One way it accomplishes this is via the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which puts students studying the humanities and humanistic social sciences into a pipeline to pursue a Ph.D. and address underrepresentation in faculty.
Along with Whittier, the program has grown to include 47 member schools and three consortia since the initial eight institutions in 1988. The program has produced more than 1,100 doctorates, almost 800 of whom are currently college professors.
Up to five Whittier College students are selected as Mellon Mays Fellows annually. Over two years, students perform research, receive one-on-one support from faculty mentors at Whittier, and engage with other Fellows at Mellon events.
One of the newest fellows is Damian Garcia. As a member of the school’s 15th cohort, the third-year student from nearby Santa Fe Springs found out he was accepted last semester.
“It was kind of a little unbelievable, but it also gave me a huge sense of relief,” said Garcia, who aspires to become a history professor.
Garcia is combining his two majors — history and French — with his Spanish heritage to research Louisiana state history for the fellowship. He’s been exploring primary and secondary sources such as the state’s constitution to study how Louisiana’s history was influenced by the French, Spanish, and Americans.
Fourth-year student Ali Amaya is in her second year of the fellowship with her sights set on a Ph.D. in creative writing. Like Garcia, the first-generation college student from the San Francisco Bay Area is combining her passions for the research project.
A double major in English and theater, with a minor in physics, Amaya is writing about analogies between supernatural phenomena and physical theories in Gothic horror literature. For example, she uses Einstein's theory of relativity to explain how Dracula pulls people into his orbit.
“Even if you try to get out of it, you can't help but go closer to him,” Amaya said. “The characters fall into this trance state, and time slows down like a planet or a black hole.”
Garcia, Amaya, and others will be presenting at the regional Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship conference next month.
Visit Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship for more information and to apply.
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