Academics People and Community

New fellowship offers undergraduates a means to pursue their passions

The Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship gives students the funding to explore a topic of their choice. Awardees have a chance to delve into creative projects outside the traditional classroom setting.
Nhadya S. Lawes
Nhadya Lawes is one of the recipients of the Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship offered through the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships.

Nhadya Lawes grew up in South Florida.

But until her first year at the University of Miami, Lawes knew little about the area’s vibrant Black history. When she took a sociology class that touched upon residential segregation in Miami, Lawes wanted to know more.

She took a film course in the English department that explored the history of Miami and realized that she wanted to learn more about places like Overtown, where most Black residents were relegated to live in Miami under segregation laws—and which also was once referred to as “the Harlem of the South.”

So, when Lawes heard about a fellowship that would allow her to delve into a topic of her choice, she jumped at the opportunity.

“From a historical perspective, people don’t think often about South Florida when they think about Black history, so it was cool to dive in,” said Lawes, an English major and sociology minor as well as a member of the Foote Fellows Honors Program, who hopes to work in the arts or museum industry. “And Miami was quite an arts and culture mecca for African Americans in the early 1900s,” she added.

Lawes is one of the recipients of the Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship, which allows undergraduate students to investigate a research topic that can enrich their college experience and push them out of a typical classroom setting. Candidates can now apply for the summer and fall 2021 fellowships, which offer up to $5,000 of funding through the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships, within the Office of Academic Enhancement.

Lawes and owners of the Copper Door
Lawes, along with owners of The Copper Door, Jamila Ross and Akino West.

While Lawes’ original project aimed to research and visit many local Black-owned businesses across Miami with historical significance, because of the pandemic, she had to narrow her visits last summer. Lawes was still able to go to one business that she found during her research, an Overtown bed and breakfast, The Copper Door, where she interviewed one of its owners, Jamila Ross. She created  a webpage as part of her project. The 22-room hotel has been restyled to its 1940s glory, when it was called the Demetree Hotel and likely served as a refuge for visiting Black performers and artists. Lawes took the rest of her research about popular gathering places and organizations for Blacks in the Miami area and turned it into a syllabus for a proposed course on Miami’s Black History, which she hopes will be taught at the University one day.

“It would be awesome for UM to have a course specifically about the history of Black Miami,” she said. “The purpose of my research was to open that conversation and the possibilities of what that could be.”

Lawes encourages other students to apply for the fellowship because it can help them get acquainted with the research grant process and allow them to explore a subject they are passionate about. A virtual information session about the Academic Enhancement Research Fellowship is being offered on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 2 to 3 p.m. and students interested can get more information on the website, or register for the session here. The priority deadline for all applications is Feb. 15, 2021, with a final deadline of March 1, 2021.

In addition to the fellowship, there are many other awards and scholarships that University students can apply for this semester.

  • The Bob Moore Scholarship honors former University professor Robert Moore’s support of historically underrepresented and first-generation students. The scholarship provides need-based, financial support to currently enrolled undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented communities, recognizing their academic and leadership accomplishments. Five scholarships in the amount of $500 each are awarded and are divided between the fall and spring semesters. The application deadline is March 15, 2021. 

  • The Gilman International Scholarship program aims to support students who traditionally have been underrepresented in study abroad, including but not limited to: students with high financial need; students in underrepresented fields, such as the sciences and engineering; students with diverse ethnic backgrounds; and students with disabilities. Applicants must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant at the time of application or during their study abroad term. It is highly recommended that students who wish to apply for this award contact an adviser in the Study Abroad office before beginning the application process. Application deadline is March 2, 2021 for programs that start from May 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022.

  • The Davis-Putter Scholarship aids students active in movements for social and economic justice. Scholarships are open to graduate and undergraduate students active in the struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression, building the movement for economic justice or creating peace through international anti-imperialist solidarity. These need-based scholarships are awarded to those able to do academic work at the university level and who are part of the progressive movement on the campus and in the community. Application deadline is April 1, 2021.

  • The Udall Scholarship is awarded to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. The Udall scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. Campus application deadline is Feb. 24, 2021.

  • The Tillman Scholarship is available to military veterans and spouses with a high potential for impact, demonstrated through a proven track record of leadership, a continued pursuit of education, and a commitment to service beyond self. Applicants should demonstrate clear academic goals, extraordinary leadership potential, and a deep desire to create positive change. They should believe their best years of service are still ahead of them and are committed to strengthening communities at home and around the world. Application deadline is Feb. 28, 2021.

Students should inform the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships about their intent to apply for any of these awards at