ACM Mellon Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF)

St. Olaf Campus Deadline: October 28, 2020 (11:00 PM)

St. Olaf College is proud to participate in the Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF), one of three main components of the Undergraduate and Faculty Fellows Program to Diversify the Professoriate funded by an $8.1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Associated Colleges of Midwest (ACM) and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). If you have questions, please contact Melissa Melgar, St. Olaf GSEF Coordinator, at


(Click to view a short webinar with info for students wanting to apply for GSEF.)

St. Olaf College will select TWO students this year for the the GSEF program. These students will:

  1. Receive on-campus mentoring opportunities from St. Olaf faculty and staff as well as participate in monthly graduate school preparatory workshops in collaboration with the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars Program.
  2. Participate in two Annual Summits in Chicago in each summer of the program.
  3. Receive a paid summer research opportunity following the applicant’s junior year at one of the research universities that comprise the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC).*See “CIC Institutions” below for official campus listings.*

This program is intended to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue graduate study, research, and/or teaching careers in higher and post-secondary education in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, and/or the arts.

Student Profiles

The following students were selected as St. Olaf Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF) recipients. Click on their name to learn more about their experience.

Cohort #1 Cohort #2 Cohort #3 Cohort #3
Jasmine Aramburu
Major: Social Work
Research placement: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jenna Castillo
Majors: Sociology; Anthropology
Research placement: The Ohio State University
Iain Irwin
Major: ReligionResearch placement: University of Chicago
Marisabel Cordova
Major: Music
Emily Hynes
Major: Vocal Performance
Research placement: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Alexander Cavender
Majors: Philosophy; Religion
Research placement: University of Iowa
Ian Roback
Major: Environmental Studies and Political Science
Zoua Lor
Major: Psychology
Research placement: Michigan State University
Marnicia Johnson
Major: Psychology
Research placement: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
DeAnia Brown
Major: Psychology Studies and Studio Art
Karina Mojica
Majors: Psychology; Spanish
Research placement: Michigan State University
Daniel Vega
Majors: History; Economics
Research placement: University of Michigan


The GSEF program is designed for students interested in pursuing study and research in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, and arts.

All qualified sophomores from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply for the GSEF, including:

      • African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders;
      • First-generation college students; and
      • Individuals who have followed non-traditional pathways to college due to exceptional talent and motivation in the face of adversity, such as societal, economic, or academic disadvantages.

Applicants should indicate a strong interest in pursuing a doctoral degree in the humanities or humanistic social sciences, or a terminal master’s degree in the arts, and/or a genuine interest in academic research and/or teaching at the college level as a career. Please note that this does NOT include programs leading to professional degrees, e.g. medical school (M.D.), law school (J.D.), or business school (MBA).

Additionally, students must meet the following criteria for eligibility:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Students who have applied for and received Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are also eligible. Students with DACA status must provide documentation that their DACA status is current and will not expire prior to the end of the GSEF program.
  • Have sophomore standing (or have completed at least three semesters of undergraduate education, or their equivalent in terms or blocks as determined by their home ACM institution) with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Students must be eligible for an additional two more years of study at St. Olaf College.
  • Have a strong interest in pursuing terminal graduate work in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, and/or the arts.

Application Process

St. Olaf GSEF applications are due March 5, 2019.  Students who are interested in applying should consult the GSEF Application Guide. Applications and recommendations must be submitted to Melissa Melgar in the TRIO/Education Department TOH 290-4 or via campus mail or email (

The GSEF 2020-2021 Application requires a statement of research interest and a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation from faculty members.

Letters of recommendation should be sent directly to Melissa Melgar by email or campus mail ( by the recommender.

Summer Research Opportunity on CIC Campus

In addition to the mentoring from St. Olaf College faculty, students participating in the GSEF Program will be expected to complete 8-10 weeks of full-time (~40 hours per week) research on a CIC campus during the summer following their junior year.

The objective and goal of the summer research opportunity is to provide the GSE Fellow with a better understanding of what it might be like to become a graduate student pursuing a terminal degree in their field, and to cultivate passion and enthusiasm for continuing their studies in the discipline.

Please note that most of the CIC institutions have a summer research opportunity program already in place. If placed on one of these campuses, GSE Fellows will be expected to participate fully in the research directed activities and supplemental coursework (which typically includes: learning to write strong personal statements and abstracts, practicing giving talks, GRE preparation, etc.), and they are strongly encouraged to also attend social activities and other programs for their cohort.

Placement at a CIC institution

As part of the application process, students should spend some time reviewing the faculty websites and departmental sites at the CIC institutions, and students are encouraged to suggest preferences for specific campuses, departments, and/or faculty members that they feel could provide a good fit for their academic and career interests.

Once chosen by St. Olaf College, the Graduate School Exploration Fellows will submit their materials to the ACM Coordinator and Campus Liaison for the Undergraduate Fellows Program (by no later than June), so that their information can be shared with the CIC staff and project coordinators who will match students with faculty mentors based on their academic and research interests.

Students will hear back from CIC campuses with their offers by the end of March during their junior year. Once students accept an offer, they cannot accept any other offers. Acceptance decisions are final.

Fellow Expectations and Benefits

GSE Fellows are expected to take part in two Annual Summits in Chicago. Between their sophomore and junior year, GSE Fellows will engage in workshops, panels, and presentations that will help begin to prepare for their summer research experience the following summer.

GSE Fellows will receive a $4,000 stipend (funded through the grant) during their 8-10 week summer research experience at a CIC institution between their junior and senior year.

Additionally, the programs cover housing and travel as an added benefit, and many (but not all) of the CIC institutions offer either a partial or full meal plan. Once the GSE Fellow completes their summer research experience, presents at the Annual Summit in Chicago (August), and meets the expectations of the program as determined by their home campus, they will become eligible for graduate school visit assistance funds during their senior year (up to $1,000.00 per Fellow) and assistance for scholarly-related activities (up to $250.00 per Fellow) through the grant.

*CIC Institutions 

University of Chicago, University of Illinois – Champaign Urbana, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, and University of Wisconsin – Madison.