2014 Mellon Mays Fellows Selected

Friday, May. 23, 2014 11:51 am

Three Grinnell College students have been chosen as Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows (MMUF): Alexandra Odom ’16, Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16, and Connie Wang ’16. They are the sixth MMUF cohort from Grinnell.

“Mellon is such an incredible opportunity and it’s so life-changing,” says Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English, coordinator of the Mellon Mays program at Grinnell College, and a former Mellon Mays fellow herself. The MMUF program aims to give students, particularly African-Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Native Americans, and other underrepresented minorities a path to an academic career.

“Mellon Mays is a program that follows our undergraduate fellows from the time they are sophomores in college to the moment they are tenured professors. There is no other program that does what Mellon Mays does,” Benjamin says.

The program provides fellows with a faculty mentor who oversees their work on a two-year research project. Fellows will also meet regularly with their peers and get help with planning for an academic career. If they pursue doctoral work in eligible fields, fellows will receive assistance with repayment of undergraduate loans.

Meet the Fellows

Fellow: Alexandra Odom, history
Mentor: Albert Lacson, assistant professor of history
“For my research, I’m going to compare the British and American civil rights movements and minority women’s roles within them,” Odom says. During her study in the Grinnell-in-London program in fall 2014, she hopes to make good progress on the British portion of her topic.

Fellow: Connie Wang, philosophy
Mentor: Johanna Meehan, professor of philosophy and McCay-Casady Professor of Humanities
“I would like to explore how externally projected images become internalized in racial conceptions of identity and how the ‘colonizer’s gaze’ becomes the paradigm through which the ‘colonized’ view and come to desire themselves,” Wang says.

Jermaine Stewart-Webb and Shanna BenjaminFellow: Jermaine Stewart-Webb, English
Mentor: Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English
“The National Institute of Health reports that homelessness runs rampant within the LGBTQ community,” Stewart-Webb says. “My research asks, how do LGBTQ communities of color here in the United States, and those in Paris, France, imagine home and recreate familial bonds through Ball Circuit Culture?" He plans to study at the American University Center of Provence in spring 2015 to research the part of his project pertaining to LGBTQ communities in France. 

During their senior year, these fellows will present the results of their research on campus.

“The MMUF program aligns perfectly with our commitment to social change, social justice, excellence in undergraduate research, and advising and mentoring as an overarching philosophy of the college,” Benjamin says. “It’s a perfect way to demonstrate achievement and diversity. It takes what Grinnell is doing to another level, and it gives students an opportunity to really see what a life in the pursuit of a career of the mind looks like.”

Alexandra Odom ’16 is from Baltimore, Md. Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16 is from Hawthorne, Calif. Connie Wang ’16 is from San Gabriel, Calif.