Five University of New Mexico students traveled to Stanford University in California recently to participate in the West Coast Regional Mellon Conference.

Amber Lopez, a junior linguistics and music major, presented her research on second language acquisition. Nina Raby, a junior majoring in classics, presented her research on the death of Achilles as portrayed in epic poetry. Melissa Krukar, Shayanah Chiaramonte and Kalila Bohsali each participated in Talking Circles, giving them an opportunity to share early research with Mellon Fellows from participating universities on the west coast.

UNM’s proposal to become a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) campus was accepted one year ago, and the five students who presented at Stanford are UNM’s first MMUF cohort. In addition to presenting their work, the students had opportunities to meet Mellon Fellows from other Mellon Mays campuses.

Lopez said that she “had a wonderful experience, and the opportunity to interact and connect with other Mellon Mays fellows at such a beautiful campus was second to none.”

A central mission of the MMUF program is to increase diversity in academia, broadening conversations within the academy to include voices previously underrepresented. This was not lost on the UNM Fellows, including Bohsali. “The conference at Stanford afforded me the opportunity to create fellowship with students with similar interests in social issues and academia,” she said. “Stanford itself is beautiful, but the community that we cultivated through conversations about race and gender issues that are normally deemed uncomfortable or taboo was the greatest learning experience about the Mellon Mays Foundation as well as the future of academia.”

“Networking with undergraduate researchers in the region added a sense of camaraderie to the research process, Krukar said. “Knowing that the other fellows are facing similar challenges and triumphs helped me gauge my work. Additionally, the tips we were given about the selection process make me feel like I have an advantage when applying to grad school.”

Mellon Mays Fellows are selected as sophomores based on their academic record and intent to pursue a career in academia in one of the disciplines supported by the Mellon Foundation. Fellows receive mentoring and financial support throughout the remainder of their undergraduate careers, and support while pursuing their Ph.D.

Applications for next year’s Mellon Mays Fellows are now being accepted. For more information, visit MMUF.