About Mills College
Overview | Mission | Academic Environment
Academic Programs | Campus Life
Diversity and Social Justice | History
Nestled in the heart of the urban San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College is a hidden gem. It’s an idyllic setting that might—at first glance—belie the pulse of activity that beats within the gates. As many have discovered, Mills is home to one of the most dynamic liberal arts educations available to women today.
For more than 160 years, Mills College has enjoyed a reputation as a vibrant center of academic excellence. Historically a college for women only, Mills continues that proud tradition today at the undergraduate level. To provide enhanced professional opportunities for all students, Mills also offers renowned graduate programs open to both women and men.
Ranked fifth among top colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills also has been named one of the top "Great Schools, Great Prices" for high academic quality relative to the net cost of attendance. Mills was recognized as one of the Best 378 Colleges and one of the greenest colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review.
With half of the undergraduates identifying as women of color, Mills brings together students with a wide range of ethnicities, interests, backgrounds, and ages.
With an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, Mills women are assured access to and support from their inspiring and committed professors. The cornerstone of a Mills education is the collaboration between dedicated students and distinguished faculty that goes beyond the classroom and into meaningful work and innovative research.
Mills encourages openness to experimentation in the context of established academic disciplines. The curriculum combines traditional liberal arts with new educational initiatives that value cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. Academic programs are designed to reflect the importance of global issues, provide an understanding of the natural world, and enhance opportunities for women throughout society.
The Mills General Education (GE) Program is guided by a set of learning outcomes rather than a strict list of courses. Each student designs her own general education with the guidance of her faculty advisor, tailored to her unique needs and interests. The program places the student’s work in her major in a larger context, and allows her to explore and appreciate knowledge beyond her field. GE requirements fall into three outcome categories: skills (written communication, quantitative and computational reasoning, and information literacy/information technology); perspectives (women and gender, and multicultural); and disciplines (the arts, historical perspectives, natural sciences, and human institutions and behavior).
Students are not required to select a major until the end of their sophomore year, and they are encouraged to add non-major subjects to their programs even after deciding on an area of concentration. Students may also choose to pursue a subject as an independent study project with the supervision of a Mills professor.
Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and in some circumstances, first-year students, may cross-register for one course per semester at UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, or one of several other Bay Area colleges. Mills has exchange or visiting programs with many American colleges and universities and affiliations with study abroad programs in more than 60 countries. These relationships offer additional avenues to experience different teaching styles and learning environments.
Mills offers preprofessional programs in nursing, medicine and health sciences, and law. Off-campus internships connect academic studies and career plans with on-the-job experience. Students learn from and work with faculty who are community, national, and international leaders in science, economics, mathematics, the arts, literature, education, government, and many other fields.
Residential and commuting students alike participate in a variety of eclectic events that enhance learning and provide inspiration beyond the classroom. Typical offerings might include a contemporary art exhibit, a lecture on socially responsible business, a creek clean-up event, a spoken word performance, or an evening of experimental music. Mills also offers a variety of student clubs and organizations that run the gamut from the Mills Leadership Action of Tomorrow to the International Student Association.
Students can also experience one-of-a-kind resources such as the Eucalyptus Press, the imprint of the Book Art Program at Mills; or the Children’s School, the first laboratory school founded west of the Mississippi. The Special Collections of the F. W. Olin Library contain more than 22,000 rare books and manuscripts, including a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, a Mozart manuscript, and a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible. The Trefethen Aquatic Center and Haas Pavilion offer a wide variety of options for athletics, physical fitness, and recreation, while the campus Chapel provides a peaceful environment for spiritual reflection and renewal.
Outside the campus gates, students have access to the urban Bay Area with Berkeley, San Francisco, Napa, and Silicon Valley nearby. Students can enjoy educational and professional opportunities afforded through stimulating cultural, artistic, and political events or simply reap the benefit of the social and recreational activities and climate of the beautiful Bay Area.
Diversity and Social Justice Statement
Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and world views that arise from race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity, religious and spiritual beliefs, class, age, color, sexual orientation, disability, immigrant status, and national origin. Social justice refers to a commitment to challenging social, cultural, and economic inequalities imposed on individuals arising from any differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege at Mills and in the larger society.
Since its founding, Mills has remained committed to empowering women to overcome the social barriers that have excluded them from educational and career opportunities. In the 20th century, Mills recognized the importance of extending this access to women from diverse backgrounds, including resumer women, parenting students, and first-generation college students. In addition, Mills' graduate and professional programs are designed to provide a coeducational environment that values women's leadership and promotes gender equality. Because the College aims to educate all students to acquire the knowledge and skills to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society, we seek to create opportunities for engagement in activities that promote equity and justice.
Mills honors freedom of expression and respectful discourse as fundamental educational cornerstones. We recognize that students learn best in an environment that is safe for disagreement, recognizes and addresses diverse learning styles, and values holistic growth and wellness.
Mills recognizes that diversity and social justice are inextricably linked to academic excellence and innovation. Critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, creativity, and collaboration are all enhanced when a diverse faculty and student body interact and learn from one another. By offering a traditional liberal arts curriculum while engaging new pedagogies and diverse perspectives, Mills provides a transformative educational experience that prepares students for excellence and effective leadership in their careers, professions, and in graduate education.
The Young Ladies' Seminary was established by nine citizens in what became the state capital, and it gained a strong reputation under the direction of Oberlin graduate Mary Atkins. With a vision of equal education and opportunity for women, missionaries Cyrus and Susan Mills bought the Seminary in 1865 for $5,000, renamed it Mills College, and moved it in 1871 to its current 135-acre oasis. At the time, Oakland was a bustling metropolis of about 10,000.
The student body quickly grew, with students of diverse faiths and backgrounds enrolled from many states and countries. Among the first institutions for the higher education of women, Mills is the oldest women's college west of the Rockies.
Over the decades, Mills “firsts” have been numerous: the first women’s college west of the Rockies (chartered 1885); the first laboratory school west of the Mississippi for aspiring teachers (1926); the first women’s college to offer a computer science major (1974) and a bachelor's to master's BA/MBA accelerated degree program (2001); the first business school in the West for women (2005); and the first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009).
Always a leader in the arts, Mills was among the first liberal arts colleges to offer a modern dance degree (1941), and it became the national center for modern dance outside New York City. The Center for Contemporary Music, dedicated in 1967, is a preeminent center for electronic music.
Many of the world’s foremost artists, politicians, and scholars have taught, lectured, and performed at Mills, including Isabel Allende, John Cage, Don Ed Hardy, Dolores Huerta, Darius Milhaud, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pelosi, Gertrude Stein, and Gloria Steinem.
Notable alumnae of the College include Jennifer Losch Bartlett, abstract artist; Renel Brooks-Moon, voice of the Giants and the first African American woman to announce for a professional sports team; Trisha Brown, renowned dancer and one of the first female choreographers to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Award; Barbara Lee, US Congresswoman; Stephanie Mills, groundbreaking ecological activist and author; and Susan Perrine, developer of a revolutionary treatment for sickle cell anemia.
For more than 160 years, Mills has continued to attract people interested in creativity, experimentation, leadership, and social justice—the hallmarks of a 21st-century Mills education.
Table of Contents
Advising and Registration
Majors and Minors
Graduate Degree and Certifcate Programs