An Undergraduate Fellowship Everyone Should Know About

By Marie Tano ‘20

The greatest thing about Pomona is the abundance of programs, fellowships and internships at your disposal. There is so much opportunity. The tricky thing is locating them, finding time to apply and actually being accepted. One fellowship that I find is generally unknown and unpopular to students is the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. As a current scholar, I cannot stress enough how AMAZING the program is. In addition to a $15,000 grant, institutional research support and a head-start on your senior thesis/project (which trust me, we all need), you also get to meet and build community with students with similar academic and career goals as yourself!

What is it?

Founded in 1988, the national MMUF is one of the “premier programs and the centerpiece of the [Mellon] Foundation’s long-term effort to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education.” According to the official Claremont website, the goal of the MMUF program is “to identify and support students with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and equity, and who are interested in earning a doctorate in the core fields of arts, humanities and selected social sciences to become future faculty.”

In other words, the program is aimed at students in the humanities who have an interest in continuing their academic careers by earning their PhDs and becoming future scholars and faculty members in academia.

How selective is the program?

The program is pretty selective. Regardless of the number of applicants, the Claremont Colleges MMUF program selects only ten sophomores each spring in order to replenish the annual cohort of 20 juniors and seniors. Additionally, while each cohort typically has a majority of Pomona students, the program itself is open to all students at the Claremont Colleges, making the competition a bit more steep.

What does the application consist of?

You must submit your résumé, unofficial transcript, two letters of recommendation and apply to a structured summer research program for the following summer (which will use similar, if not the same, application materials as this application). Additionally, a 500-word personal statement and a research proposal are both required. The personal statement should include an acknowledgement of your research goals, career interests (in teaching and attaining a PhD) and how your interests align with the goal of the MMUF program (which can be easily found on the Claremont MMUF website as well as other institutional MMUF program websites).

When do you apply?

Applications are normally due in mid-February, following the MMUF information sessions that occur during the late fall semester and early spring semester. I highly recommend beginning to work on at least your personal statement and proposal during the winter break. 

What do I get from doing it?

In addition to research help and support as you navigate learning more about the topic you discussed in your proposal (which you are free to change at any point upon acceptance to the program), each fellow receives about $1,500 per semester and about $3,900 annually during the summers ($13,000-$15,000 total).

MMUF scholars are also eligible for up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness.

As a national organization, MMUF scholars are also able to attend the (fully funded) national MMUF conferences to share their work, and learn about the research interests of fellows at other institutions such as UC Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell.

What is required of the program?

Essentially, your work through the MMUF program will be expanding upon your proposed project. While you are able to modify the focus of your research, most fellows end up turning their MMUF project into their senior thesis, so it is very useful to be able to get a head start on your thesis starting your sophomore year. For instance, my own project is on AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), its popularization within non-Black populations and the types of discrimination that occur among Black populations.

Who can I contact?

The current MMUF Director who oversees the program is Dean Hector Sambolin at Pomona College, who you can contact through the MMUF general support email at or the academic coordinators, Professor Tamara Venit-Shelton at CMC, and Professors Pey-Yi Chu and Shahriar Shahriari at Pomona.

I am also willing to answer any questions or help out with application materials! Feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at