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Undergraduate Catalog

The Core Curriculum

Vision and Goal

Our core curriculum supports our vision of a 21st-century liberal arts education, which prepares students to pursue varied career paths throughout their lifetimes. Its principal goal is to create engaged global citizens who combine the confidence and tools to think for themselves with a sense of responsibility for the needs of the larger community. Social justice is a strong component of the core curriculum, which is inspired by our Mills’ tradition as a women’s college of promoting access and empowerment for those who have historically been excluded from educational opportunities.

The core curriculum capitalizes on our unique location. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to thriving communities of radical artists, writers, musicians, and dancers, as well as creative engineers driving the revolution in information technology, environmental scientists spearheading the “green” movement, and activists inspiring political and social change. This rich cultural and social landscape has played a crucial role in the identity of Mills and its rich tradition of creativity, innovation, and experimentation.

The curriculum emphasizes the value of diverse perspectives, critical analysis, and knowledge as being essential to successful social change. Through the study of languages other than English and international perspectives, students acquire experience with communicating across differences.Through critical, quantitative and scientific analysis, they learn how to analyze problems from interdisciplinary perspectives. Students also learn to talk with each other and their faculty about their intellectual and artistic visions in a nurturing community that supports creativity and innovation.

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Core Curriculum Requirements for the Bachelor's Degree

Each of the requirements listed below can be fulfilled in a number of ways, including Mills courses, independent studies and other learning activities, transfer credit, and/or relevant advanced placement (AP) courses. The advisor will help the student set up a core curriculum plan tailored to the student’s specific academic needs and interests.

The core requirements fall into three categories: foundational skills, modes of inquiry, and contributions to knowledge and society. Each requirement is described below along with its learning objectives. A list of courses or learning activities meeting these requirements is available online under Core Curriculum Courses. A given course or learning activity may meet no more than two core requirements.

Foundational Skills

  • Critical Analysis (3 credits)
  • Information Literacy (0 credits)
  • Written and Oral Communication (7 credits)
  • Quantitative Literacy (3 credits)

Ways of Knowing/Modes of Inquiry

  • Race, Gender, and Power (3 credits)
  • Scientific Inquiry (3 credits)
  • Language Other Than English (3 credits)
  • International Perspectives (3 credits)

Contributions to Knowledge and Community

  • Community Engagement (2 credits)
  • Creativity, Innovation, and Experimentation (3 credits)


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Core Curriculum Requirements

Foundational Skills

Critical Analysis (3 credits)

At Mills, students learn to approach knowledge generated in scholarly, governmental, media, and community contexts with a critical lens, asking vital questions, interrogating assumptions, and using logical reasoning to detect and counter bias and unexamined societal assumptions.

Information Literacy and Technology Skills (0 credits)

In a society of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources, individuals are confronted with an abundance of information in a variety of formats. Students should have the skills needed to evaluate the authenticity, validity, and reliability of information and use information technology effectively.

Written and Oral Communication I and II (7 credits)

College-level communication and literacy are supported at every stage of a Mills student’s academic career. In their first year at Mills, all students take a course that introduces college-level written and oral communication skills. Undergraduate students who have not completed an acceptable college-level English composition course are required to take Rhetoric and Composition for the College Writer (ENG 001 for 4 credits). ENG 001 must be completed by the end of the first year at Mills. AP credit does not fulfill the ENG 001 requirement.

Students will build on their skills in a second course that calls for practicing effective written, oral, and digital communication.

Quantitative Literacy (3 credits)

The quantitatively literate citizen can approach complex problems with careful reasoning and assess claims involving data and numbers. To thrive and contribute, Mills graduates need a set of basic quantitative tools and interpretational/communicative skills, and an appreciation for the value of quantitative analysis alongside other forms of critical thinking. Students can meet this requirement with a wide variety of courses in math, computer science, social science, philosophy, natural science, and more.

Ways of Knowing/Modes of Inquiry

Race, Gender, and Power (3 credits)

The race, gender, and power (RGP) requirement enables students to develop an understanding of race and gender as socially constructed, intersecting, and contested categories related to power and privilege. Students gain the analytical tools they need to understand, communicate about, and act within social contexts shaped by inequality.

Scientific Inquiry (SI) of Natural Systems (3 credits)

In addition to being introduced to a set of known facts about natural systems, students will gain a critical understanding of central concepts and theories used to study biological, chemical, and/or physical processes. Students will assess scientific claims based on existing data and/or their own observations or experimentation. Most courses will therefore ask students to devise testable hypotheses or otherwise inquire about the processes of natural systems through analysis of scientific texts, raising questions about existing data, or hands-on experiences, including those in the laboratory and/or field.

Language Other Than English (LOTE) (3 credits)

As global citizens, Mills students need to develop the ability to understand and to communicate with a diversity of individuals and societies. Language study cultivates empathy and greater respect for others and disrupts students’ established ways of thinking and relating to the world. Once students have completed one semester of language study, they will have the opportunity to continue their studies during their time at Mills, developing more advanced language skills for use in future scholarly work, personal interactions, and careers.

International Perspectives (3 credits)

The international perspectives requirement enables students to experience new modes of thinking about the world beyond Europe and North America. To meet this requirement, students complete at least one approved experience abroad or course focused on a country, region, or culture beyond the United States that includes cultural and historical perspectives from the place or culture being studied.

Contributions to Knowledge and Community

Community Engagement (2 credits)

The community engagement requirement offers students the opportunity to integrate “thinking” with “doing” by connecting theoretical and critical analysis with practical applications in the community. Through experiential learning within diverse Bay Area communities, paired with critical reflection within the classroom, students directly engage with the principles of social justice and collaborative leadership. This empowers students to help expose marginalized cultural perspectives and address societal needs while ;enabling them to develop their own roles as innovators and change agents.

This requirement can be fulfilled either through a course with community engagement embedded in it (designated CEL), or through an internship or other approved experience with a community-based organization. Find information on registering for a CEL internship on the Career Connections and Community Engagement webpage.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will apply concepts explored in the classroom in a practical context.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to apply leadership competencies and skills through engagement with community organizations on projects that are meaningful to both the organizations and the students.
  • Students will develop the ability to engage in thoughtful, self-reflective, and ethical collaboration in a community setting.

Creativity, Innovation, and Experimentation (3 credits)

The creativity, innovation, and experimentation component of Mills’ academic core curriculum encourages students to explore skills and ways of thinking necessary to solve problems in today’s rapidly changing world. Designing and implementing a groundbreaking research project in the natural or the social sciences, writing a business plan for some new enterprise or advanced computer code for a robot, or arguing for a new model or way of understanding human social networks are forms of creativity that can lead to fundamental changes in our lives.

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Last Updated: 6/22/17