Top Ten Mills Milestones of 2021

Oakland, CA—December 16, 2021

The year 2021 is itself a milestone in Mills’ history as we prepare for a merger with Boston-based Northeastern University, redouble our efforts to become an antiracist institution, and continue to earn recognition for our academic quality and innovation in the arts.

#1: Mills Announces Merger with Northeastern University

logos of mills and northeastern side by side

On September 14, 2021, 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. Leading up to the merger, the communities of both institutions are collaborating on program development, showcasing faculty expertise, and working through the operational details of merging. Learn the latest about the merger between Mills and Northeastern.

#2: Mills Creates Legacy Scholarship Fund for Students

lighted mills lanterns lined up on bridge ledge

To help preserve the Mills legacy of championing the education of underserved students, the College created an endowed scholarship for future students of the merged Mills College at Northeastern University. Awards will be directed to undergraduates studying on the Mills campus who identify as women or gender nonbinary students, with grants to be disbursed as early as fall 2023. Since the fund’s launch this November, the Mills community has already raised almost $50,000 towards its initial $100,000 endowment goal. Make a gift to the Mills Legacy Scholarship Fund in honor of Mills today. 

#3: College Earns High Marks for Academic Quality, Value & Sustainability

students engaged in classroom discussion

2021 marked another year of accolades for Mills. U.S. News & World Report ranked the College as one of the top regional universities in the West for the fifteenth consecutive year and #1 Best Value School in the West for the third time since 2017. Mills also received high rankings in the social mobility category (#4) for our role in successfully enrolling and graduating historically underserved students. Mills was counted among the greenest colleges in the US by The Princeton Review for the College’s outstanding commitment to sustainability, and the Fiske Guide featured Mills amongst its top selection of "the best and most interesting" four-year undergraduate institutions in the nation for the 16th year. Mills was also recognized as one of the first 35 colleges to be named a Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leader for our record of producing Fulbright students.

#4: Mills Focuses Efforts on Racial Justice

student painting on senior paint wall

2020 brought racial justice into sharp focus across the nation and the world. The Mills College Board of Trustees responded to the crisis by creating a statement on antiracism supported by the College’s new commitment to antiracism. In 2021, the Mills community made significant progress towards our racial justice efforts and will continue to integrate the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the transition with Northeastern University. Read about our racial justice initiatives.

#5: Center for Transformative Action Receives Grant for Service During COVID-19 Crisis

love takes action award logo

The Center for Transformative Action (CTA) at the Lorry I. Lokey School of Business and Public Policy was awarded a $25,000 New York Life Foundation Love Takes Action Award for its extraordinary service during the COVID-19 crisis in addressing social and racial justice in the Oakland community. This grant will support the CTA’s mission to bring together students, business and nonprofit leaders, policy makers, and community advocates to share ideas for building sustainable organizations and effective nonprofits that create economic opportunity while promoting environmental justice and social equity. Learn about the Center for Transformative Action, its impact, and the ongoing work of the CTA on behalf of Mills students, alums, and our local community.

#6: Lisser Hall Wins Preservation Design Award

inside lisser hall

Lisser Hall, the longest standing performance space on the Mills College campus, earned a highly selective 2021 Preservation Design Award. This recognition is a testament to the outstanding achievement in preservation and the sustainable practices utilized in the project. Located at the geographical center of Mills’ 135-acre campus, Lisser Hall was critical to reactivating the heart of campus and providing the inspiration for the creation of Mills Performing Arts. The new interdisciplinary spaces were designed to bring together Mills students, faculty, staff, and local community organizations in the pursuit of creative experimentation. Read the press release and view the photo gallery.

#7: Mills Music Concerts Receive Rave Reviews

meredith monk

The Mills Music Department and the Center for Contemporary Music started this academic year with a line-up that drew raves for the College. “Dispelling any notion that the Mills College merger with Northeastern University means the Oakland-based higher education institution will slink quietly into the night—or the college’s commitment to cultivating women’s leadership subsumed or eclipsed—the 2021–22 Mills Music Now Concert Series strikes an impressive profile,” declared the East Bay Xpress. And the upcoming four-day spring music festival (April 21–24, 2022), dubbed Music in the Fault Zone: Experimental Music at Mills College, will likely do the same. The once-in-a-lifetime roster of Mills faculty and talented alumnae/i will include Morton Subotnik, Chris Brown, Alvin Curran, Zeena Parkins, Laetitia Sonami, David Rosenboom, John Bischoff, Tomeka Reid, David Behrman, Annea Lockwood, Ione, Joëlle Léandre, Fred Frith, William Winant, Larry Polansky, Roscoe Mitchell, Daniel Schmidt, Maggi Payne, and Paul DeMarinis and include music by Darius Milhaud, Lou Harrison, Anthony Braxton, Robert Ashley, Terry Riley, and Henry Cowell. Check the calendar for the latest as details are released.

#8: Mills Performing Arts Expands Offerings & Reaches New Audiences

Mills music student sings onstage at a concert

After making the shift to virtual events in 2020, Mills Performing Arts presented a robust calendar of more than 55 virtual and hybrid events in 2021. The programming helped to safely reconnect the campus and local communities while engaging even broader audiences via live streams and recordings of events from the Mills Music, Dance, Creative Writing and Literature, and Theater Departments; We Are the Voices; the Mills College Art Museum; and more. Programming included a panel discussion of artist Jay DeFeo’s legacy; explorations of issues impacting the transgender community; the B.L.A.C.K. Speaker Series with Kaylah A. Smith and Danielle Swatzie; the always-groundbreaking Mills Music Now, Signal Flow, and Songlines concert series; and the long-anticipated debut of Meredith Monk’s Indra’s Net. Check the Mills Performing Arts calendar for upcoming 2022 events.

#9: Art Museum Debuts Highly Lauded Exhibition

tabitha soren exhibition

Local artist Tabitha Soren debuted her first solo Bay Area museum exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum with a bevy of national press coverage, including the New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, and WIRED. Soren’s exhibition, Surface Tension, explores the relationship between technology and the intimacy of human connection. She focuses on themes of protest, climate disaster, and touch through large-format photographs of iPad images smudged with human fingerprints. "Soren has rendered visible the desire that exists despite and because of everything. We want desperately to be human in the face of our cold inanimate translator," says the New Yorker. "We keep touching the surface in the hope that the act of witnessing will make us more human, and not less."

#10: Mills Celebrates Grads with Virtual Commencement & On-Campus "CARmencements"

two students in graduation garb in front of mills hall

After a one-year Commencement hiatus due to the pandemic, Mills got creative in May to ensure that we honored our 2021 and 2020 graduates. For our Class of 2021, the College held its first-ever virtual Commencement, which featured keynote speaker Alicia Garza, principal at Black Futures Lab, author of The Purpose of Power, and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter. Following the online ceremony, our new alumnae/i and members of their immediate households were invited to return to the Mills campus at timed intervals for a safe, socially distanced, outdoor “CARmencement” celebration. The following weekend, the College hosted a CARmencement celebration for our Class of 2020, who were the first class to graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic. View the CARmencement photo album on Facebook.

About Mills College
Located in Oakland, California, Mills is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender nonbinary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Consistently ranked one of the top-ten regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills has again earned the #1 Best Value College in the West for 2022. As one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country, Mills has a strong record of academic success with first-generation students, students of color, Latinx students, LGBTQ+ students, and other underrepresented students. The Mills experience is distinguished by small, interactive classes, one-on-one attention from exceptional faculty, a culture of creative experimentation, and cutting-edge interdisciplinary learning opportunities which empower students to make a statement in their careers and communities.

In September 2021, Mills announced a merger with Northeastern University to occur in July 2022. Learn more.