Undergraduate Research

MMUF Eligibility

Eder Aguilar '20 presents at the MMUF Midwest Regional Conference at Carlton College in November of 2019.

MMUF is part of the Higher Learning program of the Mellon Foundation and reflects one of its three grantmaking priorities:

Elevating the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures.

The Higher Learning program makes grants with the objective of amplifying perspectives and contributions that have been marginalized within the conventional scholarly record, and that promote the realization of a more socially just world. The Mellon Foundation calls this objective multivocality, and this commitment is at the core of MMUF.


Current second-year students are eligible and encouraged to apply. Oberlin may name up to five Mellon fellows each year for two summers and two academic years of mentored research through workshops, weekly meetings, and professional development activities.

Student applicants to MMUF will be evaluated on the basis of their prior coursework, their plans for a major, and their potential to bring historically marginalized or underrepresented perspectives to the academy, including by producing scholarly research that reflects and satisfies the above-stated goal of the Higher Learning program.

Some research themes and rubrics that may satisfy this goal include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • historical and contemporary treatments of race, racialization, and racial formation
  • intersectional experience and analysis
  • gender and sexuality
  • Indigenous history and culture
  • questions about diaspora
  • coloniality and decolonization
  • the carceral state
  • migration and immigration
  • urban inequalities
  • social movements and mass mobilizations
  • the transatlantic slave trade
  • settler colonial societies
  • literary accounts of agency, subjectivity, and community

While it is not required that student applicants work within the above or related rubrics, preference may be given to applicants who do.

Areas of Study

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program is open to undergraduates in the following fields, disciplines, and majors at the college and conservatory:

  • Anthropology and Archaeology
  • Area/Cultural/Ethnic/Gender Studies
  • Art History
  • Classics
  • Geography and Population Studies
  • English
  • Film, Cinema, and Media Studies (theoretical focus)
  • Musicology, Ethnomusicology, and Music Theory
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Performance Studies (theoretical focus)
  • Philosophy and Political Theory
  • Religion and Theology
  • Sociology
  • Theater (theoretical focus)
  • Interdisciplinary studies: Interdisciplinary areas of study may be eligible in they have one or more eligible fields at their core, but must be approved by the MMUF staff at the Mellon Foundation on a case-by-case basis. Please note that interdisciplinary education graduate programs, even those that incorporate one or more eligible fields, are not eligible for MMUF graduate benefits.

Selection Criteria

Selection of MMUF fellows is based on the following:

  • Academic promise and intellectual curiosity
  • Undergraduate major in an MMUF-eligible field of study
  • Second-year status in the college or conservatory OR second- or third-year status in double-degree program
  • Interest in pursuing graduate education, especially a PhD, in an eligible discipline of the humanities or humanistic social sciences 
  • Potential to serve as a mentor and teacher for a wide variety of students
  • Activities and leadership that reflect an interest in social justice issues and the promotion of multivocality
  • Availability for, and commitment to, full and enthusiastic participation in all aspects of the MMUF program, including attendance at conferences and weekly meetings
  • Demonstrated commitment to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students, breaking down stereotypes, increasing cross-racial and ethnic understanding, and enabling others to better understand persons of different races and ethnicities
  • Response to a short essay prompt about how the applicant’s life experiences and academic goals would contribute to furthering the goal of a diverse academy
  • Status as a US citizen or permanent resident. Students who are undocumented or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients may apply if it is consistent with their institution’s policies