The University of California, Riverside has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a research and mentoring program for undergraduates aimed at increasing diversity among faculty in American universities.
The program, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, to which institutions are invited by the foundation to apply, is the centerpiece of Mellon Foundation initiatives to increase faculty diversity.
“We are excited about this opportunity, which will help us build on our commitment to diversity and to preparing underrepresented students for positions of leadership in California and the nation,” UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox said. “We share the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s commitment to improving the diversity of graduate students and faculty, and are also pleased that these fellowships will give even more of our undergraduates the chance to engage in research projects where they will work closely with faculty mentors.”
The four-year grant will fund research fellowships each academic year and for each of two summers for five juniors and five seniors. Students who enroll in selected Ph.D. programs within three years of completing a bachelor’s degree are eligible for some student loan repayment. Eligible fields of study are primarily in the humanities and selected sciences and social sciences.
Participating students will: be mentored by a UC Riverside faculty member who will guide an in-depth research project; participate in a summer research program; receive coaching to develop the research and analytical writing skills necessary to be successful in graduate school; receive guidance in choosing a graduate school, completing applications, and preparing to take the GRE; have an opportunity to develop and teach a 2-unit course during their senior year, under faculty supervision; and continue to receive mentoring and other support while in graduate school.
The first five students, selected from this year’s sophomore class at UC Riverside, will begin the program this summer.
“The core of this fellowship program is research,” said Georgia Warnke, principal investigator on the grant and director of the Center for Ideas and Society, where the program will be housed. “It is a reflection of the increased recognition UCR is receiving for the quality and diversity of our student body. The program will help our students undertake rigorous research earlier than they might have otherwise, will socialize them to the life of an academic, and help them develop a network of support with MMUF participants at other universities.”
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for UC Riverside students who intend careers as professors, said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Steven Brint, a co-principal investigator on the grant.
“The program we have developed will provide the mentoring and research experiences that students need to be successful in the very best graduate programs in the country,” he explained. “During the application process, 12 of our students met with the Mellon program officers. After the meeting, the program officers told us that the students were as strong as those in any other institution with a Mellon Mays program already in place. I am quite sure that the impression our students made on the Mellon officials is the major reason why UCR received this prestigious grant. It is a recognition of the talent and potential of our students.”
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program was established in 1988 at eight institutions and has grown to include nearly 50 colleges and universities. Participating institutions include UC Berkeley, UCLA, Brown, California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Duke, Oberlin College, Princeton, Rice, Smith College, Stanford, University of Southern California, a consortium of historically black colleges and universities, and three South African universities.
UC Riverside’s selection as an MMUF university recognizes the excellent work of the campus to add value and transform students’ lives, said Yolanda Moses, associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity and a co-principal investigator on the grant.
“When our students come to us they sometimes have a very narrow and limited understanding about what kinds of careers are open to them as graduates,” she said. “This wonderful fellowship will guide them through the academic and developmental processes of understanding what it means to be a professor and what the pathway is to get there. This is a tremendous opportunity for the students and for our university.”
UC Riverside is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), a designation awarded to colleges and universities where Hispanic students comprise at least 25 percent of total enrollment. UCR is known nationally as an outstanding research university and as a university whose mission is explicitly linked to providing opportunities and educational success for underrepresented and first-generation college students. More than half of UCR students come from low-income households and receive Pell Grants and other needs-based scholarships and grants.
Pell Grant students also graduate at nearly the same rate as non-Pell students, as do first-generation students when compared to those whose parents attended college. UC Riverside is one of three campuses in the country with graduation rates among African-American students that exceed those of white students.