College senior Tanika Beamon, an Anthropology and Folklore major, almost gave up her hopes of becoming a professor because of the lack of support she received from University faculty. Then in the fall of her junior year, Beamon was selected for the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program -- a program which provides its members with the money to do almost anything they want to enhance their undergraduate education. So this summer, Beamon went to study at Oxford University's African Studies Center, and now plans to pursue an advanced folklore or anthropolgy degree. The fellowship program has improved life for Beamon and eight other minority undergraduates -- seven of them seniors -- since it began in early 1989. Each Mellon fellow is matched with a top minority faculty member -- among them history professors Mary Frances Berry and Evelyn Higginbotham -- who provides advice and research opportunities. "We want them all to turn into college professors in the next 10 years," said Valarie Cade, assistant provost and assistant to the president. Cade is also a Mellon mentor. Cade said that the program's mentor aspect is very important for encouraging minority students. "It's important to have persons of color and women as role models for persons of color and women," Cade said. "When I studied American History, all these white guys did everything. I said, 'Where was everybody else?' " Cade wrote the proposal in late 1988 which earned the University a place in the program. There are now chapters at more than two dozen top universities nationwide. Janice Curington, the newly-appointed assistant College dean for minority affairs and advising, also said that the increased access to minority senior faculty is a benefit. "The closeness encourages African Americans," Curington said this week. "It makes graduate school a reality for them." College senior Duchess Harris, who is a Mellon fellow, said that the program emphasizes the value of a Ph.D. "Not enough prestige is put on getting a Ph.D at a pre-professional school like Penn," she said. "But the program gives us the message that it is important."Comments powered by Disqus
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