The MMUF program is part of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's mission to "aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or well-being of mankind." In 1988, under this broad charter, the Foundation made a long-term commitment to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these small numbers. The name of the program symbolically connects the mission to the achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, educator, college president, and civil rights activist.
To redress the under-representation of minority groups on American college and university faculties, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program encourages students with a demonstrated commitment to racial diversity, to pursue academic careers. It provides opportunities for talented undergraduates to work with faculty mentors in research and other activities designed to encourage the pursuit of the PhD in the humanities and sciences.