September 20, 2021
A Message from Katie Sanborn, Chair, Board of Trustees
Dear Mills Community Members,
I write to you today as a Mills alumna first and Chair of the Board of Trustees second. Last week, the board made the historic decision to merge with Northeastern University. While many of you supported this decision, I know that it can be unsettling to think of changes to our beloved Mills. As we look forward to Convocation and Reunion this week, I want to share some thoughts to prepare to come together as one community . . .
Read the full message.
Dear Mills Community Members,
I write to you today as a Mills alumna first and Chair of the Board of Trustees second. Last week, the board made the historic decision to merge with Northeastern University. While many of you supported this decision, I know that it can be unsettling to think of changes to our beloved Mills. As we look forward to Convocation and Reunion this week, I want to share some thoughts to prepare to come together as one community.
As Mills College at Northeastern University, we will be able to sustain Mills’ mission, preserve its legacy, more robustly serve our own people—students, faculty, staff, and alumnae—as well as remain a good neighbor and critical anchor in our local community and the East Bay. The merger means our commitment to social justice, gender equity, and the cultivation of women’s leadership will expand and evolve.
Together, we are leading a fundamental change in how education is considered and delivered, and we can be a model for similar partnerships between institutions that share values. A number of institutions and groups reached out to the College after our announcement in March, and the Board of Trustees considered their ideas and proposals carefully. Throughout these discussions, Northeastern rose to the top. We found a shared passion for expanding access to education, for reaching under-resourced students, for providing pathways to fulfilling lives and lifelong learning, and for sustaining Mills’ legacy not only through curriculum and programming but also through a robust Mills Institute, for which Northeastern has committed significant seed funding.
As many of you know, alumnae make up approximately 65 percent of the members of the Board of Trustees. We serve with members of the community at large who have also committed themselves to Mills. Together, we have worked with the College and President Hillman since her arrival on initiatives and pathways to sustain the Mills mission. Faculty and staff have been instrumental working through and for Mills during these challenging financial times. We have studied opportunities and possibilities, and we have scrutinized the College’s finances throughout. We have faith in the College’s leadership, but we study, debate, and verify. The board has made its decisions based on facts.
I am grateful to many of you who have stood up in support of the board’s decisions and who see the great potential for carrying forward and expanding the Mills mission through the merger with Northeastern. Thank you for asking intelligent, thoughtful, and candid questions and making time to process and analyze the information. That is the Mills way.
As many of you are also aware, some in the alumnae community, including the leadership of the AAMC, oppose this merger despite its many benefits. While I respect individuals’ right to dissent and disagree, I have been dismayed by some of the misinformation that has been widely circulated both publicly and privately. At Mills, we learned to think critically but not to distort facts. Let me be clear: Mills has experienced a systemic financial imbalance for decades. The current dynamic in higher education has pushed Mills to a point of unsustainability. I want to assure you that all trustees have always had access to the pertinent financials, enrollment data, and other information that we need to perform our fiduciary duties. Prior to our vote, we were given and had ample time to review and discuss the final draft of the definitive agreement, which was then signed by President Hillman with the board’s authorization. As with all mergers, implementation details will continue to be worked through over the next several months as transition teams with Mills and Northeastern representatives prepare for operational integration. I and the board will continue to oversee the merger preparation process and will review and discuss any significant changes in current expectations or any significant action.
Our agreement provides that the Mills name will remain for generations to come. It is the people who make Mills the special institution that it is, so I invite you to celebrate that by connecting with your colleagues, fellow alumnae, and friends this week and weekend. The work to reunite the community of Mills begins now.
I look forward to seeing many of you this week. Together we can unite in our commitment to each other—and our continuing legacy.
Kathleen Sanborn ’83
Chair, Board of Trustees
September 14, 2021
A Message from Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman
Dear Mills Community Members,
Today, the Mills College Board of Trustees approved the merger of Mills College with Northeastern University, ensuring that the educational mission of Mills and its commitment to social justice, gender equity, and cultivating women’s leadership will live on. The merger is expected to take effect on or about July 1, 2022, subject to regulatory and other approvals. When completed, Mills will become Mills College at Northeastern University, and our campus will be gender inclusive . . .
Dear Mills Community Members,
Today, the Mills College Board of Trustees approved the merger of Mills College with Northeastern University, ensuring that the educational mission of Mills and its commitment to social justice, gender equity, and cultivating women’s leadership will live on. The merger is expected to take effect on or about July 1, 2022, subject to regulatory and other approvals. When completed, Mills will become Mills College at Northeastern University, and our campus will be gender inclusive.
The merger with Northeastern offers concrete and meaningful opportunities for our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae—opportunities that Mills could not offer on its own. Aligning with Northeastern means that Mills will remain a vibrant center of learning with deep connections to the broader Oakland community.
At the same time, Mills will be setting off on a new path, different from what we have known. The moment invites us to reunite as one Mills community and, working alongside our Northeastern colleagues, create a future that honors the legacy of Mills and brings vital elements of a Mills education to new audiences here and throughout Northeastern’s global network of campuses. Now is the time to explore and pursue opportunities, pushing open doors that we could not open on our own.
Most immediately, however, I know that many of you have questions about what this change means for you. In the months ahead, transition teams will work out the many details that need to be addressed and will provide regular updates to the Mills community. The transition process at Mills will be led by Renée Jadushlever, vice president for strategic communications and operations.
The following are confirmed agreements at this early point in the merger process, assuming the merger happens on or about July 1, 2022:
A key next step in the transition process is for Mills and Northeastern faculty and staff to work jointly to develop the undergraduate and graduate degree programs that Northeastern will offer on the Oakland campus through Mills College at Northeastern University and otherwise. Degree programs will leverage the strengths of both Mills and Northeastern and will be relevant to both students and the employer community.
Also, faculty and staff from both Mills and Northeastern will collaborate to further develop a Mills Institute to carry on the Mills legacy of advancing women’s leadership and empowering BIPOC and first-generation students. Northeastern has committed seed money to launch and fund the Institute.
Until the merger is completed, Mills will continue to operate as an accredited degree-granting institution and be led by the current administration. Mills and Northeastern will also work together to address Mills’ operating expenses and financial needs through the completion of the merger.
I want to thank every member of the Mills community for your engagement and your passionate support for Mills. The last 18 months have tested us on multiple levels. It is our singular dedication to the mission and values of Mills College that brings us to where we stand today and that will provide the strength and vision to help us shape tomorrow.
Elizabeth L. Hillman
President, Mills College
As the Mills transition has evolved since March 2021, we have archived the original Frequently Asked Questions page about the transition plans. We hope to provide new FAQs as more details about the merger with Northeastern University are developed.