and academic movement."

Atia Werah

Atia Werah ’22

From Portland, Maine, Werah is majoring in government and legal studies and in Africana studies, and minoring in education. She will research the practice of female genital mutilation in East African countries, particularly Djibouti and Somalia.

For her Mellon Mays project, she will investigate how and why women "produce and reproduce" patriarchal and oppressive cultural traditions. "I want to explore the concept of women-driven patriarchies and the role that women play within this tradition beyond what is done to their bodies," she said. "As a member of a community that practices this tradition, I want to take advantage of my position and gather insider information that can potentially provide answers."