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“[The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship gave me] a concrete sense of what life as a professor and a researcher could be.” —Lorenzo Gibson CC’16
Major: American studies
Hometown: Camden, N.J.
Clubs: Men of Color Alliance, Barnard + Columbia Design for America, Multicultural Recruitment Committee
Research Interests: American intellectual history
Awards: King’s Crown Leadership Excellence Award – Innovation and Enhancement (2014), Civic Responsibility (2015), Indelible Mark (2016)
At the outset of his undergraduate career, Lorenzo Gibson CC’16 pictured one day earning a Ph.D. in educational leadership and later returning to his hometown of Camden, N.J., to pursue the position of superintendent of public schools. Four years later, his goals are no longer so clearly defined, but his desire to go on to doctoral study remains, cemented by a positive experience in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.
Each spring, MMUF accepts as many as five sophomores from underrepresented groups who have shown potential for doctoral study. For the remainder of their time at the College, fellows receive support for academic research in the form of stipends and faculty mentors and guidance on applying to graduate school.
Gibson, who cites “U.S. Intellectual History from 1865 to the Present” with Casey Blake, the Mendelson Family Professor of American Studies, as having shaped his interests, used his time in MMUF to explore a variety of subjects, ranging from hip-hop culture to the relationship between the research university model that originated in Germany and its American counterpart. He credits MMUF with giving him “a concrete sense of what life as a professor and a researcher could be.” Adds Gibson, “That’s all incredibly exciting to me.”
Gibson ranks MMUF as one of the most important components of his time at the College. He feels similarly about his involvement with the Men of Color Alliance (MCA), an initiative of the Office of Multicultural Affairs that he co-founded in 2013. After helping to get the program off the ground, Gibson became one of its coordinators. In that role, he worked on mentorship initiatives that connect undergraduate and graduate male students of color. His responsibilities also included facilitating MCA’s weekly meetings and other events, which typically have been attended by 10-12 members and have ranged from group discussions to speaker presentations to movie screenings. Moreover, under Gibson’s leadership, MCA also collaborated with other student groups and the offices of Financial Aid and Admissions to give campus tours to groups of middle school and high school students.
Thanks to MCA, says Gibson, he has learned “how to lead an organization and how to work with peers to get things done.” He also has appreciated the group’s culture of openness and mutual understanding: “It was really great to be able to ask all kinds of questions,” he says.
— Nathalie Alonso CC’08