Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded UCR a $500,000 grant to create an undergraduate research and mentoring program entitled the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF), which will focus on preparing promising undergraduates for academic careers and graduate school.

The program will begin in the summer of 2015, and will only have five spots open for current sophomores who meet the requirements. In order to be eligible, the applicants must have at least a 3.3 gpa, have completed 90 units by the end of spring 2015 and have applied to at least two summer research programs.

Due to the limited amount of space available, there is a strict application process which requires three letters of recommendation, a writing sample from a college course and a three-page essay.

Those who enter the program will have a university faculty member guide them in creating a research project, receive training in applying to graduate schools, and preparation for the GRE. The program offers 22 fields of graduate study mostly centered on the humanities, the focus of the foundation. However, studies in fields such as mathematics and ecology are also available.

The MMUF aims to promote diversity among faculty in higher education and is directed at students who are part of groups that are underrepresented in University faculty such as ethnic minorities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

While UCR is ranked twelfth among the nation in terms of economic and ethnic diversity among undergraduate university students, the faculty is much less diverse according to statistics which show that 68.6 percent of the faculty in the university identify as white, and 68.3 percent identify as male.

These statistics demonstrate an ongoing lack of diversity among university faculty in higher education, which the MMUF hopes to improve. The program has been shown to be a success nationwide as one-third of students who previously received the fellowship have either earned or are currently in Ph.D programs.

Dr. Georgia Warnke, one of the main investigators for the grant, discussed the benefits that the additional funding would have on the campus. “Given the diversity of the student body at UCR, the campus is a prime pipeline for increasing diversity in the faculty ranks of the United States. I think the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship will help us realize our potential in doing so.”

Ava Hosseini, a third-year anthropology major, gave her opinion on the program and its impact on the campus community. “It’s crazy to think that a school which takes so much pride for its diversity among students fails to account for its professors, hopefully this program will be able to help improve it on this campus too,” said Hosseini.

The program itself is funded entirely by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which has an endowment of $6.1 billion. Grant funding will not be impacted by potential budget cuts or changes in tuition occurring throughout the UC, according to Warnke.