Introduction to MMUF and Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Welcome to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Williams College. This handbook is designed to give you information that will help you get the most out of your MMUF experience and to answer questions you might have. The Office of Special Academic Programs (OSAP) administers the MMUF, and you should feel free to approach either the director or the assistant at any time.  We ask that throughout your time as a fellow you keep in touch with our office and that you participate fully in the meetings, workshops, conferences, and other events we sponsor.  We look forward to working with you.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, located in New York City, was established as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in June of 1969 with a 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 through the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program. In 2003, the foundation reaffirmed its commitment and broadened the mission of MMUF, and the name of the program was changed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, to symbolically connect the mission to the stellar educational achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

The fundamental objective of MMUF is to increase the number of minority students, and others with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue PhDs in designated fields of study.  The program aims to “reduce over time the serious under-representation on college and university faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities.” The program serves the related goals of structuring campus environments so that they will be more conducive to improved racial and ethnic relations and of providing role models for all youth.

MMUF aims to achieve its mission by identifying and supporting students of great promise and helping 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. The Foundation continues to support fellows through graduate school and the early stages of their careers.

Presently, 18 colleges and 22 universities in the United State and South Africa receive MMUF grants from the Mellon Foundation.  Additional institutions participate through a grant made to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Additional information about the fellowship can be found at www.mmuf.org.

Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done. — Benjamin E. Mays

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Dr. Benjamin E. MaysBenjamin Elijah Mays was born in 1895 in South Carolina, and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920.  He went to the University of Chicago for his master’s degree and doctorate, and while he was working on those degrees, he was ordained into the Baptist ministry.  He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College.  From 1934 to 1940, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he distinguished for the next quarter of a century.  He also served his greater community well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board.

Benjamin Mays spoke early and often against segregation and for education.  He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored.  He was a mentor for one of his Morehouse students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served the young minister as an unofficial senior adviser.  He gave the eulogy at King’s funeral.

Among Mays’s books were the first sociological study of African-American religion, The Negro’s Church, published in 1933; The Negro’s God, 1938; Disturbed About Man, 1969; and his autobiography, Born to Rebel, 1971.  These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect with religious commitment and prophetic conviction. At Williams all MMUF fellows receive a copy of Born to Rebel after being accepted into the fellowship.

The American National Biography website has a comprehensive biography of Dr. Mays.

MMUF Approved Fields of Study

  • Anthropology and Archeology
  • Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies
  • Art History
  • Classics
  • Geography and Population Studies
  • English
  • Film, Cinema, and Media Studies (theoretical focus)
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
  • Philosophy & Political Theory
  • Religion and Theology
  • Sociology
  • Theater (non-performance focus)

MMUF Colleges and Universities

Northeast: Bowdoin College, Brown University, Connecticut College, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Smith College, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Williams College, Yale University

New York City: Barnard College, Brooklyn College, City College of New York, Columbia University, Hunter College, Queens College

Mid-Atlantic: Bryn Mawr College, Cornell University, Haverford College, Princeton University, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania

South: Duke University, Emory University, Rice University, UNCF Consortium

Midwest: Carleton College, Grinnell College, Macalaster College, Oberlin College, University of Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis

West Coast: California Institute of Technology, Heritage University, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Whittier College

International:  University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape, University of Witwatersrand