I’m grateful that the spring has brought not only trees in bloom, but also a return to in-person classes and greater clarity on how Mills College will merge with Northeastern University later this year. Our primary focus in this phase of both COVID-19 recovery and Mills’ transition is supporting our students in light of the ongoing burdens and learning challenges of the pandemic as well as the changes that accompany the merger.
In-person classes and campus activities that were paused during the pandemic have resumed, and Mills now offers regular, free, on-campus testing and boosting to students, faculty, and staff. It’s a delight to witness more people—often masked and distanced as yet—enjoying the campus as athletic and recreational facilities reopen. We’re also preparing our community for the new students who will arrive on campus in the fall: first-year Northeastern students who will study at Mills College, learning from our faculty and interacting with continuing Mills students, before moving to Northeastern’s Boston campus. The first small cohort of Northeastern students at Mills is already here, studying and living alongside Mills students this spring. They have fit right in, enjoyed the respite from the Boston winter, and proved curious and insightful contributors to campus life and classroom discussions from the start.
Our faculty and staff will continue to support students after Mills College joins Northeastern University on July 1, and are working with Northeastern staff and faculty to map pathways to degrees for Mills students who will graduate after the merger this summer. Nearly all continuing Mills students have requested information about degree pathways through Northeastern, and Mills and Northeastern now have approval from state regulators and accreditors to advise and teach those students here on the Mills campus. Northeastern offers some 400 different degrees, affording Mills students a wide array of options, many of which closely parallel Mills’ own degree pathways. We will also ensure that Mills students do not incur costs for additional tuition and fees beyond what they anticipated for the Mills degrees they sought prior to the merger, and that every successfully completed Mills course counts toward a new degree pathway. This spring, Mills has offered students additional support through extra institutional financial aid and federal COVID relief funds, both of which have helped to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on our students in need.
The changes that accompany our transition toward becoming Mills College at Northeastern University are difficult to navigate for some students, however, notwithstanding the newly expanded degree options, financial support, and student advising underway. This first phase of the transition involves a relatively fast-paced turn toward Northeastern programs and away from what current students anticipated before Mills began planning to become part of Northeastern. I appreciate the way in which our joint teams are working together to help students explore their new options, and to explain how those options are driven in part by the nature of higher education, which is a highly regulated industry that must comply with government regulations and accreditation requirements.
I’m grateful that the AAMC’s lawsuit was resolved earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to welcoming more input from alums as we start two major efforts: 1.) Building new degrees that will be offered by Mills College in the future, created by Mills and Northeastern faculty and reflective of both Mills’ strengths and Northeastern’s emphasis on experiential learning, and 2.) realizing the tremendous potential of the new Mills Institute to sustain Mills’ historic mission and advance equity and access across Northeastern’s global network.
Already, we are integrating into our plans the ideas and insight of the seven groups of Mills alumnae who convened last late year to discuss Mills’ transition process, future curriculum, preservation of the campus, and much more. Our Office of Institutional Advancement is following the lead of the alumnae who co-facilitated those small group conversations as we plan the next phase of engagement with Mills’ graduates in the transition. At the same time, this spring we’ll launch a global search for the inaugural executive director of the Mills Institute, ready to seize the momentum created by the transformation of Mills College and elevate our influence here in Oakland and beyond.