A first-generation college student, Jessica worried she wouldn’t fit in at Mills. But when she visited the campus, she was struck by the kindness of the students she met and immediately felt at home. At Mills, Jessica found a welcoming atmosphere and supportive friends who introduced her to new cultures and experiences. She immersed herself in campus life and explored her interests in community development, politics, and policy both in and out of the classroom.
How did you choose your major? I went on a humanitarian aid trip a few years ago that sparked my interest in community activism and local politics. Following that trip I interned for my local congressman. When I arrived at Mills, I knew I wanted to spend my time studying things of a political nature. I chose the major politics, economics, policy, and law because it speaks to all the issues I care about. I’m also passionate about student and community development which is why I chose urban education as my minor.
Have any of your professors been especially supportive? I had the pleasure of taking the class Civil Rights 1940s–Present, taught by President Hillman. It was one of my favorite classes, but what truly made it worthwhile was Professor Hillman’s down-to-earth nature. When I went in for office hours, she was concerned with both my academic and personal journey here at Mills. And when I started applying for research fellowships, she shared her academic experiences and helped me clarify my own aspirations. How the administration relates to students says a lot about an institution.
Have you received aid from Mills that makes college more affordable for you? I came from a lower-middle class family and no one in my family had attended a four-year institution. I was afraid that I simply was not good enough to go to college, but I applied to 18 colleges and universities. I knew my parents would not be able to assist me financially, yet it was surprisingly affordable to attend a private institution.
How has Mills helped you to speak up about a cause that's important to you? I am passionate about laws and policies regarding the educational advancements of economically and racially marginalized groups. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a lobbying day at the Capitol as a representative for Mills. I sat down with legislators to discuss Cal Grant and other accessibility initiatives for students attending private institutions in California. I also spoke with students from other private schools about how their institutions are working toward more inclusive regulations.
How do you hope to use your education to make a statement in the world? Following my graduation from Mills College, I intend on completing a PhD program in a discipline related to political science or public policy. I hope to conduct research that considers how education and political associations can impact voting behaviors. Following my research, I imagine myself running for Congress. I’m interested in the House of Representatives because I feel you have a real opportunity to help American communities from the ground up.