Ethnic Studies

Meet Ethnic Studies Alumnae

Savannah Kilner
Class of 2009

Savannah Kilner“Personally, I began to understand how fighting racism as a white person is a responsibility that puts me closer in touch with my own humanity.”

Awards and honors:

Palladium Honors Society, Provost Scholarship

What are you doing now and what are the highlights of your achievements or experiences since graduation?
After graduating from Mills, I became a health educator at a local high school where I helped found the health center's Youth Advisory Board, and got to work with an amazing group of young LGBT people. While at Mills, I interned with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and continue to be involved in activism. This fall, I returned to school to start a PhD program in Gender Studies at UCLA. My work examines the race, gender, and sexual politics of space in Oakland, CA, in the context of gentrification and the carceral state. This year, I was awarded the Jean Stone Recruitment Fellowship, and the Paula Stone Legal Research Fellowship on Abolition Democracy.

How did your ethnic studies degree prepare you for your current position?
The Ethnic Studies Department at Mills College pushed my ideas and critical thinking, strengthened my writing, and introduced me to women of color feminist and other theoretical frameworks that prepared me for interdisciplinary graduate work. It was also very inspiring to see models of activist scholarship in our professors.

How did being a part of the ethnic studies community at Mills change you?
When I arrived at Mills, I was hungry for tools with which to understand the world around me. I was aware of inequality, but did not have the frameworks for understanding how systems of power operate in our society, or the incredible ways that people resist and practice alternatives. Personally, I began to understand how fighting racism as a white person is a responsibility that puts me closer in touch with my own humanity. I'm grateful for the many lessons, and to have been part of such an amazing department.

What life lessons would you like to offer to current ethnic studies majors and minors?
Get involved in things that motivate you, and that allow you to bring your whole selves. If you can't find those spaces, create them! I was very shy and did not have a lot of self-confidence as an undergrad, and grew a lot during my time at Mills. Take opportunities to speak up, even if it's terrifying!

What are your future goals?
I am excited to continue my research, and hopefully publish and teach in a college or university setting. I also plan to have a baby in the next year or two, and can't wait!