The Mellon Mays Undergraduate
Fellowship (MMUF) Program awarded a $1 million grant to
the Claremont Colleges to foster faculty diversity by
encouraging underrepresented students to pursue careers as professors.
Scripps College professor of history and Africana studies Rita Roberts, also the academic coordinator
for the MMUF program at the Claremont Colleges, said that
the colleges were accepted for this grant in December 2014 after
applying together as a group.
“We all call ourselves inclusive, but looking at
the faculty, students and administration [at the 5Cs], we have clearly
not met this goal,” Roberts said. “It would be impossible for me
to function as an academic if I am the only person of color.”
Roberts added that she “finds
it scary that humanity graduates today are all whites,” and particularly encouraged black and Latino students interested
in the humanities to apply for this program.
Pomona College Vice President and Dean
of Students Miriam Feldblum, who had started the MMUF program at
Caltech where she used to work, also played a role in bringing it to
the 5Cs. As for the eligibility for this program, she said, “There is no
income criteria, nor [do] the students have to be first-generation
college students … Even white students committed to diversity
She added, however, that the
program does not accept international students because international students
may or may not choose to work in the U.S. after completing their education, and “the
focus of MMUF is to foster diversity in U.S. colleges and universities.”
Undergraduates typically apply for the MMUF program during their sophomore year, according to a Pomona College press release. The first cohort, which will be chosen this spring, will include 10 students. The schools aim to increase the size to 20 students over time. Fellows are chosen based on their academic performance and intention to pursue a doctoral degree in the humanities, as well as certain fields in the social and physical sciences.
MMUF fellows will receive support in the form of stipends, repayment of student loans up to $10,000 and faculty mentorship. According to Ronald Riggio, Associate Dean of Faculty and professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, the mentorship component is especially important for students of color who aspire to become professors.
“Students of color do feel that they do not have mentors they can
look up to,” Riggio said.
Riggio said that while diversity
within faculty is essential, the retention
rate of faculty members of color is not currently as high as it should be.
“We need to be better at
attracting and retaining our faculty,” he said. “We had an excellent African-American professor at our college, but he left for Harvard, and we had one of
Asian-American descent, but UCLA lured him away.”
Additionally, Riggio said that the
small setting of the Claremont Colleges is uniquely suited to advancing MMUF’s
goals of fostering diversity.
“New faculty feel welcomed at our
colleges and don’t get lost, as [opposed to] some other universities, which feel like
cities,” he said.
Riggio also commented on the viable benefits
of the MMUF program.
“We will be interested in
hiring alums, as they will prove to be better mentors for our students,”
The applications for the MMUF
program at the 5Cs will be released in the next few weeks, and the
program will begin in full swing next fall.