History & Traditions
Mills was founded in 1852 as the Young Ladies’ Seminary in Benicia, California—two years after California became a state. In 1865, missionaries Susan and Cyrus Mills (champions for equal education for women) bought the seminary and renamed it Mills College.
Six years later, the school moved to its current 135-acre campus in Oakland, with
125 students. The College grew quickly, with students of diverse faiths and backgrounds
enrolling from many states and countries. In 1920, Mills again broke new ground, adding
graduate programs for women and men to its academic offerings.
Today, Mills students work closely with our dedicated faculty to explore their interests and gain experience across a variety of fields. And with a rich history rooted in tradition, there are numerous ways to take part in what makes Mills unique, every day.
Blue, green, red, or purple? As you become a Mills student you will be given a color that symbolizes your year and your school spirit. When you graduate, your color will be handed down to the incoming class to carry on the tradition.
Mills Got Talent
From ukelele to spoken word, interpretive dance to comedy, this unique event showcases not only the talent of the Mills community, but also the supportive and diverse atmosphere we foster.
Incoming students write what they hope to gain from their Mills journey on paper and hang these wishes from trees on campus. Legend has it, when a wish drops from the tree, that wish has come true.
Fires of Wisdom
Alumnae and student leaders teach new students the College's alma mater “Fires of Wisdom” in a candle-lighting ceremony at the close of Orientation.
Celebrating our close-knit community, the President of Mills holds a special tea at her house to welcome new undergraduate students to campus every year.
Each spring, the graduating class makes their statement on the senior wall. They celebrate their successes and share their dreams with paint—leaving a legacy of inspiration as they graduate.
“I came to Mills thinking that I would follow a certain path, but it opened up a lot of ways for me to view my future.”Soo Choi ’13
Mills has always been a college of firsts.
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)
the first (and only) women’s college to reverse a decision to go coed (1990)
the first women's college to offer a bachelor's-to-master's BA/MBA accelerated degree program (2001)
the first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009)
the first women's college to launch a policy for admitting transgender applicants (2014)