Cornell hosted students from five universities for the annual Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference April 21-22 on campus.
Students presented formal papers about their research, offered feedback to fellow students and heard from keynote speaker Krista Thompson, the Weinberg College Board of Visitors Professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University.
“The conference helps build a stronger community of Mellon fellows and also helps to improve everyone’s work and knowledge,” said Christian Brickhouse ’17, whose Mellon Mays research focused on a dialect of American Sign Language spoken by black deaf signers. “A lot of work goes into preparing to present, especially at an interdisciplinary conference like this one. I have to approach my work from a new angle and think about how to explain some of the more esoteric concepts to an audience outside my field.”
Kevin Cruz ’18 took part in a panel on the role of art in creating cultural spaces and in reconsidering history and the role of the artist in social movements. “Being able to share experiences and hear what other people like myself are doing in other institutions is refreshing,” Cruz said. “It also reminds me that knowledge production does not happen in a vacuum.”
Chad Coates, advising dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and administrative director of the program, said typically only seniors present their research, but this year’s conference had room to include juniors.
“They sat in on the presentations and then had conversations with their peers in between,” Coates said. “All of these interactions boosted their confidence.”
Mellon Mays fellowships, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are an initiative to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of colleges and universities. The program provides financial and academic support for undergraduates planning to pursue doctoral degrees in selected fields, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Cornell has nine Mellon fellows who were accepted into the program as rising juniors.
“I am delighted when I am giving lectures at other schools and reconnect with our Cornell MMUF students who are thriving in top doctoral programs,” said Margo Crawford, faculty director for the program and an associate professor of English. “The Cornell MMUF program provides intensive research guidance, mentoring and group camaraderie that prepare our Mellon Mays fellows to apply successfully to Ph.D. programs, to excel in their doctoral studies and to see themselves as rising stars in the professoriate.”
Fourteen Cornell Mellon Mays fellows have completed their doctorate, Crawford said.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.