Mills College

Mills College
Mills College
Mills Logo.png
Motto Una destinatio, viae diversae
Motto in English One destination, many paths
Established 1885
Type liberal arts women's college
Endowment $156.6 million[1]
President Alecia A. DeCoudreaux
Academic staff 191
Students 1,454[2]
Undergraduates 948[2]
Postgraduates 506[2]
Location Oakland, California, U.S.
Mascot Cyclones[3]

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.[4]

Mills offers more than 40 undergraduate and 23 graduate degrees and certificate programs.



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.[5] 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.[6] This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students.[7][8] At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes.[9] On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.[10][11]


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.[12]

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).[13]

Rankings and admissions

In 2008, The Princeton Review rated Mills as one of the Best 368 Colleges and one of the 117 Best Western Colleges.[14] U.S. News & World Report also ranks Mills fourth among colleges in the West.[15] A 2007 Washington Monthly report ranks the college #49 among 201 top liberal arts colleges.[16] The institution was also named a top producer of Fulbright award recipients in 2007–08 by the Chronicle of Higher Education.[17] In 2009, Forbes rated it 55th of America's Best Colleges.[18]


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.[2]

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

Julia Morgan buildings

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.[19] Morgan designed six buildings for the Mills campus:

  • El Campanil, believed to be the first bell tower on a United States college campus[19] and the first reinforced concrete structure on the west coast.[20] Morgan's reputation grew when the tower was unscathed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.[19] The bells in the tower "were cast for the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago-1893), and given to Mills by a trustee".[20]
  • The Margaret Carnegie Library (1906), named after Andrew Carnegie's daughter.[19]
  • The Ming Quong Home for Chinese girls, built in 1924 and purchased by Mills in 1936, which was renamed Alderwood Hall[20] and now houses the Julia Morgan School for Girls[19] (independent of the College).
  • The Student Union (1916)[19]
  • Kapiolani Cottage, which has served as an infirmary, faculty housing, and administration offices.[19][20]
  • Mills's original gymnasium and pool, which have been replaced by the Tea Shop and Suzanne Adams Plaza.[19]

Mills Hall

Designed in 1869 by S. C. Bugbee & Son,[21] 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".[22] Mills Hall is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[22]


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),[23] 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, Phil Lesh, 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, Anthony Braxton, Gordon Mumma, Frederic Rzewski, Fred Frith, and many others have all taught music at Mills.

Since 1976, the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM) 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.[24]

Campus community

Toyon Meadow

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 The Mills Art History Society, Mujeres Unidas, the Crafter's Collective, the Black Women’s Collective, Philosophy Club, Book Arts and Zine Club, the Aurelia Reinhardt Historical Society, 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 Fetish Ball, 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 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer, Chelsea Clinton, Isabel Allende, Sally Ride, Gloria Steinem, Helen Zia, and Marian Wright Edelman.


Mills students compete in seven intercollegiate sports — cross country, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball[3] — as members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III[25] and the California Pacific Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).[3] The Mills College mascot is the Cyclone and the school colors are blue, gold, and white.[3] The Director of Athletics is Themy Adachi.[3]

Notable alumni

Barbara Lee, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. attended Mills College as an undergraduate. Dave Brubeck and Pete Rugolo attended Mills College on the GI Bill so as to study music with Darius Milhaud.

See also

Pete Rugolo attended (and earned his M.A. degree) Mills College BEFORE being drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II.



  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved March 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Mills College – Facts About Mills". Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "California Pacific Conference NAIA – Intercollegiate Athletics". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  4. ^ "Mills Mission and History". Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  5. ^ "Susan Lincoln Tolman Mills". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  6. ^ "Venerable School for Women Is Going Co-ed". 1990-05-04. 
  7. ^ "Mills Students Protesting Admission of Men". 1990-05-05. 
  8. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-06). "Disbelieving and Defiant, Students Vow: No Men". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  9. ^ "Protest Continues at College Over Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-08. 
  10. ^ "College to Reconsider Decision to Admit Men". 1990-05-12. 
  11. ^ Bishop, Katherine (1990-05-19). "Women's College Rescinds Its Decision to Admit Men". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  12. ^ "Undergraduate". Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  13. ^ "Graduate". Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  14. ^ "Mills College". Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  15. ^ " America's Best Colleges 2009: Mills College: At a glance". Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  16. ^ "Liberal Arts College Rankings" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  17. ^ Hermes, JJ (2007-10-26). "New Fulbright Grant Brings Scientists to U.S.". Chronicle of Higher Education 54 (9): pp. A42. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  18. ^ "America's Best Colleges". 2009-08-05. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h Ito, Susan (Winter 2004). "Julia Morgan at Mills" (PDF). Mills Quarterly (Mills College): pp. 14. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  20. ^ a b c d (PDF) Mills College 2007/2008 Undergraduate Student Handbook. School Datebooks. 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ a b "CERES: State Historical Landmarks for Alameda County". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  23. ^ Bernstein, David W. (2008). The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s counterculture and the avant-garde. University of California Press. p. 34. ISBN 0520248929. 
  24. ^ Holmes, Thomas B.; Holmes, Thom (2002). Electronic and experimental music: pioneers in technology and composition (2 ed.). Psychology Press. p. 192. ISBN 0415936446. 
  25. ^ "NCAA Members by Division". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 

External links

Coordinates: 37°46′50″N 122°10′59″W / 37.78056°N 122.18306°W / 37.78056; -122.18306

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