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Empowering the Next Generation of Humanities Scholars

Growing up, Vivian Ngo always had a book in her hands. Within the pages, she learned about language, emotion, culture and friendship, planting the seeds for a lifelong love of learning.

Today, she is a comparative literature student at Cal State Fullerton, with dreams of becoming a professor, speaking three languages and creating musical compositions.

“We take a book, and only understand it when we live through human connection. That is what I love, sharing ideas and thoughts with my colleagues,” said Ngo, who hopes to conduct research on the positive effects of literature in helping young children learn a second language.

Ngo is one of four recipients of the new Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, along with American studies major Daniella Camacho, linguistics major Danielle Narcisco and Spanish major Ileana Perez.

The focus of the fellowship, supported through a $444,319 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is to increase academic opportunities and provide financial support for students planning to pursue doctoral degrees in the humanities immediately after completing their bachelor’s degrees.

During their undergraduate years, fellows will be paired with faculty mentors to develop research plans, meet with top scholars and other humanities professionals, and prepare for internships at research institutions across the United States.

“I am excited for the opportunities this program will provide our students and faculty, and the long-term impact it will have on higher education,” said Sheryl Fontaine, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which serves more than 8,000 students. “Receiving this Mellon Mays grant, our campus joins a list of institutions of higher education that, until now, has mostly included private colleges or researchbased universities.”

Cal State Fullerton took the lead in writing and securing the grant as part of a five-campus consortium — with Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State San Bernardino — serving more than 100,000 students, the majority of whom are underrepresented, firstgeneration or low-income students. The total funding for the five CSU campuses is $2.2 million.

“This collaboration between MMUF, Cal State Fullerton and four of our sister campuses has the potential to become one of the most impactful partnerships in the three-decade history of this transformative program,” said Fram Virjee, CSUF president. “In addition to better serving our students and elevating their academic aspirations beyond a bachelor’s degree, the work and success of this consortia will be of value to other public institutions and to the national academic landscape.”

For Camacho, who is interested in researching such topics as race representation in film, the evolution of the internet and social media, and swing dance culture, the fellowship provides valuable resources to support her goal of becoming a professor.

“I am grateful for the opportunities Mellon Mays provides in order to help us, such as stipends for research, travel and accommodations for conferences, and mentors that will help guide us through the process of applying to graduate school,” said Camacho. “I am most looking forward to making connections along the way and learning from this experience.”

To give to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, contact Alina Mircea-Trotz, the college's senior director of development, at 657-278-2559 or