And of course, the issues facing women today are different than those faced by our founding sisters in the mid-1800s—or even by those who participated in the campus strike two decades ago.
Yes, we have made substantial progress. Yet today—in 2011—women comprise just 17 percent of Congress, and only 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
Clearly, we have a long way to go. And as long as these cultural and economic disparities exist, women’s colleges must continue to exist.
We must continue to exist, because it is not enough to tell young women that they can accomplish anything. Here at Mills, they do exactly that. They are surrounded by strong female role models and a community that sets high standards and expects every student to meet and exceed them.
Here at Mills, there’s no such thing as a field of study where a high-achieving woman is the exception to the rule. Our students go confidently into the world with both the skills and the self-esteem to conquer any obstacle.
I may have just moved into the lovely house on Orchard Meadow Road, but I’ve heard time and again from students and alumnae who say that Mills is the place where they found their voice.
That’s a place worth preserving. A place worth cherishing.
It’s also a place worth expanding. And by this I mean spreading the Mills magic to the community around us.
I first gained a sense of community from my maternal grandmother. She was a very kind, loving, and generous woman who served as a midwife. To her, the job of a midwife didn’t end with the birth of a child. She felt a lifelong responsibility for each child she welcomed into the world. She didn’t just raise our family; she raised an entire community.
I believe we all have a responsibility to do the same. Many of our students are already deeply engaged as good neighbors and socially responsible citizens—from our student-athletes who paint schools, to our graduate students who teach at community centers, to those who find time to volunteer independently. In the years ahead, I would like for us to go even further—to do even more.
This is what we stand for. This is who we are. We are impatient in the face of injustice. We believe that the obligation of a Mills graduate is not just to analyze or assess the world, but to remake it.
In the end, the time that each student spends on this campus is remarkably brief. As a community, our job is to ensure that wherever life takes our students from here, a piece of Mills stays with them to guide their journey.
As Dean Hettie Belle Ege used to say, ‘Remember who you are—and what you represent.’
I will always remember that I represent you.
I am deeply honored to be your president—and your partner on this important journey.
Thank you so much."
Alecia A. DeCoudreaux
13th President of Mills College
September 23, 2011