UNM Students at UCLA
Kalila Bohsali (left), and other Mellon Fellows who studied at UCLA this summer. 

Summer for most college students is a time for road trips and odd jobs. The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program takes this tradition and turns it into a life-changing experience for UNM students.

As part of the program, every Mellow Fellow must study outside of New Mexico for at least one summer.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship is the centerpiece of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s initiatives to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning.

The program was named for Benjamin E. Mays, a distinguished African American educator, social activist, sociologist, minister and president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. from 1940 to 1967. He was also a mentor to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 2014 the Mellon Foundation invited UNM to join the consortium of undergraduate institutions, plus the United Negro College Fund and Claremont Consortia. Forty-six institutions participate in the MMUF program, including Duke, Harvard, Stanford and Yale.

The UNM MMUF program selects up to five fellows early spring semester who are full-time undergraduate students in MMUF eligible fields and determined to pursue a Ph.D. and an academic career.

This summer, six UNM Mellon Fellows traveled to different universities across the U.S. for the opportunity to meet like-minded people and enrich their passions.

Shelby Perea
UNM Mellon Fellow Shelby Perea, presented her research this summer at UCLA. 

Communication and Psychology major Shelby Perea, choose to study at UCLA. She was inspired by how the education system could foster a wide range of pursuits from ethnomusicology to horror literature with a common goal—to contribute to the many academic conversations in our fields. 

“From the professors to the graduate student mentors, each person I shared my project with at UCLA was excited and genuinely eager to help me reach my full potential,” said Perea. “I enjoyed being in an environment that fostered my goals. I spoke with researchers in my field, prepped for graduate school, and became an overall proficient researcher because of it.”

Hallie Brown, who also studied at UCLA found the most beneficial part of the experience was connecting with a graduate mentor.

“She provided much needed mentorship on various aspects of the research process and on how to make my thesis the best it can be,” said Brown. “It allowed for me to have a better grasp of what graduate school looks like and what I need to do to prepare for it.”

UNM MMUF Jasmine Montoya, who joined fellow UNM students at UCLA, added that “It was a privilege to use a different campus’ resources, including professors, to move my project forward.”

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship also serves to help students realize their passion in relation to academia.

English Literature and French major Kalila Bohsali, considers herself a poetics scholar—initially uninterested in the “academic” side of academia.

“My freshman year, choosing to study literature was a clear choice considering my lifelong interest in reading, but the practice of this skill as a profession was never a goal,” said Bohsali. “As a sophomore, acceptance to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship helped solidify my decision to pursue a Ph.D. and eventually teach at the college level.”

Amber Lopez
UNM MMUF Amber Lopez, spent the summer at Yale University. She says the diversity she has experienced on her academic journey has been vital to her education and research. 

  On the other side of the country, Linguistics and Philosophy major Amber Lopez, spent the summer at Yale University studying under Dr. Claire Bowern, associate professor and graduate advisor for the Linguistics department through the Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative.  

Lopez presented her research, titled “The Mohegan/Mahican Lexical Relation” at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium before she jetted off to the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Waikoloa, Hawaii. At the conference Lopez presented a research paper she wrote under Professor Melissa Axelrod, a professor in the Linguistics department at The University of New Mexico.

“I have had an amazing summer, and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to interact with such supportive faculty and administration at Yale. My mentors, much like my mentors at The University of New Mexico, were nothing but supportive and encouraging,” said Lopez. “The conferences I have attended have been a critical component in my preparation and experience as an undergraduate researcher, and the diversity I have experienced has been vital.”

Visit the UNM Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program website for more information.