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
Six years later—the same year the city of Oakland was incorporated—Mills moved to our 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 broke new ground, adding graduate programs
for women and men to our academic offerings.
Over the decades, Mills “firsts” have been numerous: 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) and a bachelor's-to-master's accelerated degree program (2001); the first
business school in the West dedicated to advancing women (2005); and the first MFA
program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009).
By 2014, we’d blazed a trail that others soon followed by introducing the first transgender
admission policy in the country at a women’s college.
With a rich history rooted in tradition and emboldened by innovation, you have numerous
ways to take part in what makes Mills unique, every day.
Our most celebrated traditions focus on building community and encouraging self-expression.
Here’s just a sample of some of our students’ favorite traditions.
Blue, green, red, or purple? When you become a Mills undergraduate student, you’ll
be given a color that symbolizes your class year and helps you show your school spirit.
When you graduate, your color will be handed down to the incoming class to carry on
Mills Got Talent
From guitar 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
Incoming undergraduate students write what they hope to gain from their Mills journey
on paper and hang these wishes from trees on campus. Legend has it that when a wish
drops from the tree, the 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 a statement on the senior wall. Seniors celebrate
their successes, acknowledge the support they received at Mills, and share their dreams
with paint—leaving a legacy of inspiration as they graduate.
Mills Has Always Been a College of Firsts.
The first women's college west of the Rockies
The first laboratory school west of the Mississippi for aspiring teachers
The first women’s college to offer a computer science major
The first (and only) women’s college to reverse a decision to go coed
The first women's college to offer a bachelor's-to-master's BA/MBA accelerated degree
The first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation
The first women's college to launch a policy for admitting transgender applicants