The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) aims to increase the number of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the academy. Rising juniors across eligible fields are invited to apply. As a private university, Brown’s MMUF program is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, DACA and undocumented students. Applications are due March 5, 2018 through UFUNDS.
Application Tips from Mellon Mays Associate Director Dr. Asabe Poloma:
1) What is the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship?
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship is two-year research fellowship that sponsors students who are interested in pursuing a research project, particularly centered around issues of race, equity, and access. The program makes up a nationwide network that hopes to establish a cadre of young and aspiring scholars that want to contribute to the research enterprise across disciplines. Fellows should be prospectively interested in academic careers.
2) When should students begin thinking about this opportunity and their application?
It is never too early to start thinking about this opportunity. For first-year students, this means starting to think about what are your academic interests are and what interests you hope to pursue at Brown. When you engage in seminars and classes, what are the intellectual questions that draw your interest? If you were to design your own seminar, what scholarship and tools would you want to use?
In the fall semester of your second year, talk with your professors, faculty members, and those in your advising network about academic careers. Ask about what an academic career entails, not simply in relation to research but also teaching and service. What were their pathways? Start to think about what your driving focus could potentially be within and beyond your concentration. How would the Mellon elaborate on those interests? How can your current academic interests be a clear pathway to an academic career and a world beyond Brown?
If you enjoy the courses you are taking, talk to graduate students and faculty mentors; start engaging with the program through an information session and a meeting with the program director.
3) What does the selection process for the MMUF program look like?
The selection process is a very competitive process but also a very clearly outlined process. There are two main steps. The first involves applying to the program. The admissions committee, comprised of Brown faculty members across a range of disciplines, then review the applications thoughtfully and carefully and from an applicant pool, invite shortlisted candidates to interview. After the interview process, the pool is narrowed down to the finalists who are made the offer.
4) What qualities make an application stand out?
Academic promise. One quality that we look for is for applicants to demonstrate academic promise. In many ways, Mellon is not a just a meritorious award based on past accolades, but also about fellows’ imagined possibilities and potential impact as future scholars, mentors, and critically engaged educators. Intellectual creativity, risk-taking, and thinking about the world and engaging social and critical issues are academically promising qualities. We want to understand how students have mapped their academic experience and where they see them taking them.
Conceptualizing the power of academic tools. Another quality has to do with how students have started to think of the tools of their academic discipline to construct and deconstruct new forms of understanding about the world and what they care about. Students should see where the academic opportunities and gaps are. Take what you have learned and think about what you want to gain from the Mellon in terms of a personalized map for yourself, networks, advisors, and meeting other Mellon fellows.
Self-reflection. We want to see students who engage in a lot of self-reflection in the contemporary moment but also looking forward. In that reflection process, we want students to demonstrate how their individual reflection goals are related to larger social goals. How do you see your research contributing to important social justice issues and advancing racial justice?
5) Do you have any general tips for potentially applicants?
Develop and leverage a network that is informed about and would help you craft a competitive application. Talk about your work, talk about what upsets you, what excites you, and talk about how they could be used for a research agenda. Be comfortable with soliciting and seeking advice or feedback whether it be current fellows, faculty mentor who are familiar with other fellowships, and think about how you might conceptualize this in a proposal.
Develop nonacademic habits. As a Mellon research fellow, develop the other nonacademic habits that are integral to a successful research career. The ability to adapt, be coached, and self-reflect all are important to the process.
Keep your research a dialectical process. Research is not a solitary enterprise, especially if it is research dedicated to solving issues of racial and social justice. Mellon is based on the principles of community engaged scholarship, as well as community and peer collaboration. As individuals move through the process, it is such an important skill to be able to connect bridges, for people to give you feedback and translate the project for the communities you hope you are either representing or giving voice to. Think about your research as an intellectual application.
6) Is there anything else you want to say about the Mellon Mays Fellowship?
The Mellon cohort is one of the most tangible and long-lasting impacts of the program that students don’t always see. The cohort serves as a model for a group of peers to practice supporting each other’s intellectual process of discovery and also to have a community of like-minded individuals that can serve as a powerful antidote to what can be a solitary or isolated research process. Mellon is composed of people who are idealistic and passionate, and hold space for critical engagement and learn from each other. I don’t think a lot of students realize that when they are inducted into the Mellon family, their fellowship will translate to lifelong friendships.
For more resources, see this writing sample of the MMUF essay application.