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Home > Academics > Undergraduate >
Public Policy

Students and Their Work

Who they are

Public Policy students reflect the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Mills campus.  Among our majors, 30% are students of color and 40% are "resumers," women 23 years of age and older who have delayed entering or completing college.  They bring a wide range of topical interests, with environmental and urban issues, education policy, and poverty most frequently mentioned. Students are interested in both domestic and international dimensions of these problems. Many are also completing a minor or double-major, with economics the most common field.

Public Policy majors are most likely to seek careers in government, advocacy, nonprofit service organizations, and consulting. Even before graduation, a majority complete internships with community organizations or government agencies. One in three majors surveyed state that starting a new nonprofit would be a lifetime career goal, and two-thirds hope to work overseas for some portion of their careers.

What they do as students

The Public Policy Program fosters a learning environment in which Mills women are simultaneously supported and challenged, empowered to pursue their ideas and express their beliefs. Through their class work, internships, and senior projects, Mills PPOL majors engage with current policy problems affecting the surrounding community in Oakland and beyond.

Reflecting the wide range of policy interests among the students, student projects have addressed such topics as public transportation options for the elderly, women's participation in electoral politics, health care access, youth leadership development and civic engagement, land use/housing policy and gentrification, water resource allocation, utility pricing and billing, school district responsiveness to special-needs families, pesticide drift in California farming communities, climate change, and student drug testing, among other topics.

Public policy student projects can have a life of their own beyond graduation, too. Maria Dominguez researched the topic of municipal identification cards for her 2008 senior thesis. She found that these ID cards can help undocumented immigrants to access important city services like police protection, health care, and libraries, with the effect of reducing crime and improving living conditions in their communities. A few months later, she helped start the Oakland City ID Card Coalition to promote the idea to city officials; the City Council approved the proposal in June 2009.

Alycia Nachtigall's 2007 senior thesis helped the City of Oakland win a $257,000 grant from Caltrans. The grant will expand on her research about improving bicycle and pedestrian safety between Mills College and the Laurel commercial district. Ms. Nachtigall's efforts were praised by Richard Cowen, Chief of Staff to City Council representative Jean Quan, and by members of the Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which will help implement the grant. Ms. Nachtigall went on to complete her MPP degree at Mills in 2008.

If you'd like to learn about former public policy program projects, please visit our History of Past Projects and see our Thesis Awards page for recipients of the Program's annual award to an outstanding senior thesis or master's policy report. 

What they do as alumnae

Martha Braithwaite, a 2006 Public Policy graduate, went on to the MBA Program at Mills, concentrating in Non-Profit Management. She also started a mentoring program for teen mothers, Moms Mentoring Moms.

Erica Rickard '06 is now in her second year ar Harvard Law School. She'll graduate in June 2010.

Mikhail Haramati '06 is a Regulatory Analyst for Energy Efficiency with the California Public Utilities Commission. 

Shirley McLaughlin '06 is currently working for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, as an Associate Donor Engagement Officer. The  Foundation strives to engage in strategic philanthropy, investing their charitable dollars wisely, giving her a chance to do program analysis every day! 

Laurel Fedor graduated with her degree in Public Policy in 2007. Most recently, she worked as the California Field Director for Young Democrats of America.

Carolina Salazar '07 is pursuing her Masters in Public Administration at USC while working for State Senator Tom Torlakson as a District Representative.

Program Information

Faculty and Staff


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What is Public Policy?

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Contact Information

P: 510.430.2147
F: 510.430.2304

Last Updated: 1/9/14