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MAY 2017



Remember to be kind. Be intentional about using the opportunities this program provides to better not only yourself, but your community.



We would like to extend a very sincere thank you to the following people, without whose support this program would not function Faculty Director: Dr. Jeffrey McCune Administrative Coordinator: Dean Mary Laurita Administrative Assistant: Shea Ballantine Graduate Teaching Assistant: Elizabeth Brown Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences: Jennifer Smith Provost: Holden Thorp Faculty Mentors: Monique Bedasse, Elizabeth Childs, Jonathan Fenderson, Douglas Flowe, Andrea Friedman, Margaret Garb, Clarissa Hayward, Ignacio Infante, Jasmine Mahoud, Jeffrey McCune, Amber Musser, Ignacio Sánchez Prado, Shanti Parikh, Julia Walker, Rhaisa Williams, and Rafia Zafar




For 25 years, the Washington University

My time with the Mellon Mays program has

Mellon Mays Undergraduate

changed the way I think about scholarship,

Fellowship program has been training

activism, and myself. I hope that this

scholars for a career in the academy with the

newsletter provides a glimpse into the work

goal of diversifying the professoriate. In this

that the fellows are doing and how we

past academic year, we held the Midwest

are already making our mark on the

Regional Conference and continued to push


the boundaries of scholarship and activism. As each fellow was told during the Regional In 1988, the national Mellon Mays

Conference, we are the future of the

Undergraduate Fellowship program was

academy. We will challenge the status quo

founded in order to remedy the lack of

and change the professoriate, one Ph.D at a

diversity within the professoriate. In less than


30 years, the program has expanded to include 48 schools and has produced 700 Ph.Ds. Growing up I never envisioned myself as a professor or an academic. My parents saw that potential in me, but I associated Ph.D's with old, white men. It wasn't until I began my MMUF program application that I seriously considered my future in the academy.

Sherri Gardner



















Dear Reader, Every year, we produce a magazine or newsletter which captures the successes of the year; the achievements and highlights of the students and the program in advancing knowledge and scholarship at Washington University and beyond. Most significant this year, was our ability to host what has been said to be one of the best Midwest Regional MMUF conferences. This accomplishment required all parts of the program and support from multiple leaders at our institution. However, this year’s commemoration is special to me, as it concludes my term as Director of this great program. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of working with students from diverse backgrounds and intellectual traditions, who exhibit the best of students at this university. During my tenure as Director, my major goal has been to develop a systematic approach to excellence; one which would embed “benchmarks for success” in the development of young scholars and their concentrated, academic projects. Here is some of what we have done in my three-year term as director:   established benchmarks for junior and senior fellows, which better facilitate completion of the program formalized the roles of faculty in mentorship capacities formalized the Mellon Mays seminar as a laboratory of creativity and workshopping, with specific learning outcomes established a relationship between our Chancellor’s Graduate Fellows and Mellon Mays fellows developed an annual symposium for Mellon Mays fellows to present their work and receive copious feedback increased the visibility of the program on campus, both in the upper administration and within the recruitment bodies of the institution  more than doubled the interviewee pool for prospective Mellon Mays fellows established the thesis as paramount for completion of the Mellon Mays program at Washington University None of this would have been possible without the great leadership and institutional knowledge of Dean Mary Laurita. Her commitment to, and passion for this program is the true bank for the flow of this intellectual river, to put it mildly. The work of Shea Ballantine has ensured that the program is efficient and has a real student-facing component, which has contributed to making   




sure all dimensions of the administrative areas are covered with excellence. And of course without the support of Dean Jennifer Smith, who has secured resources and been a real supporter of the program's success, my tenure here and what we were able to make happen, would have been impossible In the next years, Professor Rafia Zafar will lead the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Her intellectual heft and deep interdisciplinary approach to scholarship will, without a doubt, provide students with a rich resource. As a known leader at Washington University, she offers the program so much institutional wisdom, which will be not only useful to the students, but will inform the further development of the more holistic programmatic experience of the fellows. Professor Zafar embodies the “students first” motto which drives the program and brings a truly evident passion for learning and teaching. It has been my pleasure to serve in this leadership capacity, representing the program locally and nationally; emphasizing the unique brand that is the Washington University Mellon Mays program. Every day as director has been a reminder of what matters: our efforts to secure and sustain the intellectual and ethical traditions of the academy one piece of excellence at a time. Together, with numerous faculty mentors and administrative staff, we have provided our students with a state-of-the-art program, which is stabilized within the dynamic collaborative space of the research seminar. In addition, the deep commitment of our students to do work, and produce work, is emblematic of their commitment to advancing the Mellon Mays tradition of excellence, creativity, and innovation. I will truly miss every single moment; I was blessed by every single student. As Mellon Mays Director, I woke up every day knowing that my work mattered, my students’ work mattered, and that our lives mattered. I am truly grateful for this opportunity. Sincerely,

Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr., PhD Associate Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies and African & African-American Studies Director, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program




class at Normandy High School. I told him


the names of the colleges that accepted me and he told me to my face that he thought I was lying. According to him, in order for a minority to escape the hood, he had to rap, act, or ball. And as a minority in that situation, according to him, I could not live the “life of the mind” that Professor McCune often talks about.

The fact that he thought that minorities in the hood could not go to top schools at least has a twofold explanation. First, that

BY T-HERBERT JEFFERY If social entropy is a thing, it started when Obama left office. Donald Trump is president. The not-so-alternative right is gaining steam. Race scientists like Charles Murray are becoming more popular. Many legal rights designed to protect the powerless are being threatened.

was his experience. He did not know of anyone who “made it” legally without being a recording artist, an actor, or a professional athlete. Second, the media ingrains this idea into the subconscious. We are flooded with images of minorities as violent criminals or entertainers, as subhuman sociopaths or jesters. Unfortunately, those who do not know

America is on the brink of a cultural watershed, and I would be lying if I said I

better will not be able to see through this grossly inaccurate portrayal of minorities.

was fine. I would be lying if I said I knew the police would treat my people as people, and I would be lying if I said I was not scared because of this. I would be lying if I said I knew everything would be ok. I do not know those things. However, what I do know is that I am a Mellon Mays fellow at Washington University in St. Louis.

So, in case you do not know, black kids get into Washington University. They get in and they succeed. I know this for a fact. Many people at the university know this. The issue is that we are in the minority of people who realize and act like minorities are people. Not enough people know this, and minorities suffer because of it. Indeed,

"I thought black kids don't get into schools like WashU,” said a peer in my graduating  

the powerless perish all the time because of a lack of knowledge. MELLON



It is painful to think that someone’s life

We need those willing and able to fight the

could have been saved if only the person

battle of the mind on its grandest stage.

responsible for taking it had known more. If

Those people are Mellon Mays fellows. And

they knew enough actual minorities to

the stage is the University.

know that people like Barack Obama are not exceptions. We need living

We are Mellon Mays fellows to make a


social difference through the academy. We are Mellon Mays fellows to demonstrate

Our ideological ancestors in the Harlem

that not all smart people are white and not

Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement,

all minorities are criminals. We are Mellon

and the Black Power movement knew this

Mays fellows to be living contradictions.

well. Informed, dare I say “woke,” individuals

We are Mellon Mays fellows to produce

are needed now more than ever.

knowledge—knowledge that might save lives.


| 7


Academy By Savannah Jacobson

Photo by Kisha Bwenge This past October, Washington University in St.

Each of us participated in panels of 3 to 6 fellows, with topics catered to each of our research projects, ranging from the racialized politics of education to queering dominant narratives. We heard Mellon Mays alumni speak about their experiences in graduate school, and how their time as Mellon Mays fellows has advantageously positioned them to advance through the academy.

Louis hosted Mellon Mays fellows from six other universities for the annual Midwest Regional

Throughout the weekend, we got to share our


experiences with each other as minorities in predominantly white spaces with strong

We kicked off the weekend of scholarship with a

academic ambitions; we found comfort and

discussion on the politics of Beyoncé after Dr.

power in our disparate yet unified struggle, and

Miles Grier delivered his keynote address based on

determination to carve space for ourselves in

his article “Honey and Haterade: For Obama’s

the professoriate.

Beyhive.” After showing the Midwest Mellon Mays fellows the best of St. Louis by eating toasted

Catch us in Minnesota next Fall!

ravioli and gooey butter cake on a downtown rooftop overlooking the Gateway Arch, we spent the next day presenting our research and attending talks.





By Reuben Forman

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program at

This past year, Shea and Dean Laurita, the Mellon

Washington University in St. Louis is run so smoothly

Mays program coordinator, planned the 2016 Mellon

that one would not know the enormous amount of work

Mays Midwest Conference. From the shuttles that

that is done by Shea Ballantine.

brought people between the hotels, to the unforgettable night at the Four Seasons, the

The anchor of the Mellon Mays program, Shea

conference was a complete success. What nobody

masterfully maneuvers the behind-the- scenes work that

could see was the immense amount of work Shea

gives the program it’s gravitas. For the last three years

did to make sure everything went perfectly. When

she has handled all the administrative and accounting

asked what the hardest part of planning the

needs of the program, along with being a mentor and

conference was, Shea responded it was keeping up

supportive role to this community of scholars. Having

with all the programs.

the opportunity to get to know Shea is one of the best perks of being a fellow.

As Shea put it, "Not all Mellon Mays chapters have the same resources as Washington University’s

On more than one occasion she has given me excellent

chapter. Some programs are made up of just a

suggestions for the best first date spots in St. Louis. She

director.” Having to maneuver all the different

always has the best connections to free food and can tell

working styles and preferences of all the various

you exactly who to talk to if you want something done

chapters was very difficult.

right. But, Shea emphasized that she has learned and Shea is honest, straightforward and incredibly

mastered not letting the frustration of other people

knowledgeable. Her hard work and tenacity are two of

impact her work. She explained you need to always,

the reasons this group of scholars is a community. In an

“remember the bigger picture of how much you

interview, Shea shared her experience of being a part of

have.” Over the past couple of years, Shea has

the Mellon Mays program.

worked to operate under a frame of mindfulness, and it shows in the quality of her work.

Shea's favorite part of the program is the students. She has a genuine passion for the wellbeing and growth of

When not at Washington University, Shea enjoys

these young academics and loves being able to engage

many passions such as sketch comedy and graphic

with passionate people.

design. She is a member of the sketch comedy podcast, Welcome Thru Effingham, which is currently in its third season.




Introducing the New Director

Professor Jeffrey McCune has been the faculty director of the Washington University Mellon  Mays Fellowship program for three years. His enthusiasm for training the next generation of scholars has known no bounds, but all things must end, including Professor McCune's tenure as the Mellon Mays program director. He passes the mantle to Professor Rafia Zafar, whose directorial duties will begin at the beginning of the next academic year. Professor Zafar has been a part of Washington University's Mellon Mays program since the beginning. She has been mentor to a number of Mellon Mays fellows who are currently rocking the academy.  At Washington University, she holds a triple appointment in the English, American Culture Studies and African & African American Studies departments, was formerly the director of the  African & African American Studies department, and is also my mentor. Over the past two years I have had the pleasure of being in two of Professor Zafar's classes and we have spent hours chatting about everything from ripped jeans to my thesis revisions.

When asked what she enjoys most about mentoring, Professor Zafar responded, "I like working with students. It's nice seeing them get excited about their research." Professor Zafar's own entry into the academy was a bit delayed and she believes that if such a program existed at her university when she was an undergraduate, she would have entered a Ph.D program immediately after receiving her Bachelor's degree.  She also believes that the Mellon Mays program "teaches the fellows the various ways to live the life of the mind" and how to apply the work we do with the program to a variety of endeavors. As she transitions from mentor to director, Professor Zafar will continue to inspire and guide the fellows in the Mellon Mays program seminar as she has inspired and guided her mentees. 

By Sherri Gardner





spot light

When asked what his favorite course has been since matriculating at NYU, Fabian highlights his Introduction to Quantitative Methods course. Here, he has learned how to handle quantitative data responsibly—an important task in a world that grows more and more influenced by “big data” analytics, news media infographics, and statistical sound-bites that can often be misleading. Fabian believes people can lie just as easily with bad quantitative work as they can with bad qualitative work, which is often considered less “objective.”

By Jordan Victorian

However, regardless of the type  of research, Fabian Fabian Barch is in his first year as a Sociology of

finds it equally important to learn how to recognize

Education doctoral student and IES-PIRT Fellow at New

good work as well as misrepresentations. He says it is

York University, where he focuses on access to

about voice and evidence; both qualitative and

educational opportunities, particularly prison-based education programs. Before enrolling at NYU, he completed a double major in Educational Studies and French with a minor in Psychological and Brain Sciences at Washington University. Fabian greatly appreciates the experience he has gained from the Mellon Mays program, and continues to reflect on this as he works on doctoral studies. At NYU, he was awarded a four-year fellowship through the Institute for Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (IES-PIRT) program. This fellowship program, like the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, aims to cultivate rigorous, cuttingedge, and relevant research by training diverse groups of interdisciplinary scholars. Continuing the “Where Academia Meets Activism” spirit of our own MMUF program, Fabian stresses the importance of having one’s academic work mean something for the world. The IES-PIRT program builds upon his experiences in our Mellon program, supplementing rigorous training that will help him achieve his goals: relevant, innovative, and meaningful research. Fabian also currently works as a Research Assistant. While modest – saying “I have nothing to put my name on…yet!” – he is in fact helping analyze data on LGBT student risk behaviors, as well as harm enacted against those students. Looking at aggregate data, Fabian works toward answering questions about risk behaviors and their causes among LGBT students

quantitative work are about finding a story, and using rigorous methods to illuminate it. Fabian’s experience in this course is just one example of how interdisciplinary scholar programs. such as our own Mellon Mays Fellowship program, play a crucial role in developing truly capable, responsible scholars – and ultimately a stronger academy. We continue to be proud of the care that Fabian puts into his development as a scholar for the people. The Mellon Mays fellows wish him the best as he moves forward with his work!

MELLON ON THE MOVE One of the lessons that Mellon Mays fellows learn is that our scholarship is not limited to Washington University. Most of the Washington University fellows travel from St. Louis before graduation and take their work with them, be it across the country or across an ocean. Each experience offers a wealth of knowledge. Three fellows shared their experiences of taking their scholarship with them as they travel.



Last summer I had the pleasure of spending four weeks at the University of Bristol participating in a Fulbright Summer Institute. The theme of the institute was Slavery and the Atlantic Heritage. The city of Bristol gained a tremendous amount of wealth from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade through the movement of enslaved Africans from the coast of West Africa to the Americas, West Indies and Caribbean. On average, 20 slave voyages took sail each year from 1730-1745. The legacy of the slave trade is present throughout the city of Bristol, in architectural structures and family names. Many well-known wealthy merchant families acquired their money from the shipment of Africans. Much of my time last summer was spent analyzing the lasting impacts of the slave trade on Bristolians and the city itself. Through museum tours, archival explorations and inter-disciplinary lectures I grew to more deeply understand how slavery ultimately

provided the resources for Bristol to become the city it is today. My Mellon project explores the moment of emancipation in the United States so it was helpful to increase my understanding of slavery and abolition per an international perspective.  Additionally, I learned practical skills in Bristol during my time in the archives that prepared me for my research in the fall. My final project for the summer institute was a series of erasure poems using the account book kept for the slave ship, the 'Jason', which describes a complete slaving voyage in the 1740's from Bristol to Angola.  As a scholar, I want to produce work that is productive and accessible to those outside of academia. I want to produce scholarship that heals. I want my words to act like a form of reparations, kind of like storytelling as a vehicle for spiritual peace and reconciliation. As a student passionate about slavery scholarship, something I constantly struggle with is finding a balance between healing and learning.  My time in Bristol was emotionally draining at times but also allowed for me to grow as a scholar and poet. I developed an understanding for the archives and a desire to tell the stories that are often forgotten.   MELLON




As we stepped off the plane into the blistering Accra heat our senses were immediately piqued to the various smells and sights. The vibrant colors of Ghana’s capital city shone brightly on us as we began our 4 month stay in one of the most populous cities in West Africa. The population of Accra is 2.3 million and the energy of those people reverberate through the air of the city. Scattered around the roadsides are women selling mangos and pineapples, grills featuring the smell of cooking goat, and other storefronts for braiding, auto-repair, and practically any other need. Most of Ghana’s goods are sold in the street to people while they are in their cars. The hustle and bustle of the city is epitomized by a woman carrying saches of water on her head, weaving between cars while selling her goods and quickly exiting to the roadside when the light turns green. The swiftness of her movements is the speed at which Accra typically stays.  One of the most transformative experiences thus far has been seeing so many faces that look like our own. Especially on campus at the University of Ghana it is incredible to see black individuals in places of prestige such as academia and in high administrative positions. However, as black Americans we often stand out and are treated differently. As international students we are constantly navigating our American privilege while also analyzing our blackness in relation to our history with the African continent.  Ghana recently celebrated their 60th Independence day on March 6th, 2017.  This day marks 60 years free from colonial rule and oppression. In our classes the consequences and impact of British colonial rule are very apparent through the style of teaching and the rhetoric surrounding whiteness often leading to texts and articles written by white academics being valued on a higher scale. We recently visited Cape Coast, a 3-hour tro-tro ride from Accra. This coastal town is home to the famous Cape Coast Castle, a slave castle controlled by the British, who transported approximately 25% of the Africans that were stolen from the continent during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The experience was both jarring and an experience of the soul. We have been in Ghana for 2 months and both of us can say with enthusiasm that this time has been both exhilarating and exhausting. The lessons we have learned about our identities and the world around us have occurred more often than not outside of the classroom. We have had the privilege of forming new bonds with a community of black women within our program, which has allowed us to discuss and work through our experiences in this wonderful country.   MELLON



Learning about the Academy in Hawai'i By Candace Borders

The Mellon Mays Fellowship program is an incredible opportunity for a myriad of reasons. As a fellow in the 2017 cohort, I’ve gotten to conduct my own research, grow my intellectual interests, and work with a close-knit group of fellows. But one aspect of my time as a Mellon Mays fellow really stands out: when I attended my first academic conference in Waikoloa, Hawai'i. Three fellows, Reuben Forman, Jordan Victorian, and I, were able to attend the 109th annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association in August of 2016.   After submitting our project abstracts, we were invited to present our research as a part of various panels throughout the conference. The PCA-AHA conference was an important learning experience, as it provided the opportunity to present research in front of professional scholars from around the country. 

We each presented on our projects and received questions and invaluable comments and feedback from audience members. Each of our panels was hosted by a scholar from around the country who helped us hone our presentations and placed our projects in discussion with one another. In addition, we attended panels and dinners where we sat alongside professional scholars and learned about their work. The PCA-AHA conference was also an opportunity to get to know other Mellon Mays fellows from around the country and learn about their research interests. The conference was a great introduction to life as an academic and learning how to present research in effective ways. Reuben Forman, a senior fellow studying gay men and gentrification in Washington DC shares that the PCA-AHA conference was an important way to learn about the academy. 

He said, “I had the amazing experience speaking at my first academic conference. Not only was I joined by my best friends, but it was hosted in Hawai'i. This was the perfect introduction into academia.” Jordan Victorian, a senior fellow studying the ways that people of color understand polyamorous relationships, shared a similar sentiment: “Presenting at the PCAAHA Conference was an amazing opportunity to articulate how my project has developed and engage with established scholars and their work—all alongside my Fellows and friends!” With the funding that the Mellon Mays program provided us, we were able to take advantage of such an important foray into life as an academic. And getting to be in Hawai'i while we did it was a plus.




WHAT DOES A SCHOLAR LOOK LIKE? Each of the current Mellon Mays fellows is different but they are all challenging the traditional conceptions of scholarship and using their work within the program to continue their work as activists in the field. Meet the current Mellon Mays fellows at Washington University.

Andie Berry

english literature

When Race Does(n't) Matter: Forging a Collective Memory of

the seniors

9/11 in The Hunger Games Trilogy

In my project, I attest that the dystopian novel is, at its core,


a narrative working through trauma as both an individual and collective experience. Using Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games novel trilogy as an example, I investigate how memory and race intersect in the creation of the United States and dystopian visions of America.



Candace Borders

american culture studies Constructing Place: Narratives of Black Motherhood in Pruitt-Igoe

Within five years of the construction of the housing project Pruitt-Igoe, this modern-era project was inhabited by a majority of female-headed households. These women existed at the intersection of segregation, poverty, and discrimination, while caring for their children in a project that is heralded as the symbol of the failure of modern housing design. Their complex existence is an essential component in creating a complicated narrative of the project’s deep impact even after its demolition. Through ethnography, my research creates a narrative of black motherhood in Pruitt-Igoe that transcends the often onedimensional view of their existence.

Reuben Forman

women, gender & sexuality studies Complicating “Revitalization:" Understanding How Urban LGBT

Communities Impact Metropolitan Neighborhoods

My research looks at the effects LGBTQ populations have on urban neighborhoods, with a focus on the Washington D.C. neighborhoods of U Street Corridor and Shaw. By analyzing the discourses surrounding gay men and their effect on the physical and social environments in the U Street Corridor/Shaw, I will explore the impact the introduction of a visible white gay male enclave has had on this historically African American neighborhood.  MELLON



Sherri Gardner

english literature A Sea of Options: Womanism in Zora Neale Hurston's Fiction

My project examines the women in three of Hurston's novels—Jonah's Gourd Vine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Seraph on the Suwanee—and the ways in which those characters simultaneously subvert and reinforce patriarchal power schemes. Throughout my thesis, I argue that these contrasting traits are part and parcel to Hurston's 1970s revival and her importance in the lives of black women.

Jordan Victorian

american culture studies The (Im)possibilities of Non-Monogamy: Queer Capacity and Quare

Sexual Politics

Bridging conversations across the fields of queer studies, racial and ethnic studies, this project explores non-monogamous desire within a larger sexual economy of inequality and (im)possibility. Using, critical theory and ethnography, my project ultimately works to destabilize compulsions toward “The [White] Monogamous Couple,” gesturing toward a more liberated future for all of us feeling and enacting desires— whether through monogamous sexual and intimate couplings, multi-partner arrangements, or something beyond. MELLON



Camille Borders history

Queering Emancipation: Crafting a Language of Resistance

After emancipation, black women built intimate relationships which allowed for community growth. These households posed a threat to the patriarchy because they appeared deviant in contrast to the nuclear heteronormative family structure. I aim to build room within US slavery scholarship to present moments of agency and thrival between intimate relationships between freed black women, while examining their relationships through a nuanced language of black sexuality. Overall, I look to the geographies of black female intimacy as a site of queer kinship. Utilizing queer of color critique, I will represent female slaves as exhibiting agency within their presentations of deviancy. 

Savannah Jacobson history

“The Evil Was in Her”: Black Women, Criminality, and the Great Migration

the juniors

My project looks at black female criminality in New York City during the Great Migration. I look specifically at how black women participated in various informal economies, from gambling rings to sex work, as a means of creating their own economic mobility. My work probes at the meaning of respectability and investigates its intersection with criminality, while also looking at Great Migration’s specific effects in preventing black women from partaking in the formal economy.   MELLON



T-herbert Jeffrey philosophy

Locating Racism

Have you ever been on a train or walking down the street and noticed someone you thought was especially threatening? Were you suspicious that this threatening individual would harm you? Perhaps the person was a 6' 4", 240 pound guy. Perhaps he also had his pants sagging. Or maybe he was just 6'4". Or maybe he was just bigger than you. Maybe he was just black. In what situation is this suspicion reasonable and when does it become racially charged? My project, through the use of philosophical thought experiments, examines permissible and impermissible acts motivated by suspicion.

Kiara Sample

african & african american studies “The Walking Wounded”: Paranoia, Surveillance, and Women in Black Power

My research investigates the psychological impact of surveillance on the ability of black women to reach liberation in revolutionary movements. I am focusing on the methods and tactics used by FBI agents under the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) during the Black Power Movement. Using FBI files and interviews I hope to piece together the psychological state of black women in the Black Panther Party living under intense scrutiny, as well as document the long-term impact of surveillance on black women. MELLON



Clayton Covington

international and area studies

Unsettling Homophobia: Homoeroticism as Trauma, Pleasure, and

Liberation in Jamaican Slavery

My project analyzes the widely-overlooked nuances of how homophobia was institutionalized through colonialism in Jamaica. I challenge conventional definitions and attitudes of homophobia by discerning homoeroticism’s paradoxical power to serve both as a field of domination and as a medium for liberation for enslaved black men. By drawing attention to enslaved black men’s varied experiences, I hope to recount this history—unflattened and traumatic—so that it can further understanding of Jamaica’s complex relationship with homoeroticism and thus, with homophobia.

Misael de la Rosa spanish

Huelga: Chicano Contestation of the American Monolingual

the new class

Literature Ethos through Code-Switching

My project examines the way in which Chicano poets employ code-switching to create paradigmatic spaces in which the monolingual literature ethos of the US is contested. I will be looking at Mexican-American, Mexican, and American histories in order to gain an understanding of why, when, where, and how these cultures interacted. With this in mind, I seek to understand the role that language has played for Chicanos as a source of pride, discrimination, and a tool for resistance.




Morgan Holloman

african & african american studies Not My Will, But the Will of The Father: Analyzing How the Black Church

& Black Mothers Inflict Emotional and Mental Abuse on Black Girls

My project arose out of a deep concern for the lack of cultural understanding and awareness when discussing the role of Black motherhood and religion in Black culture and community. My research aims to identify and quantify the rates and occurrences at which emotional, mental, and psychological abuse plague Black girls as a result of religious irresponsibility and abuse.  

Ebonie Pollock art history

Subverting the Canon: Suzanne Valadon and the Black Nude in

Modern French Art

I will examine the two paintings, Black Venus and Mulatto Woman Seated with an Apple, which were painted in 1919 by the French artist Suzanne Valadon. I plan to analyze the way the paintings function as vestiges of the French academic tradition while engaging the visual language of the avant-garde. Furthermore, I plan to explore the various ways that the cultural milieu of twentieth-century Paris might have influenced Valadon's imagery.   MELLON



Adon Wade-Currie american culture studies

Real Southern Hip-Hop: Mitigating the Differences Between

Our Conceptualizations of Identity

My project attempts to better understand the social phenomenon of gatekeeping by studying how Southern hip-hop gained legitimacy beginning in the 1990's. By understanding gatekeeping in this context, I seek to begin developing a working theory of how it functions with respect to racial-minority identity groups.

Each Mellon Mays cohort brings its own unique style to academic research and as the Washington University program welcomes its 25th cohort, we are excited to see the work that our fellows will produce in the future




Profile for Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

The Mellon Magazine '17  

Each year the Washington University Mellon Mays fellows create a newsletter presenting their work to readers. This year's newsletter celebra...

The Mellon Magazine '17  

Each year the Washington University Mellon Mays fellows create a newsletter presenting their work to readers. This year's newsletter celebra...