Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 12:30 pm


Four Grinnell College students are preparing to go to the head of the class as the next generation of college professors. The first cohort of Mellon Mays Fellows, made possible through a $500,000 four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been selected from among third-year students at Grinnell who aspire to teach at the college level.

The Mellon Mays grant program encourages students, especially those in culturally underrepresented groups, to earn Ph.D.s in the arts and sciences, pursue college teaching careers, and demonstrate a commitment to eradicate racial disparities. The Grinnell fellows are mentored by current faculty and receive funding for conference attendance, loan repayment support for graduate school, and other resources that will connect them to a national network of future college professors.

The four aspiring professors are: Rane Baldwin, a history major from McPherson, Kan.; Juan Garcia, a Russian and sociology major from Woodbridge, Va.; Laura Garcia, a mathematics major from Los Angeles, Calif.; and Rosalie “Zasha” Russell, an anthropology major from Houston, Tex.

Shanna Benjamin, assistant professor of English and faculty coordinator for the Mellon Mays fellowship program at Grinnell, said that the students are beginning their fellowships by conducting independent research under the guidance of faculty mentors.

“Faculty mentors provide an important connection in this program because they reflect the success to which these students aspire,” Benjamin said. “The Mellon Mays fellowship helps the students selected to be intentional and deliberate about their choices to teach, plan, and invest in their own success.”