Mellon Mays Fellows are having an ‘absolutely phenomenal’ summer


This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program at Bowdoin. The research program that supports promising young scientists Humanities and Social Scienceswas started on campus in 1992 with funds from the Mellon Foundation to increase diversity in science.

That summer, the fifteen grantees, with students from Smith and Bowdoin in person and Witwatersrand students joining online, each produced a “distinguished project” in the fields of anthropology, dance, English, government, history and more, according to Principal Elizabeth Muther.

“The MMUF students are so brilliant and supportive of one another – and are adept at bringing ideas into focus and presenting them powerfully. Your research projects this summer have been absolutely phenomenal,” she said.

The staff—two trainers and two program assistants—were all former Fellows of Bowdoin Mellon Mays. Speaking of the instructors and assistants overall — including previous instructors like Golden Owens ’15 and Kris Klein Hernandez ’12 — Mother described the group as “just over the top. You are such an inspiration to our students.”

“Bowdoin is honored to be part of the extraordinary network of MMUF schools that has produced more than 1,000 doctorates since the Mellon Foundation initiated the program in 1988,” said Muther.

Some of this year’s student attendees said it was exciting to be surrounded by intellectually enthusiastic and engaged classmates. “It was nice to live with a group of people who are passionate about many things,” said Ahmad Abdulwadood ’24. “Her work was imaginative and original.”

Marcus Gadsden ’24 also commented on the strength of the friendships he had formed. “Being in the cohort was the best,” he said, adding that he also loved doing intensive research in a beautiful, peaceful place – Braunschweig in the summer.

When asked what their favorite aspect of summer was, Kami Atcitty ’24 and Liat Tesfazgi ’24 answered “the people” and “the cohort”.

“I’m glad we could do this as a team,” Tesfazgi continued. “It’s fulfilling to do scholarly work on a topic that’s close to my heart,” she added, smiling, with a “nerd corps.” Then she said, “A bunch of nerds who look like you and had similar experiences in college as you do. I guess that.”

student projects

At the end of the five-week program, the students presented their research prospects in a colloquium.

Kami Atcitty ’24, Bowdoin: “Reclaiming stories and perspectives of the Diné dances through a reformulated anthropological lens”

Dylan Richmond ’24, Bowdoin: “breaking language, expressing and creating: the e/motion/al magic of ntozake shanges choreopoem”

Karla Lainez ’24, Bowdoin: “Fighting Gender-Based Violence: Performance, Visual Arts, and Oral Tradition as Activism in Latin America”

Liat Tesfazgi ’24, Bowdoin: “Complicated Ethiopian Nationalism and Historiography (1935-1991)”

Marcus Gadsden ’24, Bowdoin: “Justice or Death: Racial Prejudice in the Death Penalty”

Ahmad Abdulwadood ’24, Bowdoin: “Communicating Radical Politics with the Constitution: Organizing Community Resistance”

Penelope Phan, Smith: “The Impact of Post-War Remembrance on the Mental Health of Queer Vietnamese Americans”

Tracy Okai, Smith: “Sense of Belonging for East African Students in 21st Century Norway”

Sena Amuzu, Smith: “Blackness as a Boundless Medium: A Sociohistorical Interrogation of Blackness in the Museum and its Relation to Notions of ‘the Body'”

Salma Vargas, Smith: “The Politics of Subjectivity: Melancholy vs. Grief in Neo-Slavic Narratives”

Senkhu Mufamadi, Witwatersrand: “Social and cultural understandings of gallbladder cancer in Mindalore, Krugersdorp”

Maxine Nyoni, Witwatersrand: “What now? An Analysis of Post-Industrialism in Springs, Johannesburg”

Xuma Mabunda, Witwatersrand: “The Socio-Cultural Consequences of Migration in Southern and East Africa”

Ziyaad Moola, Witwatersrand: “Hypocrisy: A Closer Look at US Foreign Policy”

Hlela Dyasi, Witwatersrand: “Queering Apartheid: An Intersectional Critique of Struggle”

Where are you now? Updates on some alumni of Bowdoin Mellon (including two current students):

George Aumoithe ’11, Harvard University: Assistant Professor of History and African and Afro-American Studies

Kris Klein Herndandez ’12, Connecticut College: Assistant Professor of History

Teona Williams ’12, Rutgers University: Assistant Professor of Black Geographies

Isaiah Bolden ’15, Georgia Tech: Assistant Professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Golden Owens ’15: 2022 Ford Foundation Fellow and graduate student at Northwestern University

Adaiah Hudgins-Lopez ’18, Cambridge University: Gates Scholar, starting PhD program in Social Anthropology

Elijah Koblan-Huberson ’20, University of Virginia: Entered a PhD program in French

Ellen Gyasi ’20, Teachers College, Columbia University: Commencing MA program in Anthropology and Education

Colby Santana ’23, Kyrgyzstan: US State Department Critical Language Scholarship (to learn Russian)

Shandiin Largo ’23, Tbilisi, Georgia: SRAS program (to learn Russian)

Read more about Bowdoin Mellon May’s alumni.


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