4 Mellon Mays Fellows Honored at Banquet

Posted 05/16/07
Applauded by friends, family, faculty members and administrators, Wesleyan’s graduating Mellon Mays Fellows were honored at a banquet held on May 12 in the Russell House.

As participants in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, these students have been identified as students of great promise. Wesleyan and the Fellowship are helping them become scholars of the highest distinction as they pursue Ph.Ds in core fields in the arts and sciences.

The senior Fellows are Gustavo Furtado, Meenasarani (Linde) Murugan, Acacia Stevens and Roberto (Tito) Soto-Carrión. In attendance were three of the junior fellows—Michael Bolds, Mark Leonida, and R.J. Schmidt; Stephen Padilla and Melanie Jung are studying abroad in Argentina and England.

Also in attendance were sophomores who are the newly selected members of the 18th Mellon cohort: William Franklin, Devaka Gunawardena, Julius Hampton, Jason Harris, Amber Jones and Katherine Rodriguez.

During the banquet, Gayle Pemberton, professor of African American Studies, English, and American studies was named the first Mellon Mentor of the Year. She was recognized for her dedicated and effective mentoring of several fellows, her participation in the Mellon program’s regional conference, and her support for applicants to the program. In addition, the senior fellows gave presentations on their research projects.

Last fall Wesleyan had four fellows enter graduate programs in Mellon fields, bringing the total number in graduate school to 11, while one fellow deferred entrance. Next fall, four more fellows will be starting graduate programs.

Five of Wesleyan’s seven Mellon Ph.Ds are in tenure-track positions at the University of South Carolina, Berkeley, Texas A&M, Barry University and Princeton, and one entered a post-doctoral program funded by the National Institutes of Health this year. One fellow will be starting in a tenure-track position at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts next fall.

More than 20 other Wesleyan Mellons have received master’s degrees or professional degrees.

“Behind these statistics are wonderful stories of persistence in the face of many odds and, in the case of those Fellows going on to the Ph.D., determination to change the academy to make it more inclusive and culturally vibrant,” says Krishna Winston, coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, established in 1988, is a program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the centerpiece of the foundation’s long-term effort to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education. The fellowship aims to create a legacy of qualified and gifted scholars of color who, along with others committed to eradicating racial disparities, will provide opportunities for all students to experience and learn from the perspectives of diverse faculty members. The name of the program honors Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the noted African-American educator, statesman, minister, long-time president of Morehouse College, and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor