About the Mellon Mays Program

The National Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program is the centerpiece of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s initiatives to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning. The fundamental objective of MMUF is to address, over time, the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties. This goal can be achieved both by increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue PhDs and by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by students who may not come from traditional minority groups but have otherwise demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF. The MMUF program is designed to encourage Fellows to enter PhD programs that prepare students for professorial careers in the arts, humanities, and social sciences; it is not intended to support students who plan to go on to medical school, law school, or other professional schools.

Benjamin E. Mays

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays was a giant in the Christian ministry and American education. He is remembered for his outstanding leadership and service as a teacher, preacher, mentor, scholar, author and activist in the civil rights movement.

Benjamin Mays Born August 1, 1894 near Epworth, South Carolina, he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates College in Maine. He served as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church from 1921-1923 in Atlanta, Georgia. Recruited by Morehouse President John Hope, Mays would join the faculty as a mathematics teacher and debate coach. He obtained a master's degree in 1925 and in 1935 a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago. In 1934, he was appointed dean of the School of Religion at Howard University and served until 1940.

He became president of Morehouse College in 1940 and launched a 27-year tenure that shepherded the institution into international prominence. He upgraded the faculty, secured a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and sustained enrollment during wartime America. His most noted forum was Tuesday morning Chapel in historic Sale Hall, where he challenged and inspired the students to excellence in scholarship and in life itself. One of Morehouse's most distinguished graduates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. '48, remembers Dr. Mays as his "spiritual mentor" and "intellectual father."

Upon his retirement, he served as president of the Atlanta Board of Education from 1970 to 1981. Throughout his educational career, he would receive 56 honorary degrees, including a posthumously awarded degree from Columbia University. He published nearly 2000 articles and nine books.

In 1926, he married Sadie Gray, a teacher and social worker, who died in 1969. Dr. Mays died in 1984.

Benefits and Opportunities

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship grant provides students with four forms of support: faculty mentoring, modest term-time compensation for research activities, stipend support for summer research activities, and repayment of undergraduate and/or graduate loans of up to $10,000 if fellows pursue doctoral study in one of the specified fields. Once in graduate school, fellows may apply for continuing support through various programs.

Opportunities of fellowship include:

  • Network with Duke faculty and graduate students
  • Participate in and present at regional and national conferences
  • Participate in weekly programming during the academic year
  • Pursue independent research with faculty support
  • Develop relationships with peers interested in graduate study

Benefits of becoming a fellow include:

  • Financial support for independent research
  • Summer research opportunities
  • Duke faculty mentorship
  • Weekly meetings with MMUF fellows
  • Insight into the graduate school application process
  • Frequent research roundtables
  • Unique social gatherings
  • Undergraduate loan reimbursement

Loan Repayment in Graduate School

If fellows enter a Ph.D. program in a Mellon designated field of study within 39 months following receipt of the undergraduate degree, they are eligible for up to a $10,000 loan repayment of undergraduate loans. In order for us to be able to make these payments, you must provide us, annually, with the following forms:


Interested in becoming a Mellon Mays fellow?

Applications for the next cohort of Mellon Mays Fellows are now open. Please click here to apply.

Please contact Anna Bernard-Hoverstad if you have any questions about the fellowship or application process.