Mills College is an independent liberal arts and sciences college in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally founded in 1852 as a young ladies' seminary in Benicia, California, Mills became the first women's college west of the Rockies. Currently, Mills is an undergraduate women's college in Oakland, California, with graduate programs for women and men. The college offers more than 40 undergraduate majors and 23 graduate degrees and certificates.
In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills fifth overall among colleges and universities in the Western U.S. and seventh in the Western U.S. in "Great Schools, Great Prices," which evaluated the quality of institutions' academics against the cost of attendance. The Princeton Review ranks Mills as one of the Best 376 Colleges and one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S.
Mills College was initially founded as the Young Ladies Seminary at Benicia in 1852. It was under the leadership of Mary Atkins, a graduate of Oberlin College. In 1865, Susan Tolman Mills, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary), and her husband Cyrus Mills bought the Young Ladies Seminary renaming it Mills Seminary. In 1871, the school was moved to Oakland, California and the school was incorporated in 1877. The school became Mills College in 1885. In 1890, after serving for decades as principal (under two presidents as well), Susan Mills became the president of the college and held the position for 19 years. Beginning in 1906 the seminary classes were progressively eliminated. In 1921, Mills granted its first master's degrees. From 1945-1947, the college sponsored an ambitious literary magazine, Pacific, which published work from established and emerging writers (including students) in its ten issues.
On May 3, 1990, the Trustees announced that they had voted to admit male students. This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students. At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes. On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.
Mills offers more than 40 undergraduate courses of study in the arts and sciences. Students also have the option to create their own college major. Mills also provides the first two years of courses leading to a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Samuel Merritt University.
Undergraduate students can participate in one of six bachelor's to master's degree programs, which allow students to earn an undergraduate and a graduate degree in five years instead of six. The five-year programs include BA/MBA, BA/MA Interdisciplinary Computer Science, BA/MA/Teaching Credential Education, BA/MA Infant Mental Health, BA/MA Mathematics, and BA/MPP.
Mills is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The college follows a semester system.
In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills fifth overall among colleges and universities in the West and seventh in the West in "Great Schools, Great Prices," which evaluated the quality of institutions' academics against the cost of attendance. The Princeton Review ranked Mills as one of the Best 376 Colleges in the nation in 2011. Washington Monthly named Mills #27 among the top master's universities in the country based on research, service, and social mobility. In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Mills College among the Top Ten: Best of the All-Women's Colleges alongside Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley.
In recent years, Mills College has been recognized for its sustainability efforts on campus. The Princeton Review ranked it one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S. Sierra, the Sierra Club magazine, ranked the college as one of "America's Coolest" green schools.
For the 2011–12 academic year, Mills student body totalled 1,555 students, with 941 undergraduate women and 614 graduate men and women. Forty-three states are represented in the student body, and international students from 15 different countries attend the college. Forty-two percent of the undergrads and 39% of the graduate students are students of color. Sixteen percent of the undergraduate population are "resumer" students who are 23 years or older and returning to college.
The Music Program at Mills is noted for being at the forefront of experimental music study and composition. Well-known composer Luciano Berio was on the music faculty of Mills in 1962-1964, and in 1966 Pauline Oliveros became the first director of the Tape Music Center (later the Center for Contemporary Music), where she composed her electronic works "Alien Bog" and "Beautiful Soop". Morton Subotnick, later a member of the faculty, received his master's degree from Mills, studying composition with Leon Kirchner and Darius Milhaud. Laurie Anderson, Dave Brubeck, Joanna Newsom, Phil Lesh, Noah Georgeson, and Steve Reich attended the program, as well as the famous synthesizer designer Don Buchla. Terry Riley taught at Mills starting in the early 1970s. Avant-garde jazz pioneer Anthony Braxton has taught at Mills on an intermittent basis since the 1970s. Lou Harrison, Pandit Pran Nath, Iannis Xenakis, Alvin Curran, Anthony Braxton, Gordon Mumma, Frederic Rzewski, Fred Frith, and many others have all taught music at Mills.
Since 1966, the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM, formerly the San Francisco Tape Music Center) has emphasized experimental methods in contemporary music and its allied arts and sciences. CCM maintains a variety of electronic equipment, instruments and studios, provides instruction and technical assistance, and archives audio recordings. The Center also performs a wide variety of community services in the arts, including public concerts and lecture series, informational and technical assistance, and artist residencies. Maggi Payne and Chris Brown are presently co-directors of CCM. Payne is a composer, performer, interdisciplinary artist, and recording engineer. Brown is an instrument builder, a pianist, and a composer.
The 135-acre (0.55 km2) campus is located in the foothills of Oakland on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay.
The campus is described in alumna Jade Snow Wong's book Fifth Chinese Daughter, first published in 1945.
In 1904, Mills president Susan Mills became interested in architect Julia Morgan because she wished to further the career of a female architect and because Morgan, just beginning her career, charged less than her male counterparts.
Morgan designed six buildings for the Mills campus, including El Campanil, believed to be the first bell tower on a United States college campus. Morgan's reputation grew when the tower was unscathed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The bells in the tower "were cast for the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago-1893), and given to Mills by a trustee". The Margaret Carnegie Library (1906), which was named after Andrew Carnegie's daughter. The Ming Quong Home for Chinese girls, built in 1924 and purchased by Mills in 1936, which was renamed Alderwood Hall and now houses the Julia Morgan School for Girls (independent of the College). She designed the Student Union in 1916. Kapiolani Cottage, which has served as an infirmary, faculty housing, and administration offices. And finally, Mills's original gymnasium and pool, which have been replaced by the Tea Shop and Suzanne Adams Plaza.
Designed in 1869 by S. C. Bugbee & Son, Mills Hall became the College's new home when it moved from Benicia to Oakland in 1871. Mills Hall is "a long, four-story building with a high central observatory. The mansarded structure, which provided homes for faculty and students as well as classrooms and dining halls, long was considered the most beautiful educational building in the state". Mills Hall is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Ten different on-campus living options are available at Mills, including traditional residence halls, a housing cooperative, family housing, and apartment living.
Mills College teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. The Oaks are a member of the Association of Division III Independents. Women's sports include cross country, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field and volleyball.