Areas of Study
Academic Calendar
» Undergraduate Catalog
Catalog Archives

Home > Academics > Undergraduate >
Undergraduate Catalog

About Mills College

Nestled in the heart of the urban San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College is a hidden gem. It's an idyllic setting that might—at first glance—belie the pulse of activity that beats within the gates. As many have discovered, Mills is home to one of the most dynamic liberal arts educations available to women today.

For more than 160 years, Mills College has enjoyed a reputation as a vibrant center of academic excellence. Historically a college for women only, Mills continues that proud tradition today at the undergraduate level. To provide enhanced professional opportunities for all students, Mills also offers renowned graduate programs open to both women and men.

Ranked fifth among colleges and universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills also has been named one of the top "Great Schools, Great Prices" for high academic quality relative to the net cost of attendance. Mills was recognized as one of The Best 380 Colleges and one of the greenest colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review.

With about half of the undergraduates identifying as women of color, Mills brings together students with a wide range of ethnicities, interests, backgrounds, and ages in an inclusive, welcoming community.

back to top

Mills is an independent liberal arts college for women with graduate programs for women and men. The College educates students to think critically and communicate responsibly and effectively, to accept the challenges of their creative visions, and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society.

Academic Environment
Inspired by a teaching philosophy that grows out of a long-standing dedication to women’s education, Mills provides a creative, challenging learning environment that encourages intellectual exploration. The faculty of respected scholars and artists is dedicated to developing the strengths of every student, preparing them for lifelong intellectual, personal, and professional growth.

With an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, Mills women are assured access to and support from their inspiring and committed professors. The cornerstone of a Mills education is the collaboration between dedicated students and distinguished faculty that goes beyond the classroom and into meaningful work and innovative research.

Mills encourages openness to experimentation in the context of established academic disciplines. The curriculum combines traditional liberal arts with new educational initiatives that value cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. Academic programs are designed to reflect the importance of global issues, provide an understanding of the natural world, and enhance opportunities for women throughout society.

back to top

Academic Programs
Mills offers a bachelor of arts degree in a variety of majors and the bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, biology, biopsychology, chemistry, environmental science, mathematics, and public health and health equity. In addition, the College offers eight accelerated programs that make it possible for students to earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree—increasing post-college career options. At the foundation of these academic programs is the belief that an education in the liberal arts and sciences should offer the opportunity to explore and master a varied set of skills, perspectives, and disciplinary experiences.

Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and in some circumstances, first-year students, may cross-register for one course per semester at UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, or one of several other Bay Area colleges. Mills has exchange or visiting programs with many American colleges and universities. Mills has also made special arrangements with more than 20 institutions that offer international study opportunities. These relationships offer additional avenues to experience different teaching styles and learning environments.

Mills offers preprofessional programs in nursing, medicine and health sciences, and law. Off-campus internships connect academic studies and career plans with on-the-job experience. Students learn from and work with faculty who are community, national, and international leaders in science, economics, mathematics, the arts, literature, education, government, and many other fields.

back to top

Campus Life
Located in the foothills of Oakland, California, on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay, Mills offers students access to the diverse metropolitan centers that make up the greater Bay Area. Amid the green rolling hills and the century-old eucalyptus trees of the Mills campus, students find haven—a great place to live and learn—with new friends and new ideas at every turn. The campus is heavily accented with Mediterranean-style buildings, many designed by architectural innovator Julia Morgan. Paths and streams wind their way through tree groves and meadows, adding to the lush feeling that pervades the 135-acre campus. Mills students also enjoy an educational environment enriched by historic cultural resources such as the Mills College Art Museum, the Littlefield Concert Hall, and the Center for Contemporary Music.

Residential and commuting students alike participate in a variety of eclectic events that enhance learning and provide inspiration beyond the classroom. Typical offerings might include a contemporary art exhibit, a lecture on socially responsible business, a creek clean-up event, a spoken word performance, or an evening of experimental music. Mills also offers a variety of student clubs and organizations that run the gamut from the Mills Leadership Action of Tomorrow to the International Student Association. 

Students can also experience one-of-a-kind resources such as the Eucalyptus Press, the imprint of the Book Art Program at Mills; or the Children's School, the first laboratory school founded west of the Mississippi. The Special Collections of the F. W. Olin Library contain more than 22,000 rare books and manuscripts, including a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, a Mozart manuscript, and a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible. The Trefethen Aquatic Center and Haas Pavilion offer a wide variety of options for athletics, physical fitness, and recreation, while the campus Chapel provides a peaceful environment for spiritual reflection and renewal.

Outside the campus gates, students have access to the urban Bay Area with Berkeley, San Francisco, Napa, and Silicon Valley nearby. Students can enjoy educational and professional opportunities afforded through stimulating cultural, artistic, and political events or simply reap the benefit of the social and recreational activities and climate of the beautiful Bay Area.

back to top

Diversity and Social Justice Statement
Mills College embraces diversity and social justice as key components of academic, cocurricular, and residential life. The College encourages every member of our community to embrace this vision and to work to attract, support, and retain students, faculty, and staff who reflect the diversity and social justice values of Mills.

Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and world views that arise from race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity, religious and spiritual beliefs, class, age, color, sexual orientation, disability, immigrant status, and national origin. Social justice refers to a commitment to challenging social, cultural, and economic inequalities imposed on individuals arising from any differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege at Mills and in the larger society.

Since its founding, Mills has remained committed to empowering women to overcome the social barriers that have excluded them from educational and career opportunities. In the 20th century, Mills recognized the importance of extending this access to women from diverse backgrounds, including resumer women, parenting students, and first-generation college students. In addition, Mills' graduate and professional programs are designed to provide a coeducational environment that values women's leadership and promotes gender equality. Because the College aims to educate all students to acquire the knowledge and skills to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society, we seek to create opportunities for engagement in activities that promote equity and justice.

Mills honors freedom of expression and respectful discourse as fundamental educational cornerstones. We recognize that students learn best in an environment that is safe for disagreement, recognizes and addresses diverse learning styles, and values holistic growth and wellness.

Mills recognizes that diversity and social justice are inextricably linked to academic excellence and innovation. Critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, creativity, and collaboration are all enhanced when a diverse faculty and student body interact and learn from one another. By offering a traditional liberal arts curriculum while engaging new pedagogies and diverse perspectives, Mills provides a transformative educational experience that prepares students for excellence and effective leadership in their careers, professions, and in graduate education.

back to top

Founded in 1852 as the Young Ladies' Seminary in Benicia, California, Mills College boasts a rich history as a leader in women's education. Mills was founded two years after California was admitted to statehood and the same year the city of Oakland was established. The University of California and Stanford had yet to exist, and newly prosperous miners, farmers, and merchants wanted to educate their daughters without sending them on the perilous journey to East Coast schools.

The Young Ladies' Seminary was established by nine citizens in what became the state capital, and it gained a strong reputation under the direction of Oberlin graduate Mary Atkins. With a vision of equal education and opportunity for women, missionaries Cyrus and Susan Mills bought the Seminary in 1865 for $5,000, renamed it Mills College, and moved it in 1871 to its current 135-acre oasis. At the time, Oakland was a bustling metropolis of about 10,000.

The student body quickly grew, with students of diverse faiths and backgrounds enrolled from many states and countries. Among the first institutions for the higher education of women, Mills is the oldest women's college west of the Rockies.

Over the decades, Mills "firsts" have been numerous: the first women's college west of the Rockies (chartered 1885); the first laboratory school west of the Mississippi for aspiring teachers (1926); the first women's college to offer a computer science major (1974) and a bachelor's to master's BA/MBA accelerated degree program (2001); the first business school in the West for women (2005); and the first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009).

Always a leader in the arts, Mills was among the first liberal arts colleges to offer a modern dance degree (1941), and it became the national center for modern dance outside New York City. The Center for Contemporary Music, dedicated in 1967, is a preeminent center for electronic music.

Many of the world's foremost artists, politicians, and scholars have taught, lectured, and performed at Mills, including Isabel Allende, John Cage, Don Ed Hardy, Dolores Huerta, Darius Milhaud, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pelosi, Gertrude Stein, and Gloria Steinem.

Notable alumnae of the College include Jennifer Losch Bartlett, abstract artist; Renel Brooks-Moon, voice of the San Francisco Giants and the first African American woman to announce for a professional sports team; Trisha Brown, renowned dancer and one of the first female choreographers to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Award; Barbara Lee, US Congresswoman; Stephanie Mills, groundbreaking ecological activist and author; and Susan Perrine, developer of a revolutionary treatment for sickle cell anemia.

For more than 160 years, Mills has continued to attract people interested in creativity, experimentation, leadership, and social justice—the hallmarks of a 21st-century Mills education.

back to top

Undergraduate Catalog
Table of Contents

About Mills

Academic Requirements

Academic Regulations

Transfer Credit


Advising and Registration

Course Descriptions

Majors and Minors

Graduate Degree and Certifcate Programs

Student Life



Financial Aid

Last Updated: 6/22/17