Public Policy

Students and Their Work

Who they are

Public Policy students reflect the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Mills campus.  Among our majors, about one-third are students of color and about an equal number are "resumers," women 23 years of age and older who have delayed entering or completing college.  They bring a wide range of topical interests, with environmental and urban issues, education policy, and poverty most frequently mentioned. Students are interested in both domestic and international dimensions of these problems. Many are also completing a minor or double-major, with economics the most common field.

Public Policy majors are most likely to seek careers in government, advocacy, nonprofit service organizations, and consulting. Even before graduation, a majority complete internships with community organizations or government agencies. One in three majors surveyed state that starting a new nonprofit would be a lifetime career goal, and two-thirds hope to work overseas for some portion of their careers.

What they do as students

The Public Policy Program fosters a learning environment in which Mills women are simultaneously supported and challenged, empowered to pursue their ideas and express their beliefs. Through their class work, internships, and senior projects, Mills PPOL majors engage with current policy problems affecting the surrounding community in Oakland and beyond.

Reflecting the wide range of policy interests among the students, student projects have addressed such topics as public transportation options for the elderly, women's participation in electoral politics, health care access, youth leadership development and civic engagement, land use/housing policy and gentrification, water resource allocation, utility pricing and billing, school district responsiveness to special-needs families, pesticide drift in California farming communities, climate change, and student drug testing, among other topics.

Public policy student projects can have a life of their own beyond graduation, too. Maria Dominguez researched the topic of municipal identification cards for her senior thesis. She found that these ID cards can help undocumented immigrants to access important city services like police protection, health care, and libraries, with the effect of reducing crime and improving living conditions in their communities. A few months later, she helped start the Oakland City ID Card Coalition to promote the idea to city officials, and ultimately the City Council approved the proposal.

Alycia Nachtigall's senior thesis helped the City of Oakland win a $257,000 grant from Caltrans. The grant expanded on her research about improving bicycle and pedestrian safety between Mills College and Oakland's Laurel commercial district. Ms. Nachtigall went on to complete her MPP degree at Mills. 

If you'd like to learn about former public policy program projects, please visit our History of Past Projects and see our Thesis Awards page for recipients of the Program's annual award to an outstanding senior thesis or master's policy report.


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P: 510.430.2147

Last Updated: 6/22/17