Mills College

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Mills College
Mills Logo.png
Motto Una destinatio,
viae diversae.
Motto in English
One destination,
many paths.
Established 1852[1]
Type Liberal arts women's college with graduate programs for women and men.
Endowment $189.3 million (2014)[2]
President Alecia A. DeCoudreaux
Academic staff
Students 1,548
Undergraduates 922[1]
Postgraduates 626[1]
Location Oakland, California, United States
37°46′50″N 122°10′59″W / 37.78056°N 122.18306°W / 37.78056; -122.18306Coordinates: 37°46′50″N 122°10′59″W / 37.78056°N 122.18306°W / 37.78056; -122.18306
Campus Urban, 135 acres
Mascot Cyclones[3]

Mills College is a liberal arts and sciences college in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mills began as a seminary school known as the Young Ladies' Seminary, founded in 1852 and located in Benicia, California. It moved to its current Oakland location in 1871, and Mills became the first women's college west of the Rockies. Currently, Mills is an undergraduate women's college, with graduate programs for women and men. The college offers more than 40 undergraduate majors and over 25 graduate degrees, certificates, and credentials.[4][5] The college is the also home to the Mills College School of Education and the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business & Public Policy.

In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills sixth overall among colleges and universities in the Western U.S. (regional universities) and one of the top colleges and universities in the Western U.S. in "Great Schools, Great Prices," which evaluated the quality of institutions' academics against the cost of attendance.[6] The Princeton Review ranks Mills as one of the Best 380 Colleges and one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S.[7] Washington Monthly ranks Mills as one of the top 10 master's universities in the U.S.[8]

Mission statement[edit]

Its declared mission is reported on the official Mills College website:[9]

Mills is an independent liberal arts college for women and men. The College educates students to think critically and communicate responsibly and effectively, to accept the challenges of their creative visions, and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society.

Mills encourages openness to experimentation in the context of established academic disciplines. Programs are designed to reflect the importance of global issues, provide an understanding of the natural world, and enhance opportunities for women in their developing roles throughout society. The curriculum combines traditional liberal arts with new educational initiatives that recognize the value of cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity.

Inspired by a teaching philosophy that grows out of its longstanding dedication to women’s education, Mills provides a dynamic learning environment that encourages intellectual exploration. The faculty of nationally and internationally respected scholars and artists is dedicated to developing the strengths of every student, preparing them for lifelong intellectual, personal, and professional growth.


Built in 1871, Mills Hall originally housed the entire College.

Mills College was initially founded as the Young Ladies Seminary at Benicia in 1852. It was under the leadership of Mary Atkins, a graduate of Oberlin College. In 1865, Susan Tolman Mills, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary), and her husband, Cyrus Mills, bought the Young Ladies Seminary renaming it Mills Seminary. In 1871, the school was moved to Oakland, California and the school was incorporated in 1877. The school became Mills College in 1885. In 1890, after serving for decades as principal (under two presidents as well), Susan Mills became the president of the college and held the position for 19 years.[10] Beginning in 1906 the seminary classes were progressively eliminated. In 1921, Mills granted its first master's degrees. From 1945-1947, the college sponsored an ambitious literary magazine, Pacific, which published work from established and emerging writers (including students) in its ten issues.

On May 3, 1990, the Trustees announced that they had voted to admit male undergraduate students to Mills.[11] This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students.[12][13] At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes.[14] On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.[15][16]

In 2014, Mills became the first single-sex college in the U.S. to adopt a policy explicitly welcoming transgender students.[17] The policy states that applicants not assigned to the female sex at birth but who self-identify as women are welcome, as are applicants who identify as neither male nor female if they were assigned to the female sex at birth.[18] It also states that students assigned to the female sex at birth who have legally become male prior to applying are not eligible unless they apply to the graduate program, which is coeducational, although female students who become male after enrolling may stay and graduate.[19]



Mills offers over 40 undergraduate majors and more than 30 minors across the arts and sciences, as well as the option to design your own college major. The school runs on a semester system, with optional Winter and Summer sessions. As of the 2014-2015 academic years, Mills’ top 5 most popular majors are: English, Nursing, Psychology, Biology, and Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis (PLEA).[20] Mills also offers a unique undergraduate degree in Engineering in partnership University of Southern California, as well as several Bachelor’s to Master’s programs that allow students to earn a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in just five years.

The engineering program in conjunction with University of Southern California (USC) is a five-year program, with the first three years completed at Mills. After completing the program, students will have received a BA from Mills and a BS from USC. Available tracks include biomedical, chemical, computer, electrical, environmental, and industrial systems engineering.[21]

Undergraduate students can participate in one of seven bachelor's to master's accelerated degree programs, which allow students to earn an undergraduate and a graduate degree in less time. The programs include BA/MBA Business Administration, BA/MA Early Childhood Education, BA/MA Infant Mental Health, BA/MA Interdisciplinary Computer Science, BA/MA Mathematics, BA/MPP Public Policy, and BA/MA/Credential Teacher Education.[22]

Mills is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).


Rated by Washington Monthly in their 2014 Top Master’s Universities study, Mills ranked 8th out of 100 institutions when considering Social Mobility, Research, and Service. [23] The school’s graduate program offers over 25 degrees, credentials, and certifications. These include unique programs in Bio-chemistry, Book Art, Interdisciplinary Computer Science, Infant Mental Health, and Pre-Medical studies, as well as groundbreaking joint-degree programs.

Currently the school’s top 5 most popular graduate programs are: Education, Business Administration(MBA), Pre-Med, English, and Music. Many of these programs are connected to top-tier, nationally renowned facilities such as the: Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building, Center for Contemporary Music, the Heller Rare Books Room, Lorry I Loki Graduate School of Business, and Mills College Children’s School.

Changes in major fields such as Business, Public Policy, and Education led the school to create two joint-degree programs: MBA/MA in Education Leadership, and the MA in Public Policy(MPP)/MBA. The joint MBA/MA is specifically designed to prepare educational leaders and managers for success by giving them knowledge of both the educational process and dynamics, and strategic business and management skills to help graduates confront the complex challenges of the rapidly changing educational landscape.[24] On the other hand, the joint MPP/MBA provides graduates with the training to handle the evolving demand of professionals with cross-sector competencies who are trained in the logic of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and social or business enterprises, as well as the intersection of these sectors. [25]

Mills also offers unique post-baccalaureate certificate programs in: Bio-chemistry, Computer Science, and Pre-Med, designed for students pursuing degrees or careers in fields with requirements that do not overlap with coursework completed during their undergraduate career. The school’s Post-baccalaureate Pre-Medical program boasts a 90% acceptance rate to medical and health science professional schools.[26] Also, the post-Baccalaureate Computer Science Certificate program has no programming or math prerequisites, allowing students to continue on to the Master’s in Interdisciplinary Computer Science with an undergraduate background in a non-computer science related field.[27]


College rankings[edit]


In recent years, Mills College has been recognized for its sustainability efforts on campus. The Princeton Review has ranked it one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S. four years in a row.[28] Sierra, the Sierra Club magazine, also ranked the college as one of "America's Coolest" green schools.[29]

  • Ranked among the Best Western Colleges by the Princeton Review (2015)[30]
  • Ranked among The Best 379 Colleges by the Princeton Review (2015)[31]
  • Ranked among the top 332 Green Colleges by the Princeton Review (2015)[32]
  • 6th among colleges and universities in the West by US News & World Report[33]
  • 11th for Best Value among colleges and universities in the West by US News & World Report[34]
  • 11th in Best Health Services by the Princeton Review (2015)[35]
  • 13th for Lots of Race/Class Interaction by the Princeton Review (2015)[36]
  • 14th in the Princeton Review’s Got Milk? rating for sober schools (2015)[37]
  • 15th for Most Liberal Students by the Princeton Review (2015)[38]
  • 16th for Stone-Cold Sober Schools by the Princeton Review (2015)[39]


  • 8th among the Best Master’s Universities in the U.S. by Washington Monthly (2014)[40]
  • 82nd in Fine Arts Graduate Schools by US News & World Report (2014)[41]
  • 135th among the Best Education Schools by US News & World Report (2014)[42]

Student life[edit]

For the 2014–15 academic year, Mills student body totaled 1,548 students, with 922 undergraduate women and 626 graduate men and women. Forty states are represented in the student body, and international students from 6 different countries attend the college. Fifty-six percent of the undergraduate students and forty-one percent of the graduate students self-identify as students of color or multi-racial. Sixteen percent of the undergraduate population are "resumer" students who are 23 years or older and returning to college.[1]

Music program[edit]

The Music Program at Mills is noted for being at the forefront of experimental music study and composition. Well-known composer Luciano Berio was on the music faculty of Mills in 1962-1964, and in 1966 Pauline Oliveros became the first director of the Tape Music Center (later the Center for Contemporary Music),[43] where she composed her electronic works "Alien Bog" and "Beautiful Soop". Morton Subotnick, later a member of the faculty, received his master's degree from Mills, studying composition with Leon Kirchner and Darius Milhaud. Laurie Anderson, Dave Brubeck, Joanna Newsom, Phil Lesh, Noah Georgeson, and Steve Reich attended the program, as well as the famous synthesizer designer Don Buchla. Terry Riley taught at Mills starting in the early 1970s. Avant-garde jazz pioneer Anthony Braxton has taught at Mills on an intermittent basis since the 1970s. Lou Harrison, Pandit Pran Nath, Iannis Xenakis, Alvin Curran, Gordon Mumma, Maggi Payne, Pauline Oliveros, Frederic Rzewski, Zeena Parkins, Fred Frith, and many others have all taught music at Mills.

Since 1966, the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM, formerly the San Francisco Tape Music Center) has emphasized experimental methods in contemporary music and its allied arts and sciences. CCM maintains a variety of electronic equipment, instruments and studios, provides instruction and technical assistance, and archives audio recordings. The Center also performs a wide variety of community services in the arts, including public concerts and lecture series, informational and technical assistance, and artist residencies. Maggi Payne and Chris Brown are presently co-directors of CCM. Payne is a composer, performer, interdisciplinary artist, and recording engineer. Brown is an instrument builder, a pianist, and a composer.[44]

Public Policy program[edit]

Mills College offers a BA in Public Policy, an MPP, a BA/MPP accelerated degree program, and an MPP/MBA to students dedicated to social justice issues and policy analysis.[45] Mills Public Policy students are focused on "assessing public problems, developing creative solutions, and implementing policies that are efficient, equitable, and feasible."[46]

The school's first student-run policy journal, The Policy Forum at Mills, was successfully launched in 2013, and provides a forum for policy solutions and analysis to its students, as well as allowing for discourse on published issues.[47]


Richards Road

The 135-acre (0.55 km2) campus is located in the foothills of Oakland on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay.[1]

The campus is described in alumna Jade Snow Wong's book Fifth Chinese Daughter, first published in 1945.

Julia Morgan buildings[edit]

In 1904, Mills president Susan Mills became interested in architect Julia Morgan because she wished to further the career of a female architect and because Morgan, just beginning her career, charged less than her male counterparts.[48]

Morgan designed six buildings for the Mills campus, including El Campanil, believed to be the first bell tower on a United States college campus.[48] Morgan's reputation grew when the tower was unscathed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.[48] The bells in the tower "were cast for the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago-1893), and given to Mills by a trustee".[49] The Margaret Carnegie Library (1906), which was named after Andrew Carnegie's daughter.[48] The Ming Quong Home for Chinese girls, built in 1924 and purchased by Mills in 1936, which was renamed Alderwood Hall[49] and now houses the Julia Morgan School for Girls[48] (independent of the College). She designed the Student Union in 1916.[48] Kapiolani Cottage, which has served as an infirmary, faculty housing, and administration offices.[48][49] And finally, Mills's original gymnasium and pool, which have been replaced by the Tea Shop and Suzanne Adams Plaza.[48]

Mills Hall[edit]

Mills Hall
Mills Hall (Oakland, CA).JPG
Coordinates 37°46′47″N 122°10′56″W / 37.7797°N 122.1822°W / 37.7797; -122.1822
Built 1871
Architect S.C. Bugbee & Son
NRHP Reference # 71000132[50]
CHISL # 849[51]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 14, 1971
Designated CHISL 1971[51]

Designed in 1869 by S. C. Bugbee & Son,[52] Mills Hall became the College's new home when it moved from Benicia to Oakland in 1871. Mills Hall is "a long, four-story building with a high central observatory. The mansarded structure, which provided homes for faculty and students as well as classrooms and dining halls, long was considered the most beautiful educational building in the state".[53] Mills Hall is a California Historical Landmark[51] and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[53]

Campus community[edit]

Ten different on-campus living options are available at Mills, including traditional residence halls, a housing cooperative, family housing, and apartment living.[54]


Mills College teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. The Cyclones are a member of the Association of Division III Independents.[55] Women's sports include cross country, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis, and volleyball.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Facts About Mills College". Mills College official website. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  2. ^ As of June 30, 2014. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2013 to FY 2014" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute. 2015. 
  3. ^ "Mills College Cyclones website". Mills College Athletics & Recreation Department. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "Mills College Undergraduate Catalog". Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Mills College Graduate Programs". Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings - Mills College". U.S. News College Compass: Best Colleges 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Rankings & Lists: Mills College profile on The Princeton Review". The Princeton Review. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Washington Monthly College Guide Rankings - 2014 Master's Universitites". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Mills College - Mission and History". Mills College - Mission and History. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Susan Lincoln Tolman Mills". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  11. ^ "Venerable School for Women Is Going Co-ed". 1990-05-04. 
  12. ^ "Mills Students Protesting Admission of Men". 1990-05-05. 
  13. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-06). "Disbelieving and Defiant, Students Vow: No Men". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  14. ^ "Protest Continues at College Over Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-08. 
  15. ^ "College to Reconsider Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-12. 
  16. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-19). "Women's College Rescinds Its Decision to Admit Men". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Facts About Mills College". Mills College. 
  21. ^ "Engineering". 
  22. ^ "Bachelor's to Master's Accelerated Degrees". Mills College. 
  23. ^ . Washington Monthly  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ "Joint MBA/Ed Leadership Program". 
  25. ^ "Mills MPP/MBA Program". Mills College. 
  26. ^ "Mills Graduate Pre-Med Program". Mills College. 
  27. ^ "Mills Computer Science Brochure" (PDF). Mills College. 
  28. ^ "The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges - 2013 (presented in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council)". The Princeton Review. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  29. ^ "America's Coolest 'Green' Schools - 2011". Sierra Magazine. Sierra Club. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  30. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ . US News & World Report  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  34. ^ . US News & World Report  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ . Princeton Review  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  40. ^ . Washington Monthly  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ . US News & World Report  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  42. ^ . US News & World Report  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. ^ Bernstein, David W. (2008). The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s counterculture and the avant-garde. University of California Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-520-24892-9. 
  44. ^ Holmes, Thomas B.; Holmes, Thom (2002). Electronic and experimental music: pioneers in technology and composition (2 ed.). Psychology Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-415-93644-6. 
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h Ito, Susan (Winter 2004). "Julia Morgan at Mills" (PDF). Mills Quarterly (Mills College). p. 14. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  49. ^ a b c Mills College 2007/2008 Undergraduate Student Handbook (PDF). School Datebooks. 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  50. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  51. ^ a b c "Mills Hall". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  52. ^ Thompson, Daniella (2006-11-17). "East Bay Then and Now: This West Berkeley Landmark Is a Proud Survivor". The Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  53. ^ a b "CERES: State Historical Landmarks for Alameda County". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  54. ^ "Mills College Housing - Residential Options". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  55. ^ "NCAA Members by Division". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 

External links[edit]