Institutional Privilege

Upon being admitted to Pomona College, I knew that studying at this institution carried a lot of weight. I did not understand just how much until applying to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. MMUF, for short, is an undergraduate fellowship program that is meant to increase the number of professors from marginalized and underrepresented identities. Through weekly seminar discussions, financial assistance to conduct two research projects before graduation, and overall guidance and knowledge on the graduate school application process and everything leading up to it, MMUF supports fellows in getting to graduate school. My year’s cohort consists of 10 undergraduate students from the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of 5 small, neighboring liberal arts colleges. This program has 48+ partner institutions and the Claremont Colleges joined the program only two years ago. When I applied to the program, I didn’t really have an idea of what obtaining a PhD entailed. I rarely considered graduate school, mostly because I knew very little about it. I had heard a few times before then, that Pomona College did a good job in preparing its students for graduate school, but I did not so much count myself as one of the students who would do it. I did not really know that was an option for me until joining the program. I now believe that I have the knowledge, the people and the opportunities necessary to access the resources I need to obtain my PhD, something I never thought before. The clout that Pomona College has as a private, liberal arts institution with a substantial endowment, is a huge reason for why MMUF was able to set roots on our campus. MMUF is one of the many programs and resources available to students whose existence may relate back to the institutional privilege of being at an uber-wealthy, private liberal arts college.