The Mills College School of Education (SOE) is an educational institution with unwavering commitments to racial justice and social equity. We unapologetically and deliberately address anti-Blackness racism and white supremacy in education and collaborate with students, community members, and partner organizations to dismantle systems of abuse and oppression that interfere with the wellness, liberation, and joy for ALL people, and especially those who identify as Black/African descent, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and first-generation students.
We seek to disrupt the culture of whiteness as the norm for the architecture of the SOE and the faculty, staff, and leadership commit to creating a teaching and learning environment that is steeped in the work of anti-bias and antiracism by cultivating equitable relational power dynamics between institutions, persons, and communities. Our intention is to transform the SOE to be a more inclusive, healthier environment for all stakeholders by valuing the lived experiences and experiential knowledge of those whose voices have been marginalized and silenced. We acknowledge that this work is iterative and ongoing and commit ourselves to engage with it over time and across circumstances.
Our SOE centers preparing educators, leaders, and practitioners to examine their social positionalities, access, and uses of power in order to foment and inspire transformative educational practices. Overall, we are committed to building confidence and thrivance in the next generation of leaders, scholars, parents, and professionals, as well as in the diverse institutions in which our work occurs.
We are committed to applying our stance to our work in the following areas:
We are committed to cultivating a learning and professional community of thrivance for ALL our members, whether they be within the halls of our school or beyond. Specifically, we are committed to building a dynamic, sustainable culture of confidence, care, healing, and joy among all learners from the very young infant and early childhood students to undergraduate students returning to the classroom and those just entering adulthood. We hold space for our graduate students and alumnae/i who return to continue to learn, grow within, and be nurtured by our academic community, and we make room for the community of families, children, and educators who teach us so much about our purpose and who generously guide our intentions. We are a caring community that sees each and every one of us as humbly willing to learn from and grow with one another.
We acknowledge that access to authentic joy and empathic care relies on grappling with and dismantling interlocking systems of oppression and requires that we each take part in internal psychological and spiritual work as a foundation for respectful and loving relations among one another. We aspire to participate in care practices that release ourselves and our communities from oppressive circumstances rather than provide support to merely survive them.
We seek thrivance, appreciating that the pathways to liberation demand that we unpack interlocking matrices of dominance that reinforce and maintain oppression. Thus, we seek to teach and learn in ways that are joy-inducing and that this joy is reflected in all aspects of our work, and specifically interwoven in the design of academic and professional development programming, advising, and the policies and practices we devise to guide our work and relationships within our school, the communities we serve, and the wider public. Overall, we are committed to building confidence and thrivance in all the learners we touch—from the infants and pre-K students in our children’s school to the undergraduate and graduate students on campus, and our teachers and educational leaders and community partners. Ours is a work of practice and care tethered to accountability.
Above all, we seek to nurture a culture in which the full thrust of each members’ humanity is honored, respected, and protected. We appreciate that what is defined as caring is informed by cultural norms and mores as well as personal preferences unique to us all. We move forward in our work together with an acknowledgment that large articulated pronouncements are meaningfully manifested in small moments of relational engagement that make our declarations true, and thus our desire to cultivate a culture of thrivance and joy requires that we address the cornerstone of it within our school and that begins with each of us. Honoring our diverse perspectives, we will begin this work by gathering stakeholder groups to learn of their concerns and hopes for our shared future on which we can plan further program development and school-wide initiatives.
Across the Mills College SOE, we maintain an expansive commitment to critical, anti-racist, and intersectional anti-oppressive approaches to teaching in formal schooling spaces and alternative learning contexts such as hospitals, homes, prisons, museums, and community-based organizations. We consider how our work influences and is informed by the entire educational pipeline—pre-Kindergarten through postsecondary. We ground our work in our community members’ lived experiences (e.g., TK–12 students and their families, current Mills students, alumni, faculty, staff, and our network of colleagues).
As faculty members within the Mills SOE, we are intentional about creating learning communities that are healing-centered and caring while challenging students to disrupt intersecting forms of dominance such as white supremacy, anti-Blackness, capitalism, ableism, monolingualism, and heteropatriarchy in education. We approach teaching by centering students’ lived experiences, examining positions of power and privilege, and making connections to course content and community-engaged learning. As faculty, many of us are from various marginalized backgrounds, model vulnerability, draw from our personal and professional experiences, and position ourselves as ongoing learners who are open to feedback and change. We center critical race, intersectional and Black feminist, disability, queer, and linguistic justice theories and pedagogies in our teaching, learning, and research. Such praxis informs our curricular, pedagogical, educational administration and policy, and counseling and mental health work on the ground and online.
We use an inquiry-based approach to support leaders in the field as they address a wide range of educational issues. We are intentional about our integration of fieldwork and coursework in ways that foster educators' use of theories and research that enable them to radically reimagine micro- and macro-level curricular, political, and organizational change. We adapt and creatively navigate the many barriers that our diverse stakeholders face in their work as educators. Such responsibility includes ensuring that we support our community of educators with practical matters like acquiring state licensing or providing critical professional development that enable them to be effective within school and community contexts. We humbly and intentionally reflect and act in ways that address situations deeply impacting humanity, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing state-sanctioned anti-Black police violence, and effects of climate disruption.
As community members within the Mills SOE, we understand that teaching requires an ongoing commitment to learning. We reflect, examine gaps in our knowledge, and seek resources to strengthen our capacities to teach in a humanizing, culturally sustaining, and relevant manner. Our research reflects our teaching stance and the two iteratively inform each other.
The scholarship of the Mills SOE embodies intersectionality. As faculty and researchers, we grapple with questions related to practice, development, and learning across multiple cultural and community contexts. Our work is informed by transformative and critical theoretical frameworks that decenter whiteness and directly address issues of racism and inequities within our educational systems, with a vision toward actionable change. The positionality of our faculty leads our scholarship to delve deeply into previously unacknowledged experiences, often centering the perspectives of women of color, persons with disabilities, and others whose narratives are not yet adequately reflected in the literature. Through our use of testimonios and counter-stories, we validate the lived experiences of our students, our communities, and ourselves.
Our scholarship intentionally considers the lived experiences and realities of a broad range of people to ensure a more full, defined, and representative body of research and inquiry. We especially highlight the experiences of Black/African descent, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and first-generation students, including students whose backgrounds require us to revisit, re-examine, and ultimately reframe our theories of learning and development. Our approaches to data collection, analysis, and interpretation are multifaceted and we derive strength and validity through the use of mixed methods. Through intentional use of observations, in-depth qualitative interviews, and the synthesis of these qualitative methods with quantitative methodologies, including surveys and experimental studies, we aim for trustworthiness to ensure our research is holistic, thorough, and representative of our communities and the authentic and current educational issues they face.
Through our scholarship, we seek to understand the unique and complex realities of students and their families as they navigate the education system, from early childhood through higher education. We examine the role of structural inequities in students’ educational experiences and trajectories while taking a strength-based perspective to highlight students’ unique narratives as they develop into adults and consider myriad pathways toward fulfilling their life potential. Our research and scholarship on teaching and learning, educational leadership, and policy as well as our research methods are often embedded within the context of our classroom teaching to inform broader pedagogical knowledge toward more robust structural change.
As a school of education and a learning organization, we are committed to supporting students and our community partners in becoming critical, self-aware, and reflexive in the ongoing work of racial, educational, and social justice while countering dominant norms, values, and structures that uphold intersecting forms of oppression. The Mills SOE works intimately with our partners and stakeholders to disrupt the expert model that privileges researchers, scholars, and academics and devalues the expertise and systemic analysis gleaned from experiential knowledge and lived experiences of marginalization within systems and institutions.
We aim to enter power-sharing partnerships that are truly community-centered and anti-racist at a systems level and shift to the position of learner in partnership with schools, school districts, community-based organizations, networks, other higher education institutions, and coalitions. To do so, we research models of organizations, like other education schools, PreK‒12 schools, community-based organizations, and activists in the Greater Bay Area and nationally/internationally that are pioneers in building from the ground up, strengthening community and university partnerships, and advancing equity.
The SOE will expand its programming over the next five years to include more opportunities for popular education and participatory learning, using campus facilities to host meetings, lectures, panels, and other events, as well as retreats led by our school and community partners that are accessible and open to the public and relevant to national and local educational discourse.
As a reflexive institution interested in organizational learning, the SOE continues to pose the question: How will we (e.g., faculty, school leadership, teachers, students, school families, community partners, etc.) define and embody leadership at the interpersonal, classroom, school, district, community, and state/national policy levels?
The SOE aims to connect its stance and organizational principles to its internal organizational culture, systems, policies, and processes. To help ensure a systematic cycle of communication and feedback, the SOE partners with community stakeholders of PreK‒12 students, parents, teachers, community leaders, Mills SOE students, and educational leaders to ensure that our SOE stance is a dynamic document that addresses their changing needs of a higher education institutional partner and ensures a systematic cycle of communication and feedback.
The Mills SOE acknowledges that the anti-bias, antiracism, social justice advocacy work, which is often a core stated value in the field of education, has been inconsistent and incomplete. Therefore, established professionals in the field are currently ill-prepared to guide the training and development of new professionals. The use of aspirational social justice terminology often protects and absolves the field from engaging in difficult, transformative self-reflection, in- and out-group collaboration, and direct action. As a result, we focus on translating our advocacy goals into community-oriented outcomes that are tangible, systematic, and sustainable.
We approach advocacy work as co-conspirators with institutional peers, community partners, and the public. We pledge to work collaboratively, within our school as well as with our colleagues and community partners to disrupt the status quo in terms of the expert model, white supremacy, and the existing dominant norms, values, and structures that have continued to dominate our field. Our goal is to continuously work toward becoming anti-racist at a systems and policy level while attending to the immediacy of practice and relationships. We see the unique current social, political, and historic context as a critical period with reimagined relationships with time and space to foment radical change in education.
As we shift and reshape ideals in our advocacy stance, we do so with an appreciation of positioning ourselves as participants within a culture of whiteness. Specifically, we name our adherence to white supremacist organizational and cultural norms and articulate pathways for engaging the work of teaching and learning that invites and integrates multiple cultural ways of knowing and being that honor the full range of student, staff, and faculty experience.
We recognize that, just as efforts toward justice are ongoing, so too are those toward disrupting practices and processes of domination and control that we have internalized and perpetuated to exist within these systems. We know that only by engaging in this internal and psychological work, will we get closer to articulating practice and policy change that enables us to meaningfully address the young people who are the purpose of our work. Further, beyond ourselves, we ask what needs to be fixed in the broader field of education, including our responsibility to advocate for the role of education in a range of settings across the lifespan.
For example, we have started to include a stronger focus on clinical competency in our teaching, research, and outreach practice. In informal learning institutions, we advocate for the importance and inclusion of learning and development outside of school settings. Another place we are reshaping our ideals is in formal learning institutions, as we embrace Freire’s ideas of dismantling oppression in the classroom. Throughout this process of growth, development, and change, we take an inquiry stance to challenge ourselves by posing self-reflective questions:
Through our advocacy work, we will continuously monitor our progress and assess our outcomes in an intentional and iterative fashion.
We are aware that while we seek to move toward equity we must also restore past harms of experiences. We are committed to establishing processes that hold an open door, to name and address past harms as well as restorative mechanisms for addressing concerns and issues as they are raised. We will implement changes that offer a shared experience of community and a sense of belonging for ALL members of our community.
We will begin with awareness and actions that address the conditions that have generated harm, name and transform the root causes of harm within our organization, and reflect on the process with those involved and affected to ensure they are restored. Finally, we will create time and space for disruption and consistently act more boldly to create a space where all members of our community can flourish.