History & Mission

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was established as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in June of 1969 with a mission to “aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or well-being of mankind.”

In 1989, under this broad charter, the Foundation made a long-term commitment to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education through the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program.

In 2003, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment and broadened the mission of MMUF. The name of the program was changed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, to symbolically connect the mission to the stellar achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

The MMUF aims to prepare talented students who are committed to increasing cross-racial and ethnic understanding and interested in enabling others to better understand persons of different races and cultural backgrounds to pursue university teaching careers in disciplines where minority faculty are notably underrepresented. Through this work, MMUF seeks to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities. The program also serves the related goals of working to create campus environments that will be more conducive to improved racial and ethnic relations, and of providing diverse role models for all youth.

The University of Chicago is one of only 39 private institutions nationwide that the Mellon Foundation has funded to conduct this program.

The MMUF program at the University of Chicago aims to:

  1. train fellows in the work of professional scholarship by supporting a sustained research project
  2. introduce fellows to the professional culture of academia
  3. encourage the fellows to apply for graduate studies in a doctoral program
  4. assist them in the application process

To accomplish these objectives, the program provides fellows with faculty mentoring, financial support to conduct a research project, a supportive network of peers and professionals, and the opportunity to participate in activities aimed at deepening their understanding and commitment to professional academic work. The MMUF aims to achieve its mission by identifying and supporting students of great promise and helping them to become scholars of the highest distinction.