Press Releases

Mills College Receives Grant to Advance Opportunities for Women in the Sciences

Multimillion dollar gift will help the College prepare women, particularly those from underrepresented groups, for leadership in the sciences

Oakland, CA–July 07, 2011 Mills College is pleased to announce it has received a $2.5 million grant from the Joseph and Vera Long Foundation. The Foundation is making the grant in honor of Janet L. Holmgren who recently completed her 20-year tenure as president of the College. The grant is intended to provide students with greater opportunities to study the sciences and prepare them to become leaders in the scientific community.

The gift will be used to renovate the Biology Department research laboratories, providing the type of research experience that is essential to keeping the College and its students on the cutting edge of scientific technologies in the 21st century.

Mills College—the oldest women’s college in the West and a nationally renowned liberal arts school—is well positioned to support and advance the critical need for women in science and technology. The renovation, which will more than double the amount of usable research space, will also help Mills attract and retain prominent faculty.

The underutilization of women’s talents in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), has been well documented in studies by the National Science Foundation. More recently, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a symposium noting the “stark disparities for women at every level of the scientific career path pipeline.”

“Throughout our history, Mills College has maintained an exemplary commitment to excellence in women’s education—and to the belief that a firm grasp of the scientific method is of utmost importance to all liberal arts students,” said Mills College Provost Sandra Greer. “With the renovated research laboratory space and updated equipment for the Biology Department, Mills College will be better able to retain a growing number of undergraduate women who will study the natural sciences at the College, as well as attract talented faculty members who are dedicated to training the next generation of our nation’s scientists.”

With interest in the biological sciences projected to increase, Mills says there is a growing need for science courses on campus. Currently, students in biology-related programs represent about 20 percent of all undergraduates, making biology one of the top five academic programs at the College. During the next academic year, Mills anticipates having the largest number of biology students it has had in 25 years.

In addition, the department supports the successful post-baccalaureate pre-medical program and the Nursing Program.

“At Mills College, where 42 percent of the undergraduate female student body identify themselves as women of color and an additional 12 percent say they are multi-racial,” says Greer, “we are committed to educating women from underrepresented groups, particularly in the sciences.

The generous gift from the Joseph and Vera Long Foundation will transform the Biology Department’s 1,570 square-feet of research space by:

  • Increasing the usable research laboratory space by 50 percent , increasing the flexibility of existing space, and updating infrastructure in the labs and the central preparation area
  • Creating two additional sterile rooms with laminar flow hoods that would be dedicated to research, allowing for new types of research such as tissue culture to be conducted
  • Reconfiguring the faculty research lab to provide greater flexibility and capacity
  • Improving the research equipment, which will include an enhanced backup power supply, environmental control system upgrades, fume hoods, dark room and deionized water equipment, among other equipment enhancements

Located within the former Life Sciences Building, the Biology Department research facility was built in 1950 and last renovated in 1984. Construction is expected to begin in August 2012 and be completed in February 2013.

The project represents the second phase of a four-part Women in Science Initiative at Mills. Phase I included completion of the LEED-platinum-certified Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building; Phase III will include renovation of the biology teaching labs; and a fourth phase will include a Psychology Department upgrade.

The 159-year-old Mills College campus is also committed to sustainability and preserving its historic buildings. The College has embraced an ethic of reusing and repurposing buildings to respect and preserve its historic legacy. With that idea in mind, the College will be retrofitting the biology research lab to create more useful and better equipped space, within the same footprint.

About Mills College
Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering a dynamic progressive education that fosters leadership, social responsibility, and creativity to over 950 undergraduate women and more than 600 graduate women and men. The College ranks as one of the Best 373 Colleges in the country and one of the greenest colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills one of the top-tier regional universities in the country and second among colleges and universities in the West in its “Great Schools, Great Prices” category. For more information, visit

Jeanne Herrera
Media Relations Director

Last Updated: 8/30/11