Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF) is a national fellowship program that supports students of color and others with a demonstrated commitment to diversity in pursuit of a PhD and diversification of the academy. MMUF identifies and supports students of great promise and helps them to become distinguished scholars by providing them with the opportunity to develop their own research projects, work with faculty mentors, and learn about graduate school and academic careers.
As undergraduates, Mellon Fellows join a local cohort of emerging scholars eager to learn about academic life; the program continues at the graduate school and post-PhD levels, providing scholars with opportunities for advanced research, mentorship, an academic and career support network, as well as some financial support. There are over 5,000 students in the program in the US, Puerto Rico, and South Africa; over 800 of them have earned the PhD. Over 100 of them are now tenured faculty members, serve as Deans and Provosts and college Presidents. The name of the program symbolically connects the MMUF mission to the achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, educator, college president, and civil rights activist.
About the MMUF program at Barnard College
Barnard College has been a steadfast supporter of MMUF—over 20 cohorts of fellows have been mentored at Barnard by dedicated faculty and administrators. Barnard’s Mellon Mays program has been very successful— as of 2019, we have fifteen alumnae who have earned the PhD and nearly as many currently in graduate school. Our fellows have won national fellowships for graduate study form the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation, among others.
Each year, we select a cohort of undergraduate fellows eager to join their fellow Barnard alumnae in the pursuit of scholarly careers. Students apply in the spring of their sophomore year. Applications are available in December or January and can be accessed here.
• Download an application
Distinguished faculty and administrators have worked with this program since it’s inception at Barnard in 1996. Over the years, professors Christopher Baswell, Rosalind Rosenberg, and Monica Miller have had the honor of mentoring Mellon fellows along with Deans Vivian Taylor, Michelle Tollinchi-Michel and Nikki Youngblood Giles as faculty-administrative coordinators of the program.
Fellowship Program Components
In the summer following their admission to the program, all Mellon Fellows participate in a ten day intensive which is an introduction to academic life, advanced research methods, and the support available to fellows through the MMUF program. Over the course of the workshop fellows develop a research proposal in consultation with Barnard MMUF alumnae currently in PhD programs who come back to campus to serve as graduate mentors.
Additional workshops during the week include: research methods and technology with Barnard/Columbia research librarians, Academic Careers and Trajectories, Barnard College Writing and Speaking Fellows, applying to graduate school, an “Academic Journey” talk with a current professor, and a wellness workshop. Barnard MMUF alumnae lead discussions on their graduate school experiences and strategies for thriving and meeting challenges. Students take a full-length mock GRE test and are trained by the Barnard Writing and Speaking Fellows programs. At the end of the ten days, each fellow gives a formal presentation of the evolution of her research project and plans for future research.
MMUF fellows meet with the faculty and administrative coordinators, graduate student mentors, and invited guests frequently to discuss ongoing research, the process of applying to graduate school, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the academy, and other topics such as the joys and challenges of academic life as a student of color and/or woman or gender non-conforming person.
In the summer between their junior and senior years, fellows are funded to conduct research or to participate in one of a number of research programs in the United States and abroad. Our students have visited archives in New York, France, and South Korea; participated in The Critical Language Scholarship Programs, amd learned other languages at universities in the US and abroad; they have conducted research with faculty mentors at other universities in the US and abroad; they have also organized their own research trips to other parts of the United States, India, Thailand, Brazil, China, England, Ghana, and many other places around the world.
The heart of the Mellon Program is the mentoring relationship each fellow establishes with the faculty member with whom they select in the junior and senior years. Mentors provide both academic guidance and insight into life as an academic. A Mellon fellow may:
- pursue independent research under the direction of the faculty mentor,
- work as a research assistant on a project that the faculty mentor is currently pursuing;
- or, work on curricular or teaching projects of interest to the faculty mentor or that are related to the fellows’ ongoing research.
The Barnard MMUF program also assists its fellows in the graduate school application process by providing advice on suitable graduate programs, supervising the application process, as well as supplementing testing and application fees. The MMUF coordinators also encourage students to apply to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, which helps students prepare for graduate school applications. Barnard Mellon Fellows are also required to take a MMUF-funded GRE preparation course.
Fellows attend scholarly conferences, including the local New York Regional Undergraduate Mellon Conference held each spring; they plan and participate in the annual Barnard Mellon Mays Distinguished Lecture. In addition, students have joined in a number of special projects, including a 2003 research trip to South Africa.
Class of 2022
Kena Chavva ‘22
Kena Chavva (she/her/hers) is a junior majoring in English. Broadly speaking, she is interested in postcolonial studies, South Asia, translation, comparative literature, and cinema. Currently, she is at work on a project about India’s first feminist film collective, the Yugantar Film Collective, in which she examines models of filmmaking collectives and the experimental/hybrid documentary genres. She has also recently developed a strong interest in the Telugu language of south India, and through further language study hopes to deepen her knowledge and research of Telugu literature and cinema more specifically.
Daniela Lebron ‘22
Daniela Lebron is a Political Science and American Studies major interested in studying the intersections of city planning, gentrification, and settler colonialism—with a specific focus on New York City. Furthermore, she is interested in studying how these relationships have and continue to alter the natural and built environment, especially as the global climate crisis worsens.
Samantha Ortega ‘22
Samantha Ortega is a junior at Barnard College majoring in History with a concentration in Rights, Law, and the State. From El Paso, Texas, her interests revolve around the history of the US-Mexico border, gendered violence, and immigration. She is currently working on “Vivas Nos Queremos: A Mother’s Fight against Impunity and Femicides” which highlights the activism and legal actions rendered by mothers of femicide victims from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Isabella Rafky ‘22
Isabella Rafky, is a Cuban-American, from Miami and a junior studying Art History at Barnard. She is deeply interested in the production of contemporary Latinx and Hispanophone Caribbean art and the regional and personal histories that ground these artists’ work. Her research focuses on the notions of paradise that are so closely associated with Hispanophone Caribbean countries: Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Isabella is specifically examining how artists contend with these symptoms of assumption in their artistic practice and if they acknowledge, reflect, or subvert such notions. She is very excited to be doing my research alongside such incredible scholars.
Makeen Zachery ‘22
Makeen Zachery is a rising junior studying sociology at Barnard College. For years, Makeen has worked as a researcher and proponent of justice for Black womxn and girls. These experiences led her to create Blk Girl Culture, a digital platform through which Makeen works to foster a community of support, knowledge production, and sisterhood. Her research interests center race and activism in the age of the internet. Makeen looks forward to exploring these interests further through the Mellon Mays Fellowship Program.
Class of 2023
Jaymin De la Cruz
Zuri Mabrey-Wakefield ‘23
Zuri Mabrey-Wakefield (she/her) is a junior at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York, NY and is currently pursuing a major in Comparative Literature (English, Portuguese, Spanish) and a minor in Africana Studies. Originally from Chicago, Zuri’s passion for foreign language acquisition, reading and critical analysis, and examining diverse cultures and histories has fueled her interest in studying African diasporic narratives across literature and film in Latin America. On Barnard’s campus, Zuri works as a Writing Fellow, a Residential Assistant, and as a tour guide and office assistant in the Office of Admissions. Off campus, Zuri has worked and volunteered for a number of Chicago-based organizations including Mikva Challenge, The Chinese-American Service League, and The Poetry Foundation.
Eden Segbefia ‘23
Eden Segbefia (they/them) is a Women's, Gender, and Sexuality major at Barnard College particularly interested in Feminist Science and Technilogy Studies. They were born and raised in North Carolina where they recently enjoyed working on a farm. Post-graduation, Eden hopes to pursue a doctorate degree in Africana studies.