Summer Research Programs for Students of Color

Go getchu some research experience, fam.

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help my fellow students of color out. The world of academic is purposefully clandestine, and I find that I often don’t have a lot of guidance. While I rely on my professors and friends for assistance, I still had to do a lot on my own, like finding and applying to programs, writing proposals and figuring out how to market myself as a student/researcher/scholar/etc. I will eventually write a piece on writing these kinds of proposals (once I feel confident enough that I’ve mastered the process my damn self), but by the time that comes, most of these deadlines will have passed so it won’t be as directly useful. Nonetheless, stay on the lookout for things like that.

Last summer I spent about eight weeks at the University of North Carolina as a fellow of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP). I’ve talked about the program in bits and pieces, and while I do have some initial *regrets,* which I’ll discuss later on, the program did do its job of shaping me into, in my opinion, a competitive candidate for graduate admissions. The program offered *free* GRE prep, a generous stipend, the opportunity to engage with other scholars in my field, yada-yada. But the greatest part was the opportunity to do engaging independent research. While I had just come from conducting a research project when I was abroad in Senegal, I still found that my time at MURAP was far more intensive and my research far more critical than what I had done abroad. Perhaps it was the competitive atmosphere, everyone attempting to one-up everyone else, show off their deftness of theory and language, or maybe it was because our research was closely being groomed and monitored by scholars in our fields of interests. I’m not really sure. The paper I wrote for MURAP sparked my interest in literary theory and I am still working on it today, several months later.


This blog post is going to offer you an outline of some summer research programs available to undergraduate students of color interested in pursuing graduate education in a variety of disciplines, most notably the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Although I am a Mellon Mays fellow, many of these programs are not MMUF-specific and are open to students from around the country. I recommend that your read and fully grasp the eligibility and program requirements before applying, although I will attempt to summarize what the linked website say in this post. This is by no means a definitive list, but just a way to get your feet wet in this process.

If you are thinking about applying to a summer research program, before you even continue reading, plan a meeting with your adviser in which you will 1) discuss your plans for the summer 2) ask for a letter of recommendation! Sooner is better than later!

  1. Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP)

Location: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Deadline: February 10, 2017
Program Dates: May 21 to July 27
Fields: See here

Major perks

  • Complementary GRE preparation course
  • Independent Research
  • Writing and Presentation Workshops
  • Opportunity to present at an academic conference
  • Generous stipend

Hm. What to say. As I mentioned, this is what I did in the Summer of 2016. Was an interesting experience, and I learned a lot about myself. I can speak the most about MURAP since I actually attended this program. I worked with Dr. James Coleman, an English professor with whom I have developed a working rapport and who graciously agreed to support my candidacies for graduate school after having worked with him. The program, I believe, offers a $5400 stipend altogether, broken down into a research stipend of $3900 delivered three times throughout the program, and a $1500 food stipend. Mellon fellows are usually not able to pocket both their summer stipend AND the MURAP stipend, although I have heard of exceptions. You will be housed at UNC Chapel Hill, a city of a school with a transportation system and everything. Lots of independence and freedom to counter that “summer camp” feeling that sometimes happens in summer programs. The major perk of this program, besides that hefty stipend, is the complementary GRE prep. That’s why I chose to go to MURAP as opposed to the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute or the Leadership Alliance program at the University of Pennsylvania — I knew that I’d have to talk the GRE, and that my scores would unfortunately matter and therefore I decided to take the test prep that came included rather than hire a tutor or try (and fail) to prepare myself for the test. Ultimately, I only had to take the GRE once, and I thank the staff at the MURAP program for my good grades on the test.

One of the things that bothered me about MURAP was its location. While the Research Triangle is a rich (in both senses of the word) area of the state, you still are in North Carolina. There wasn’t much to do besides explore the college town of Chapel Hill, which one can do in an afternoon or two. There are a decent amount of students around during the summer though, especially when the summer sessions begin in June. The website, linked above, is also incredibly vague and poorly tended. You’ll have to dig around for information, but you can access the application information here. Ultimately, I would recommend the program as a top choice and am glad to be a sort of *unofficial ambassador.*

  1. Leadership Alliance Summer Research – Early Identification Program

Location: See here
Deadline: February 1
Program Dates: Vary by institution
Field: See location link for specifications*

Major perks

  • Be at a top research university (!)
  • Independent research
  • Access to Leadership Alliance perks (!!!)
  • Deliver presentations at the Leadership Alliance National Consortium

As I mentioned above, I somewhat regret my decision to go to MURAP instead of the Leadership Alliance program at Penn, mostly because of location. I would have been in Philadelphia, where all of my friends were, and would have had the opportunity to explore the city and the school to which I am most excited about applying. UNC is nice and all, but you still feel that “middle of nowhere” feeling which you don’t feel at all in the rush of University City. As petty as that may seem, it did make somewhat of a difference during my time there. Another reason is because Leadership Alliance perks are awesome. MURAP has its alumni network, but LA fellows are treated almost like Mellon fellows insofar that there is an online database of resources which all applicants can access. Many of my graduate schools waive fees for Leadership Alliance fellows, which saves a ton of money, especially for people who either didn’t get Mellon Mays or McNair or were ineligible.

When you apply to LA, you are applying to conduct research at three universities. Depending on the school, your opportunities will change, so you should therefore pay close attention to where you want to go and what you’d like to do. If you’re interests are in African-American poetry, you should look at all of the applicable schools (those with a Humanities X is a good place to start) to choose which would be a good fit. You won’t really know with whom you’ll be working, but that’s not really important. It’s just important that the school can support your research, and doing this is the first step towards picking a good graduate school. I believe I applied to Brown, Penn and Columbia (? not really sure tbh) and I only got into Penn, but it was a week after I had accepted my offer with MURAP.

Unlike most of the programs here, rising sophomores are allowed to apply, but I believe that this may vary per school. It is important that you check on the individual research site websites before you begin drafting your application materials. I’m also not sure what the amount of the stipend was for LA, although I believe it was lower than MURAP. It also did not come with GRE prep, which is a deal breaker for some, as it was for me.

  1. Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute

Location: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
Deadline: January 10, 2017
Program Dates: June 5 – July 14
Field: Humanities

Major perks

  • Spend the summer at International House in New York City
  • $3000 stipend
  • Seminars delivered by *distinguished* scholars

Perhaps the most prestigious-sounding fellowship on here for students interested in African Diaspora studies, the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute is housed at the world-renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a wing of the New York Public Library system. The program allows students to prepare a research prospectus which can be used as the foundation for future research, and therefore is not as intensive in terms of writing as MURAP or LA insofar that you are preparing a prospectus, not a paper. While the line between these two may seem foggy, the reality is that your prospectus is the outline you typically present for approval from a department before you begin research. MURAP had us prepare our prospectuses during the first half-month, and we proceeded to dive into our actual papers after. Therefore, you may not have that nice writing sample for your application in the fall after going to the Schomburg-Mellon program, unless you chose to send a prospectus, which your advisor may not approve.

Nonetheless, living in New York City is a joy in itself, especially with a nice $3000 stipend to spend. You won’t have to worry about meals or housing accommodations, either, for all of that is included in your package. You’ll also can attend seminars delivered by some of the foremost scholars in the field, many of which are at the Schomburg for their own research. You won’t however, get some of the LA perks, like fee waivers, nor will you have an alumni network with which you can easily interact, although I imagine such a network exists nonetheless. Despite the name, I don’t think you need to be black to apply either, although your research must touch on issues of Black identity.

  1. African American Literatures and Cultures Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio

Location: University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Deadline: March 1
Program Dates: June 4 – June 29
Field: presumably African-American Literature or Cultural Studies

Major perks

  • Specialized training
  • GRE prep
  • Excursion to New York City
  • $2000 research stipend

For all the perpetually late bunch, this program has a remarkable deadline of March 1. You will likely here back from some of your other programs before this application is even due, which means you can prioritize on each app as opposed to doing them all at once. This program is a specialized program for students interested in African-American literary and cultural studies, and therefore someone interested in another humanities field, like art history, for example, may have a hard time making their case for the program, although cultural studies is so large and encompassing a field that anything is really possible. Nonetheless, the program has GRE prep, which is a major plus, even though the stipend is meager in comparison to the programs I’ve put above. The application is relatively short and to-the-point, and can likely be done in an afternoon. You do need to be a college junior (or have one year left in your studies), but the program does not seem to ask for a transcript, which is great for students who had a rocky start. They also may have implied that you send a transcript as a part of your “required documents.”

  1. Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP)

Location: See here
Deadline: February 10
Program Dates: Varies per school
Field: Varies (Seems to be mostly sciences)

Major perks

  • Independent research
  • Graduate school preparedness
  • GRE prep (varies per school)
  • Stipend (varies per school)

The SROP program is a part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, a consortium of institutions across the United States. I can’t really say much about the program, since each institution is different. Unlike Leadership Alliance, there don’t seem to be many unifying elements other than the name. SROP does not seem to be exclusively for or catered to students of color, either, meaning it will likely be more of a rigorous acceptance process. The stipends, according to the website, vary from 3500 – 6000, which is A LOT for an undergraduate program, although I was unable to find out if this is true or not. The University of Illinois’s program offers a GRE preparation institute, but the program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln does not. I’d advise you look closely at each site.

  1. Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the University of California, Irvine

Location: University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA
Deadline: February 3*
Program Dates: June 19 – August 12*
Field: Varies

Major perks

  • Alleged pipeline program to get students interested in graduate studies at UCI
  • Generous stipend
  • Research and writing experience
  • Research presentation experience
  • GRE prep & GRE exam (assumedly the cost of the exam is covered, too)

This program seems pretty promising, and is open to sophomores, juniors, seniors and even Master’s students who are interested in pursuing a PhD at Irvine. I’m actually considering applying to this program since it seems to be open to graduating seniors, although I’ve already taken the GRE and kind of don’t want to have to take it again, even if it’s paid for. The website has not been updated, so all of the dates are for 2016. I would be cautious of this, for the application may due sooner or later than anticipated. The stipend of $3000 is quite generous, especially considering that your housing will be covered. Food, however, is not specified. In many ways, the program seems a lot like MURAP insofar that you are assigned a specialist in your field to monitor and supervise your research, while also given the opportunity to present your work at a research symposium. However, MURAP has a larger stipend and a $1500 food allotment, bringing the total to about $5400, a whole $2400 more than Irvine. While money isn’t really why you should be doing it, for some people, the money is the major selling-point. It isn’t specified whether you will have any writing or research methodologies workshops, though. The fields available are vast, so students interested in fields from classics to cultural anthropology to astrophysics are encouraged to apply.

  1. BioMedical Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Yale

Location: Yale University, New Haven, CT
Deadline: January 13
Program Dates: June 5 – August 2
Field: Sciences

Major perks

  • Generous stipend
  • Research mentorship and shadowing
  • Research presentation experience

This is an interesting program for students of color interested in academic careers in biomedical studies. The program’s eligibility require applicants belong to a group determined by the NIH as underrepresented in the sciences, which, according to this website, means Black, Latino, Native and Pacific Islander students. It is also limited to freshmen and sophomores, which would be a great option for students interested in sciences yet still unsure of their plans for the summer. Nice, hefty $4500 stipend and travel and hotel arrangements for one parent to attend your presentation at the end-of-program symposium.

  1. Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Drexel University

Location: Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Deadline: February 6
Program Dates: June 5 – August 11
Field: Sciences

Major perks

  • Generous stipend
  • Research presentations
  • Research mentorship and shadowing

This program, as well as the one at the UT Southwestern, are also good options for students interested in biomedical research, but only as they channel into academic careers (PhDs, MD/PhDs not just MDs). I would recommend applying to all three programs just to give yourself several options. The difference, however, is that the Drexel program does not seem to guarantee you campus housing, although they make a vague statement about living nearby which means that they may help you with your living accommodations and rent payments. Rising sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply, but graduating seniors are not. The stipend is for $3000.

Additional sources: Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research, Association of American Medical Colleges

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