The Places They’ll Go

Oakland, CA–May 23, 2019

Mills graduates in their Commencement regalia smile and clap at their graduation ceremony.

Last weekend the Class of 2019 took center stage, crowning years of hard work with a Mills diploma and a proud march across the Commencement dais on Holmgren Meadow. Hailing from all walks of life, these students—some of whom are the first in their families to go to college, some of whom have children of their own—graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees spanning the liberal arts, education, health, fine arts, and business.

What’s next for these newly minted Mills alums?

Art History major, Carmen Wiley ’19 is kicking her summer off with an internship at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) while also lending her hand at the Mills College Art Museum (MCAM) through the end of the summer.

“I really enjoy the hands-on experience I get working at MCAM,” says Wiley. “Working there has also connected me to the larger Bay Area art scene.”

Prior to her current role with the OMCA, Wiley also completed an internship with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a position she secured with the support of MCAM Assistant Dean and Director Stephanie Hanor and Professor Mary-Ann Milford. For Wiley, her training in working on exhibitions and art collections at the campus art museum combined with the network fostered there have helped her form valuable connections and opened doors to the region’s vibrant art industry.

Hands-on learning through on-campus jobs or internships, near and far, have helped more than a few recent alums land their first full-time gigs. Economics major and Computer Science minor Mariam Baqai ’19 will be joining McKinsey & Company as an analyst in their San Francisco office after interning with the worldwide consulting firm in New York—where she was once told that she was “pretty opinionated for an intern.”

“I chose to take it as a compliment,” says Baqai, who was also this year’s senior student speaker at Commencement. In her remarks to the Class of 2019 Baqai credited her time at Mills with having instilled in her a deepened sense of self-confidence; “It was the environment at Mills, one where classmates are unafraid to speak their minds and call you out, that gave me the encouragement to stand up for what I believe in.”

Her advice to her fellow graduates? Stay opinionated.

While Baqai, Wiley, and other members of the Class of 2019 embark on the beginning of their professional journeys, some among the latest generation of Mills alums are looking to further their education.

Claire Penzel ’19, a double major in Psychology and PEPL (Politics, Economics, Policy & Law), is taking time this summer to volunteer with clinics and hospitals while researching doctoral programs in occupational therapy, a career she has known she wanted to pursue since taking a class with Professor Priya Driscoll her sophomore year: “Dr. Driscoll was so wonderful and encouraging,” says Penzel; “She really helped me decide I wanted to be an occupational therapist.”

Other students from the Class of 2019 are already graduate school-bound, like Hannah Horten ’19, an Environmental Science major with a minor in French and Francophone Studies. Grateful for the mentorship of professors Sarah Swope and Karen Faul as well as her time working with the College’s sustainability center, Horten feels Mills prepared her well for her next chapter: This year, she heads to Finland, where she will pursue a Master of Science degree in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability at the University of Helsinki.

“The most valuable part of my experience [at Mills], aside from the work I did in the sciences, was my minor studies,” notes Horten, which she says “provided necessary perspectives in my work as a scientist.”

Meanwhile, some students need not look far to further their education. Cat Utschig ’19 is set to re-enter Mills this fall, this time as a master’s student in the College’s accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s program in business administration. After taking core classes for business fundamentals as an undergraduate, Utschig will complete one final year in an accelerated MBA program to earn her master’s degree in 2020.

“I learned about the bachelor’s-to-master’s programs when I first looked into Mills, and once I decided to attend, I knew that’s what I would do,” says Utschig, who expressed her gratitude for the support she had received from faculty along the way: “They helped me achieve my goal of getting my bachelor’s degree even though I’m a single parent resuming undergraduate work as an older student.”

Appreciation for the support of the Mills community was echoed by many recent graduates, including aspiring occupational therapist, Claire Penzel who pointed to the encouragement and guidance of peers, professors, and Mills staff as the most valuable part of her time in college: “I would find help in places I’d never expect to, from people I hardly knew, all because the community here is so close-knit.”

Helsinki-bound alum and scientist Hannah Horten also gave a nod to the meaningfulness of her newfound family on campus: “I was also a dancer at Mills, and being able to cultivate a community in that space was really important to my well-being in college.”

For Mariam Baqai, soon-to-be McKinsey & Company analyst, intimate class sizes and close interaction with professors proved invaluable, and her time at Mills impressed upon her the importance of resilience, community, and standing up for yourself. At Commencement, she encouraged her fellow graduates to carry these insights forward with them as well: “Take the lessons you’ve learned at Mills and apply them to the world.”

About Mills College
Located in Oakland, California, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender non-binary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Ranked one of the top-tier regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized as one of the Best 384 Colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. Since 1852, we’ve been empowering students to become creative, independent thinkers and leaders who take and inspire action. Take a virtual tour.