Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program provides valuable research training, faculty mentorship, and financial support for undergraduate students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in the professoriate, and whose intellectual and social commitments embody those of the late Dr. Benjamin Mays

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation established the MMUF program to assist eligible undergraduates enter into PhD programs and the professoriate. Nationwide, MMUF has over thirty chapters and three chapters in South Africa.  The Columbia University chapter was established in 1996 and since then 50% of our alumni have entered PhD programs and/or earned terminal degrees. Our program focuses on research experience, building intellectual connections with a range of faculty, and developing the skills  necessary to identify, apply to, and thrive in the right PhD program.

Accepted fellows receive a yearly stipend of $3,600 and summer research funding up to $3,900 for each of two summers. In addition, they are eligible for travel expense reimbursement up to $600 and, for seniors, a research stipend of $400.  After entering a Ph.D. program in one of the designated fields, Mellon fellows are eligible for up to $10,000 in undergraduate tuition loan repayment. 

Questions? Contact Ariella Lang, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Program Overview

By connecting fellows with a faculty mentor and providing intellectual guidance and financial assistance throughout the two years of fellows' membership, the Columbia University MMUF program works toward three goals:

  • prepare fellows to apply to graduate school;
  • equip fellows to thrive in graduate school and prepare for faculty positions;
  • offer an academic enhancement to the undergraduate experience for all fellows, regardless of their ultimate academic and professional destination.

Sophomore Year

Fellows are accepted into the program during the spring of their sophomore year. Upon acceptance they will work with the program coordinator and graduate assistant to plan for a productive summer and identify a faculty mentor.

During the summer, fellows will work independently, with the guidance of their faculty mentor, the program coordinator, and the graduate assistant, to develop their research. Fellows will receive a summer stipend of $3,900.

Fellows will also participate in a research workshop during the week prior to Labor Day. The program will provide campus housing.

Junior Year

Fellows will continue to develop their research ideas with the guidance of the faculty mentor. Fellows also participate in the weekly dinner meetings. These weekly meetings will include:

  • Presentations of student research at various stages of development

  • Visits from Columbia faculty, who will share stories and thoughts about their work and career paths

  • Visits from Columbia graduate students, who will share stories and thoughts about their experience of graduate school

  • Visits from relevant Columbia administrators, who will share information about fellowships, applying to graduate school, and other relevant opportunities

Fellows will receive a stipend of $1,800 each semester.

During the summer, fellows continue their independent research and receive a stipend of $3,900. In addition, fellows participate in a GRE workshop during the week prior to Labor Day and the program will provide campus housing.

Senior Year

Fellows will continue their research – which is typically transformed into a senior thesis – and participate in the weekly dinner meetings.

Graduate school applications are typically due in December-February of the senior year. Fellows applying to graduate school immediately will prepare applications and visit schools during the fall semester.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $1,800 each semester. In addition, seniors will also receive a one-time stipend of $400 to cover expenses for their senior thesis research.

Post-Graduate Benefits

Loan Repayment

Fellows who matriculate into PhD programs within 39 months of graduating from Columbia University will be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in loan repayment. Repayments are made in five installments: four installments of $1,250 — one for each of the first four years of graduate study — and one final installment of $5,000 upon earning the doctorate.

Columbia arranges the loan repayment directly with students' lenders. In order to claim the repayment, students must:
1. Complete the Loan Repayment Form
2. Submit, no later than May 1 in any given year, the completed form and a current loan payment slip to Ariella Lang, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Resources for Graduate Students

In addition to loan repayment, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship alumni who matriculate into PhD programs no more than 39 months after earning their undergraduate degrees are entitled to many forms of support for their research and professional development:

  • Years 1-3: Summer Conference
  • Years 2-5: Predoctoral Research Development Grant
  • Years 2-5: Graduate Studies Enhancement Grant
  • Years 3-6: Proposal Writing and Dissertation Development Seminar
  • Years 4-6: Travel & Research Grant
  • Years 5-7: Preparing for the Professoriate Seminar
  • Years 6-7: Dissertation Writing Retreat
  • Year 6: Dissertation Grant
  • Years 6-7: Dissertation Completion Grant

Additional information can be found on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Mellong Mays Undergraduate Fellowship website.


I am not sure that I want to go on to a PhD and into the professoriate. Should I apply for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program?

It can very dificult for a sophomore student to be sure that the PhD and professoriate is the right career choice. You are still in the early stages of your college years, and students pursuing a four-year liberal arts education would not typically be expected to be sure of any career path at this time. As a result, in order to apply for the MMUF program you are not required to be 100% sure that this is the right path for you. Instead, we are looking for talented, hard-working students who at this point in their college career are seriously and in good faith considering the the PhD and professoriate, probably alongside one or two other career options.

How big is the program?

Each year we can recruit no more than five Columbia University sophomores. As a result, during the academic year there are no more than ten students participating in the weekly dinner meetings.

I want to study abroad in my junior year. Is this compatible with the program?

Study abroad is permitted as long as the course of study enriches your academic area(s) of study and adds to your intellectual growth. Fellows who go abroad are still expected to participate in the program in order to receive their stipend. If you are interested in studying abroad, please speak with the MMUF Coordinator to determine if the program is in alignment with the fellowship's goals and to discuss the program requirements for the period that you are away.

I am a junior but really interested in the program. Can I apply?

MMUF provides a two-year academic enhancement program designed to assist students apply to, and thrive in, PhD programs. As a result, first-round applicants are sophomores. Should not all five slots be filled, later applications from juniors might be considered.

How many fellows go to graduate school?

Of our 79 alumni (as of the conclusion of the 2015-2016 academic year), a significant proportion go onto the terminal degrees of PhD, MFA, and EdD:


Of those 21 alumni who have completed their terminal degrees, and have entered into careers in higher education, the distribution of their current professional status is as follows:

Tenure track faculty9
Higher education administration3
Postdoctoral research fellowships4

I have other questions. Who can I talk to?

Depending on the nature of your questions, you can talk to: