The Claremont Colleges have selected their first group of 10 students to participate in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF), which seeks to increase faculty diversity in higher education by providing fellowships to underrepresented students, with the hope that those students will pursue careers as professors.
The consortium adopted this program after being awarded a $1 million grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Pomona College’s website states that it will serve as the grant lead.
Schools that are part of the program select students in their second year of college who display substantial academic ability and have plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the physical sciences, humanities or select social sciences. Fellows benefit from access to events, faculty mentors, stipends for research and some repayment of undergraduate loans.
Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum described MMUF in an email to TSL as “a catalyst for campus change.“
“MMUF is the premier program in the country for supporting students of color to go on to graduate school in numerous fields in the humanities, social sciences, and science—and, then successfully go on to faculty positions across the country,” she wrote.
Two Harvey Mudd College sophomores, two Pitzer College sophomores and six Pomona sophomores have been selected as the inaugural group of recipients. Kimberly Rojas Hernandez PO ’17, one of the recipients, said that fellowship will provide a stipend for summer research for the next two years.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same project for both years or both summers … but they basically just want to prepare you and get you research experience so you can eventually write your thesis and show that you have experience for graduate school, and also gauge your interests in what kind of research you’d want to do in the future,” she said.
The students will also be asked to take a quarter-credit class every semester for the next two years under the direction of Scripps Africana studies and history professor Rita Roberts and Pitzer sociology professor Roberta Espinoza, the academic coordinators for MMUF at the Claremont Colleges.
“It’s a little daunting to think about yourself as a professor, especially when it’s 10-plus years away,” a MMUF recipient Alejandra Castillo PO ’17 said. “But certainly one thing I want to do is mentoring, because mentorship for me has been very pivotal in getting me to the Claremont Colleges and getting me through the Claremont Colleges. I’m always looking up, looking forward, but also looking back to see other students and see how I can support them. I think being a professor puts you in a position of a lot of privilege and a lot of power to change things because you’re listened to.”
The Claremont Colleges will increase the number of students to 20 starting with the next group of MMUF students, according to a press release from Pomona. Feldblum noted that the college has already benefited from the program through the employment of classics professor and former MMUF fellow Sasha-Mae Eccleston.
“In 5 years from now, the Claremont Colleges will have hired several more MMUF alumni as faculty because we will be part of the MMUF national networks,” Feldblum wrote.