How the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Propelled My Love of Archives into Academic Aspirations

Category Student Voices


Authored on November 27, 2023


The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF) of Harvard College selects a small cohort of sophomores to join a tightly-knit research community to conduct independent research in close collaboration with a faculty mentor and engage in pre-professional development workshops and seminars on pursuing doctoral degrees, research, and life in the academy—during their junior and senior years. 


Established in 1988 to address the barriers that result in the problem of underrepresentation in the faculty ranks of higher education, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is committed to supporting a diverse professoriate and to promoting the value of diverse voices in the humanities and related disciplines, elevating accounts, interpretations, and narratives that expand present understandings. Its name honors Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the noted African American educator, statesman, minister, and former president of Morehouse College. The MMUF program provides opportunities for students from groups underrepresented in the academy to pursue advanced study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.


I applied to Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship in the beginning of my Sophomore Spring. It was a program that was suggested to me by my various advisors and mentors. During this time I had a deep interest for anthropology, archaeology and archives. I had been working in the Borrow Direct program of Widener Library (Widener Library Established in 1638, the oldest library system in the United States and the world’s largest academic library). Needless to say I was constantly surrounded by books, and working in Widener's stack which are nearly 57 miles. I was in close proximity with the texts; I often went to search for books people had asked for and among my work I became enthralled with the library systems. My interests aligned well with the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, a love of learning and a desire to continue academic research in a graduate program.


I would admire, ponder and look at the books. I was oftentimes shocked at how old the books were, at who donated them, and I was in awe that I had such open access to these books. I grew to search about histories in Tozzer Library, Harvard's Anthropological library, and I would find maps, journal entries, and letters which helped me learn more about the hidden histories of my family’s ancestral home of Mezcala. To me, searching in archives is an adventure. I enjoy looking through library systems, searching for books, and yearning to see them in the archives.


My love for archives has led me to other libraries around the country, in search of finding this thrill, this special honor, of being able to spend time with a precious book. Among some of my favorite archives I have been to: The Newberry, The Huntington, and Dumbarton Oaks. It was my advisors who told me that this passion and drive that I had was something that could be channeled academically, and they encouraged me to pursue it. For this reason I applied to MMUF with the desire of obtaining and gaining guidance on pursuing a Ph.D program.


Harvard MMUF Cohort


Once accepted I was ecstatic, because I was so full of excitement and hopes for what this program was to bring me. We meet on a weekly basis throughout the school year with our MMUF Program Coordinator, Pamela Gaddi. Every week I look forward to Wednesdays, knowing that I will be in community with my MMUF peers, of which we make a cohort of 20 - 10 third years, and 10 fourth years. We have discussions and presentations on a myriad of different subjects ranging from talks with Ph.D. Students, Professors, meetings with the Academic Resource Center on studying and thesis writing techniques, as well as reflecting and brainstorming exercises.  

Name Tag reading: "Gloria Natalie Maldonado,  Romance Languages and Literatures and Government, and Anthropology; Senior; Harvard: She/her"


MMUF is a community I have found solace in during my time at Harvard. In addition to these meetings we receive research funding, mentorship and attend a yearly MMUF conference where we present our thesis and research ideas. This year, the Northeastern Regional MMUF conference was at Yale. Our cohort went to Yale together where we mingled with other schools like Bowdoin, Yale, Dartmouth etc, meeting likeminded students with similar academic goals– to obtain a professoriate. 

Gloria standing in front of a powerpoint which reads: "Mezcala's Cultural Resilience: The Coca's Battle for Land and Heritage through Colonial Resistance"


Here is a picture of me presenting my Senior thesis presentation titled: “Mezcala's Cultural Resilience: The Coca’s Battle for Land and Heritage through Colonial Resistance” I wrote about the cultural resistance of the Coca indigenous community of Mezcala Mexico to combat territorial dispossession. I was so happy after having presented my research and felt so honored to be a part of Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. I hope that in my future I continue to interact with this community as I aspire to continue my academic studies into graduate school.



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