During the first Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program meeting of 2018, all of us -- my two co-coordinators and our ten brilliant fellows -- talked about what we had been up to over winter break. I spent time in Paris with my also-brilliant research partner Marie Mallet, and I told the fellows about how much of that visit we'd spent just planning what else we needed to do. I skated over all the intellectual and emotional labor (and time) involved in doing that thinking and planning and goal-setting and mapping everything out on both our calendars for the next eight months. But they asked for the details, and it made me think.
MMUF is a program designed to help bright undergraduates of color pursue their doctorates in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and to pursue tenure track positions, thus diversifying the professoriate. Part of what I do as a coordinator of Bryn Mawr's program, and what other coordinators do at their programs all over the USA and in South Africa, is to demystify as many aspects of academia as we can (e.g., graduate school, tenure, research, etc.). So much of what happens in academia -- how to get into it, what you do once you're in it, how to succeed in it -- is opaque (intentionally so), and whenever you're struggling you feel like you're the only one who is or ever has. And because of all that, I know my amazing Mellon fellows aren't the only ones who could possibly benefit from my and Marie's strategies.
The whole process that we went through is something I developed and modified, and then scrapped and rebuilt, over the years in reaction to institutional constraints, my health, my successes, and most importantly, my failures. I didn't come up with all of it on my own, that's for sure, and it's probably not all that original. I am, however, a world-class neurotic, organized, planful writer-freak who does all the things I do while managing chronic health issues, and I'm damn proud of it. So if there's anything I can do to help anyone else, especially if I can prevent even a single person from reinventing the wheel, I'm cheerful as all hell to do it.