Fellowship Structure and Activities

The Mellon Foundation funds fellows to conduct research for ten weeks full-time during the summers after their sophomore and junior years and for six to eight hours per week during the academic year. This section is intended to help you understand how to best structure your fellowship for the two-year period.

Structuring Your Fellowship

First Summer

At Williams, fellows are selected at the end of their sophomore year.  The following summer they participate in the Summer Research Colloquium on campus.  The Colloquium lasts six weeks and provides new fellows with intensive instruction in advanced research skills.  Faculty members from different divisions offer classes on research across the disciplines.  Simultaneously, students conduct their own research projects under the guidance of their mentors and the reference librarians, who teach workshops and provide individual assistance.  At the end of the six weeks, fellows are expected to present their research in both a paper and a formal talk to the faculty, students, and staff of the Colloquium.

During the Research Colloquium, fellows live together in campus housing.  Various activities are planned to provide a broad introduction to academic life and to allow the group to develop positive working relationships while taking advantage of the many cultural and recreational activities offered by a summer in the Berkshires.  Additionally, workshops are given on topics relating to the process of applying to graduate school: choosing the right graduate program, GRE preparation, writing a personal statement, etc.  Because of the intensive nature of the Summer Research Colloquium, fellows are asked not to make any other commitments for those six weeks and to plan to spend weekends on campus.

After the Research Colloquium ends, fellows spend the remaining four weeks of their summer fellowship continuing work on their projects.  They may conduct their research on or off campus, providing that, either way, there is contact with the mentor.

Academic Year

During each semester,  Fellows are funded to work on their research with their faculty mentors.  The fellowship is considered to be a replacement for campus employment and should take up approximately eight hours per week (including fellowship meetings, etc).  Fellows who wish to study away may do so as long as a mode of frequent communication has been established with the program coordinator and with the faculty mentor.  Fellows may work on projects of their own initiative or on some component of their mentor’s research.  Research activities might include reading and keeping an annotated bibliography or reading journal, writing research papers, working as a research assistant or in a lab, or assistance in course development.  The nature of the work should be negotiated between the fellow and the mentor with the goal of helping the fellow develop graduate level research skills.

Throughout the year, OSAP organizes workshops, lectures, meetings, and gatherings with mentors.  We hold required monthly meetings in Hardy House to announce and discuss program activities, to share research experiences, and to discuss the graduate school application process.  These meetings are essential in maintaining the “research community” that begins to develop over the summer.  In the fall of each year, we travel to the MMUF Northeast Regional Conference, where fellows have an opportunity to meet colleagues from other area colleges.

Northeast Regional Conference

The approximately 40 MMUF colleges and universities are divided into six regions, the largest of which is the Northeast.  Each fall the ten MMUF programs in New England gather together at Wesleyan University for a day of conference activities, including keynote speakers, panels, discussions, and time for the fellows from different school to get to know one another.  In recent years, we have made this an overnight trip, leaving Williams Friday afternoon, arriving at a hotel near the Wesleyan campus in time for a group dinner, and returning to Williams by dinnertime on Saturday.  Allison Davis Research Fellows are also invited!

Here’s what some of our fellows have had to say about the conference:MMUF Northeast

The conference was an excellent time to meet other fellows. It really showed us the depth of the Mellon “family” . . . . The conference was an eye-opening experience . . . .  It is always interesting to find out what other people are studying and how they’ve come to study that particular topic . . . .  It was wonderful to hear the different opinions and perspectives about graduate school, professorship, and life in academia . . . .  important to have those real conversations and get to the meat of what life would really be like. . . .  The conference reinforced some of my positive feelings about graduate school . . . .  After attending this conference for the second time, I was able to see myself at different stages of my Mellon life: in the past (my first year as a Mellon), present, and future . . . . I enjoyed this conference and can’t wait for the one next year! 



Second Summer

During the summer after junior year,  Fellows are expected to work under the guidance of a faculty mentor full time for ten weeks.  This is considered to be a replacement for summer employment.  While the academic year does not afford a significant amount of time for independent research, the summer is an opportune time for fellows to delve deeply into their research interests either on or off campus.  Again, summer research may include a variety of activities, depending upon the mentoring relationship.

Senior Retreat

At the end of the summer, just before the start of fall semester, we hold a three-day retreat for senior fellows.  The goals of the retreat are to provide the seniors with time to reconnect as a cohort (in some cases after study abroad), to reflect on their summer research, and to prepare for the fall semester.  Activities include: sharing summer research experiences; GRE review sessions; conversations with a graduate student; a reception with mentors and librarians; and workshops on the statement of purpose, graduate school interviews, setting goals and planning for senior year, and preparing for oral presentations.


Program Reports

The Mellon Foundation has an on-line reporting system for fellows. New MMUF fellows fill out the Profile form, and continuing fellows fill out an Annual Report.  In addition, the office of Special Academic Programs requires each fellow to submit a Project Proposal before each term of research and a Research Report at the end of each term to document the individual fellowship activity and progress. Research papers or any other written work is submitted along with the research report.


MMUF/ADRF fellows receive stipends so that they can dedicate themselves to their research and participate fully in the fellowship programs without the distraction of work study and summer jobs. Travel funds are also available to encourage fellows to leave campus for research-related travel, attendance at academic conferences, and graduate school visits.

Application to Graduate School

OSAP provides various forms of support to help fellows investigate graduate school options during their junior and senior years, including workshops on related topics: deciding when and where to go to graduate school, preparing for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), funding, and writing statements of purpose.  At different times during the year, we invite current graduate students talk with the fellows about their experiences in graduate school, and we help organize visits to graduate programs.  We work with the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) and several graduate schools that offer visitations for undergraduates to learn about graduate school options.  We also work with fellows who wish to take time off between college and graduate school.

Guidelines for Fellows

  • Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, design a research project with clear and specific objectives.
  • Fill out a proposal form for each term’s work and have the mentor sign it.
  • Devote a total of approximately eight hours per week to the fellowship each semester.
  • Attend the Summer Research Colloquium at Williams the summer after sophomore year and then work full time with a mentor for four additional weeks.
  • During the summer after junior year, work full time for ten weeks on a research project to be designed in consultation with a mentor.
  • At the end of each term, submit to OSAP and to the mentor a research report describing and including, if applicable, completed work.  If the project is continuing into the next semester, a summary of the status of the project will suffice.
  • Attend monthly OSAP meetings and other events.
  • Take the GREs or other tests as required by field of graduate study.

Submit all proposals and research reports each semester and summer as required by OSAP.