Mills College is an independent liberal arts women's college founded in 1852 that offers bachelor's degrees to women and graduate degrees and certificates to women and men. Located in Oakland, California, Mills was the first women's college west of the Rockies. The institution was initially founded in 1852 in Benicia as a young ladies' seminary. In 1865, Susan Tolman Mills and her husband Cyrus Mills bought the school, renamed it Mills College, and then moved it to Oakland in 1871. Mills received its charter in 1885 and introduced graduate programs for women and men in 1920.
Mills offers more than 40 undergraduate and 23 graduate degrees and certificate programs.
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. Beginning in 1906 the seminary classes were progressively eliminated. In 1921, Mills granted its first master's degrees.
On May 3, 1990, the Trustees announced that they had voted to admit male students. This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students. At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes. On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.
For 2009–10, Mills enrolled a total of 1,510 students, 926 of whom are undergraduates and 584 of whom are graduate students (81% of whom are women). Seventy-eight percent of undergraduate women and 83% of graduate students are from California, and more than half live on campus. Forty-eight states are represented, and international students enrolled from 11 different countries.
Mills offers several undergraduate courses of study, and even allows students to create their own major, working with three faculty advisors to plan an individual program that draws courses from across the curriculum and creates an integrated and unique educational experience. Mills also provides the first two years of courses leading to a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Samuel Merritt College.
Undergraduate students may also participate in one of seven dual-degree programs. These five-year programs include BA/MBA, BA/MPP, BA/MA/Credential Teacher Education, BA/MA Infant Mental Health, BA/MA Interdisciplinary Computer Science, BA/BS Engineering, and BA/MA Mathematics.
The College also enrolls approximately 500 graduate students each year. Areas of study include art (MFA), business (MBA), interdisciplinary computer science (MA and post-bac), creative writing (MFA), dance (MA and MFA), coming Fall 2009: book art (MFA), education (MA, EdD, and credentials), English (MA), infant mental health (MA), music (MA and MFA), pre-med (post-bac), and public policy (MPP).
In 2008, The Princeton Review rated Mills as one of the Best 368 Colleges and one of the 117 Best Western Colleges. U.S. News & World Report also ranks Mills fourth among colleges in the West. A 2007 Washington Monthly report ranks the college #49 among 201 top liberal arts colleges. The institution was also named a top producer of Fulbright award recipients in 2007–08 by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The campus is located in the foothills of Oakland on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay.
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. Morgan designed six buildings for the Mills campus:
Designed in 1869 by S.C. Bugbee & Sons, 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". Mills Hall is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
With 10 different on-campus living options, including traditional residence halls, a housing cooperative, family housing, and apartment living, students at Mills have a wide range of housing to choose from. In the Mediterranean-inspired residence halls, students enjoy single rooms, the occasional California sleeping porch, and common areas outfitted with antique furniture and grand pianos.
There are more than 40 organizations and clubs for students to join, such as Mujeres Unidas, the Black Women’s Collective, Philosophy Club, Book Arts and Zine Club, Dumbledore's Army (aHarry Potter fan club) and the Native American Sisterhood Alliance. Some groups meet to share a hobby or interest, while others are motivated to inspire change. If students can’t find a club that appeals to them, they can simply start their own.
Throughout the academic year, there are many events to attend on campus, many of which are open to the public. Events range from art exhibitions, concerts, and dance performances to swim meets, readings, forums, lectures, and conferences. With the College’s intimate size and setting, students have opportunities to help arrange events and meet guest speakers.
As a place of ideas and expression, the College attracts speakers from around the world. Adding to the legacy of such notable past speakers as Ansel Adams and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., recent visitors to Mills have included Senator Barbara Boxer, Chelsea Clinton, Isabel Allende, Sally Ride, Gloria Steinem, and Marian Wright Edelman.
Mills students compete in seven intercollegiate sports — cross country, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball — as members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and the California Pacific Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Mills College mascot is the Cyclone and the school colors are blue, gold, and white. The Director of Athletics is Themy Adachi.
Dave Brubeck and Pete Rugolo attended Mills College on the GI Bill so as to study music with Darius Milhaud who was on faculty at the time.
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