Commencement in a Time of COVID

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On March 20, Commencement festivities for the Class of 2020 were officially postponed, later announced to take place in the same timeframe as graduation for the Class of 2021. We still wanted to celebrate these newest alumnae/i as they wrapped up their time at Mills, whether they return for their official ceremony or not. The Quarterly reached out to graduating students to share their thoughts; read what several had to say.

Jen Sharkey, MBA

My heart hurts to leave Mills without getting to see the people who have so impacted me over these past three years. My first introductions to Mills were full of warmth and personal care—I was told in person at a campus event that I had been accepted to the MBA program. I know our Commencement would have been filled with that love. I still feel it, but it just has to travel further between us now. It was always going to feel bittersweet to leave Mills, but leaving during a time like this has amplified the bitterness.

Sarah Shaffer, MA in literature

I have so much gratitude for all the wonderful people at Mills—especially my professors and classmates. You have made my time at Mills such a blessing.

Klarisa Freitas, BA in business administration, minor in dance

I’m going to miss the relaxing and beautiful campus the most. Although I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life, going to Mills always made me feel like I was stepping into a new environment. I will definitely be coming back for weekly walks!

Claire Lawry, double BA in economics and data science

I may be the third person in my family to go to Mills, but I am the first to experience ending in the time of a global pandemic, so I have one heck of a story to add to my family archives! Nothing says “hindsight’s 20/20” better than the Class of 2020 having its graduation postponed! There is definitely a disconnect between what is actually happening and thinking about what should be happening. If I think about what could be happening right now under normal circumstances, it would be totally different.

I will miss being a part of the Mills community overall, but as I found out from sheltering in place, the community comes with you no matter where you are. It is what you make of it. I am moving to Canada soon, and I can’t wait to take that community spirit with me. My favorite times at Mills are any that have to do with my friends. We have the greatest conversations and fun times!

My philosophy in life is to set your goals and follow your dreams, but be open to the direction your life may take you. Even with that, I never would have expected my life to change the way it did at Mills. One of my reasons for choosing Mills was that I am passionate about environmental issues and I wanted to do a sustainability concentration for my economics major.
Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not able to do it, but during that time, I realized there are other branches of economics that are just as wonderful. I expected to do my senior thesis on something to do with sustainability, but instead I did it on something to do with healthcare. Overall, Mills has taught me to embrace what is meant for me and let go of what is not meant for me, and that is a lesson I will always treasure.

I would also like to thank all my family and friends who have been with me every step of the way at Mills. I especially would not have been able to do this without my dear mother who has seen me through the best and worst times of my life, and I will love her forever!

Greer Delaney Gates ’19, MBA in marketing and nonprofit management

I have spent the last five years at Mills, and this is a hard transition into “the real world.” For many graduates, this transition is going to be hard—we are being left without the hallmarks of the end of a chapter. And there is something to learn from that: not everything is always wrapped up in a perfect box with a beautiful ribbon, but that doesn’t mean we should be any less proud of these accomplishments. We have to find the joy and pride in the little things that we can and continue to get up when things are hard. Mills has been a place of immense growth for me through my undergraduate and graduate degrees. And I can truly say (crying while I write this) that I am proud of the strong, smart, and determined woman I have become through my time at Mills. I am proud of you, Class of 2020.

Lucciana Caselli, MFA in studio art

Throughout my time within the Mills fine arts graduate program, I’ve had heartfelt experiences that changed me on an artistic, professional, and personal level. Furthermore, I am a part of an artistic community that has never felt stronger and more grounded. Over the entirety of the program, there have been a multitude of instances that cannot be summed up here, but I will attempt to: Firstly, I am forever grateful to the committees that helped motivate and mentor me through this incredible process. Next, the more than knowledgeable and helpful faculty have not only become my friends, but also facilitated my educational journey. My classmates and I have also had the privilege of building relationships and bonds over these last two years, establishing priceless and lasting connections. We learned, laughed, and grew artistic concepts collaboratively in a space that was safe and infinitely supportive.

The program pushed my intense focus and drive, which helped me narrow in on my concepts, visions, and communications within and around my artwork. The discipline of zooming in on research has added a new layer to my practice. I will always see this deep dive into an idea, researching it heavily, as a forever-updating step in my practice, a constant expansion. Some challenges that face me still, and I think might always, start with engagement and giving back to my surrounding communities both in and outside of the fine arts realm by means of my artwork.

How can I continue to make work that supports my livelihood? The skills I have cultivated from my studies here have turned into steps towards a solution. The Mills MFA program has allowed me to find my artist voice, made it louder, and boosted my confidence that strengthened my convictions in presenting my work to others. My time at Mills has given me new adaptive practices, helped me hone my research and development, and
made me extremely comfortable in my artistic skin.

Al Wong, BS in environmental science

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t date other Mills students in your first year.

Megan Hinton, MFA

I will miss my MFA studio art cohort and faculty the most. Be present to find the goodness in every moment at Mills.

Courtney Lain, BA in art and technology

I’m going to miss Mills. I wish I could do it all over again!

Danielle Johnson, MBA in management

What I will think about most is the new knowledge that I have learned being in this program and the excitement I have to get into a new career path. I will miss my classmates and all the fun we had before class and after. My favorite memory is my first day of class and just thinking that “I’m finally here.” Knowing what I know now, I would tell myself that the grind is real and you will be tired, but the journey is all worth it.