On August 11, the Office of Alumnae Relations cohosted an online alumnae forum alongside the Alum Engagement Committee (AEC), a new group working with the Office of Alumnae Relations that formed last fall to support the relationship between Mills alums and the College as it embarked upon the merger with Northeastern. Questions were solicited through the (e)ucalyptus email newsletter and through personal conversations between AEC members and fellow alums. Before her departure, President Elizabeth L. Hillman appeared alongside other Mills officials to answer the most frequently asked queries live on Zoom.
Lightly edited answers to some of those questions are below; for others, including whether the Mills archives will remain open to researchers and whether new students learned about Mills history during orientation (yes to both), visit tinyurl.com/mills-alum-forum.
Will future students specifically apply to Mills College at Northeastern University, with the intent of spending four years on campus?
Interim Dean Beth Kochly: Yes, that is the plan. When we launch our new programs, they will be designed so that a student can come to Mills and complete the program, spending all their time on this campus. We do also, however, want to build in the flexibility in case our students do want to take advantage of the globalness of the university, to spend a semester in London or a year in Boston. We would like to have all options available to our students.
How will the College honor donor intent with various endowment funds?
Associate Vice President for Advancement Nikole Adams: Funds will of course continue to be used for the purposes for which they were established. They’ll support the students, faculty, and programs on the Mills campus. As you know, new programs are being developed, so as we know more about what will be held under the Mills Institute and at Mills at Northeastern, we will conduct a really close review of our endowed funds and assess: How do they fit those needs? Do they continue to support those same programs?
And if any changes need to be made or if the designations don’t quite fit, we’ll work with those donors directly to make adjustments or talk about what we might be able to do with those funds, because we definitely want to honor the wishes and intentions behind those funds.
There’s a huge commitment from Northeastern, too, to have those funds support the Mills campus. They won’t be supporting programs in Boston or on any of the other satellite campuses. There is plenty of need on the Mills campus for those funds, and we’re excited to make those matches.
How do you envision a successful relationship with the AAMC?
Adams: A successful relationship really is about partnership and collaboration, as well as trying to build on what we’ve always had. I’ve been meeting at least twice a month with leadership from the AAMC: the current president, Debby Dittman; past president Viji Nakka-Cammauf; and their interim executive director, Pam Herman. We’re trying to figure out how we can continue to work together, how we can partner on support for students, how we can include alums in activities on the Mills campus, and how we can partner on events for alums in general. Actually, just this week, Debby and I started talking about a possible speaker series!
We haven’t been collaborating as much thanks to the pandemic and all the transitions, but I think we’re getting back to a really good place. Most recently, we’ve been focusing on the database project and working through access to campus resources, as our systems are starting to switch to Northeastern systems. For example, we need make sure that the AAMC can continue to access systems within the office, such as the network and printers. Those are some of the not-so-exciting things we’ve been working on, but they’re essential.
What is the status of the AAMC’s access to the database? Can the AAMC continue to use Reinhardt Alumnae house longer than one year? If not, why?
Adams: I’ll start with the second question: I really hope so! We’re talking about that in our monthly meetings, and we’re trying to help AAMC leadership build a relationship with folks at Northeastern. We’re making some good progress.
For the database, most of you—if not all of you—should have received an email asking you to give us permission to give your information to the AAMC. We did this because we respect your privacy, and we want to make sure that we aren’t just giving over all the information that you have given us without permission—technically, the AAMC is a separate nonprofit organization. Thank you so much to those of you who filled out that form! A very high percentage, about 99% of the people who filled it out, did grant us permission to hand over their contact information. The project is now with our advancement services team, and they are reviewing all the data and making sure that it’s all accurate before handing it over. If you weren’t able to fill out that form, you can go to the AAMC’s new website at aamc-mills.org and sign up there.
Multiple people were curious whether their contact information will be shared with Northeastern. If we give permission for this information to be shared with the AAMC, do we also need to give permission for it to be shared with Northeastern?
Adams: Eventually, we will be merging our databases together as we integrate all of our systems and services. We are now part of Northeastern, so that information will be part of the same database, but you will not be automatically signed up for any newsletters from Northeastern. You won’t be getting solicitations from Northeastern. You will continue to hear from our office on the Mills campus, the Office of Alumnae Relations. From time to time, we might share an event with you that we’re co-sponsoring with Northeastern, but you won’t be automatically signed up for any of those communications. My team continues to work here and is carefully keeping our records as safe and protected as possible.
We know that you’re not alums of Northeastern, and you might not care about what’s happening over there. But if you’re interested, I would encourage you to sign up for those email newsletters. They’re really informative and a great way to get to know the university. But we won’t automatically sign you up for anything.
Who owns the Mills logo? Since Mills is no longer an independent college, are alums free to claim the logo and place it on merchandise on their own?
President Elizabeth L. Hillman: This is about intellectual property, which is just as real as real property. Northeastern has succeeded Mills as the owner of the campus, and has certainly succeeded Mills as the owner of our marks and our logos. Should any alums want to use the logo, they can ask, and I encourage them to do so! You can go through Nikole at email@example.com, and we’ll work with the central folks about how different marks can be used.
An article in The Wall Street Journal mentioned that many majors, such as women’s and ethnic studies, dance, and art history will disappear. President Hillman said that the courses will return after they’re accredited. Which is correct?
Kochly: We currently don’t have any existing programs, but we do have our faculty, our foundations, and all of the knowledge that we used to create those programs. As we design our new programs moving forward, we’re going to incorporate all of those pieces, and the ideas of social, gender, and racial justice.
Hillman: All of Mills’ past programs have now sunsetted, and we’re offering our students degree pathways through existing Northeastern programs until we have a chance to build the programs we’ll offer on the Mills campus. Some of them will be existing Northeastern programs, but with the kind of context and direction that Beth [Kochly] just described. Among those programs will be graduate and undergraduate programs that will certainly be very similar to what Mills has offered in the past. We just need time to do that.
Northeastern is also working on some really innovative pedagogical designs that they’re going to test out here on our campus. If you think our music programs have been experimental, wait until you see what we’re going to do for undergraduate education! It’ll be customized, modular, and global, and it will include all these programs that have been asked about: art, history, dance, ethnic studies. Those may not be the same degree-granting programs, but those strands will play into what we build into Mills College at Northeastern, and we hope to push them out across the global network. I think we will change Northeastern too, and not just here on the Mills campus.
The Office of Alumnae Relations and the Alum Engagement Committee are teaming up for another online alum forum in November. Email invitations will come out soon; check in with firstname.lastname@example.org after November 1 if you haven’t received one.