The UNCF/Mellon Programs Staff at the 2012 UNCF/Mellon Programs Conference.

The 2016 UNCF/Mellon Programs Advisory Board & Selection Committee Members

Dr. Celeste Lee  (Selection Committee Member 2014, 2015 & 2016), Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of West Georgia.

Dr. Leroy Davis, Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at Emory University & UNCF/Mellon Summer Institute Associate Director.

Dr. Michael Gomez, Professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University & Consultant for the UNCF/Mellon Programs International Faculty Seminar. 

Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College & Adjunct Professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies.

Dr. Bettye Parker-Smith, Retired Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Tougaloo College.

Dr. Vincent Willis (Selection Committee Member 2014, 2015 & 2016), Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at New College, The University of Alabama.


UNCF/Mellon Programs

The UNCF/Mellon Programs were created in 1989 with a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Designed with the goal of strengthening the number of qualified minority faculty within the Academy, these programs target undergraduates and faculty at the consortium of 37 UNCF institutions and Hampton University. Since the inaugural year, the Programs have instituted the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (1989), the Summer Internship Program for Ecology Research (1994), and the four components of the Faculty Career Enhancement Program including the Faculty/Doctoral Fellowship* (1990), the International Faculty Seminar (2002), the Teaching and Learning Institute (2001), and most recently the Faculty Residency Program (2006).

* The Faculty/Doctoral Fellowship Program has been discontinued.

Our Mission

The Mission of the UNCF/Mellon Programs is to Transform the Academy by creating a pipeline of undergraduates who will pursue the Ph.D. with the sole intention of becoming faculty members. Our mission is to aid in the transformation of the Academy through the presence of a racially and ethnically diverse faculty whose scholarship and teaching represent diverse world views, appreciation for issues of social justice and who share a commitment to continuing to develop a pipeline of scholars of color to inhabit the halls of the Academy as students and faculty. In addition, the Programs aim to strengthen teaching and learning at UNCF institutions by creating opportunities for UNCF faculty to enhance their teaching and scholarship through the participation in Faculty Career Enhancement Opportunities that focus on comparative scholarship and analysis of selected topics and encourage collaboration with distinguished faculty within and outside of the UNCF consortium. Faculty Career Enhancement programs support the continued growth and development of UNCF faculty, and we aim to support initiatives that enhance the teaching and learning environment.



Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., Director

Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Spelman College and Director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs. Her teaching and research interests in the areas of sociology, criminology, law and violence against women support the Law and Criminology concentration in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.  Dr. Spence has served in the capacities of Assistant Dean for Freshman Studies, Associate Academic Dean and Academic Dean at Spelman College.   Her interest in issues of higher education access, service-learning, gender role socialization and violence against women frame her research, writing, community service involvement and public speaking.   Her  publications include “A Woman’s College Perspective on the Education of Men” (2004) New Directors for Student Series and “The Spelman College Total Person Commits to Positive Social Change” (2006), Engaging Departments:  Moving Faculty Cultures from Private to Public, Individual to Collective Force for the Common Good.   Her most recent publication “Does Race Trump Gender? Black Women Negotiating their Spaces of Intersection in the 2008 Presidential Campaign” is included in the edited volume “Who Should Be First? Feminists Speak Out on the 2008 Presidential Campaign” (2010).  As Director of the UNCF Mellon Programs, Dr. Spence creates, manages and oversees a suite of future faculty development and faculty career enhancement programs for UNCF (United Negro College Fund) students and faculty. The UNCF/Mellon Programs are housed at Spelman College and funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

In her newest role, Dr. Spence serves as the Faculty Lead for the Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program.  Dr. Spence is committed to helping Spelman women fully actualize their commitment to “making a choice to change the world “through social justice advocacy.   She has served as consultant for the Ford Foundation Institutional Transformation Project, the University of Chicago Provost Initiative on Minority Affairs, the Agnes Scott College Center for Teaching and Learning  and the Georgia Department of Corrections.  She currently serves as Faculty Trustee on the Spelman College Board of Trustees and is the former chair of the Board of the non-profit agency Men Stopping Violence. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Georgia Women for Change and the Women’s Solidarity Society for the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Dr. Spence is a graduate of Spelman College where she earned her B.A. degree. She earned both the Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Rutgers University.  She is married to Harold W. Spence and they are the proud parents of two daughters, Christie ’05 and Courtnee ’08.


Gabrielle Samuel-O’Brien, Senior Programs Coordinator

A native of Trinidad and Tobago and a Spelman College alumna, Ms. Gabrielle Samuel-O’Brien currently serves as the Senior Programs Coordinator for the UNCF/Mellon Programs. Ms. Samuel-O’Brien previously held the positions of UNCF/Mellon Programs Coordinator and Faculty Career Enhancement Programs Coordinator. Under the direction of the Director of UNCF Mellon Programs, Ms. Samuel-O’Brien manages and coordinates the day-to-day activities of the UNCF/Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship Program and UNCF/Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Programs. Ms. Samuel-O’Brien also serves as the liaison between the Programs Office and all Mellon Affiliates. She is largely responsible for tracking the progress and success of the programs and assisting the Director with the flow of communications on behalf of the Programs.
Ms. Samuel-O’Brien’s family has been impacted by Multiple Sclerosis and as a result, she is a passionate and tireless advocate of finding a cure for the disease and participates in numerous volunteer and fund raising activities for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, GA Chapter.


Ada Jackson, Senior Administrative Assistant

Ada Jackson has served as the Senior Administrative Assistant for the UNCF/Mellon Programs since 2003. Her major responsibilities are assisting the Director with organizing and implementing various projects for the UNCF/Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship Program, the UNCF/Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Programs, the UNCF/Mellon Ecology Program, and the MMUF Women’s College Collaborative Coloquia Project. She manages the UNCF/Mellon operating budgets and is responsible for requesting various stipends/awards for fellows and faculty recipients. Ms. Jackson plays a vital role in organizing the annual UNCF/Mellon Programs Conference and the MMUF Southeastern Regional Conference.
Prior to joining the UNCF/Mellon Programs Team, Ms. Jackson served as the Administrative Assistant for the Academic Dean’s Office at Spelman College. She attended Mississippi Valley State University and majored in Office Administration. In addition to her responsibilities with the UNCF/Mellon Programs, Ms. Jackson volunteers with Hands on Atlanta and has helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity.