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New Vice President wants to connect with students

As of Jan. 22, 2008, Therese Leone is the new vice president and general counsel for Mills College.

She will be responsible for providing legal advice for the College, reviewing contracts and other legal documents as well as “anticipat[ing] the legal effect of proposed programs,” according to the job announcement.

Leone will advise the College on all legal matters, but said that diversity is one issue about which she feels passionate. As the first person in her family to go to college and the only lawyer, she believes that education is the key to success.

“I think that it’s important to ensure that diversity in the student body is met, and also socio-economic diversity,” she said.

She supports equal access to education for all groups and likes how many Mills students come from non-traditional backgrounds such as being a racial minority or attending college while raising children.

Mills partly attracted Leone because she has had an interest in women’s studies and heard so much about the women who attend Mills.

“They are taught to be leaders here, and that touched me personally,” she said.
Leone plans to spend the semester learning about the inner workings of Mills and what the community members need. “I want to establish relationships with as many constituents here as I can,” she said.

In order to get closer with students, she hopes that she will be able to teach a class in the future.

Leone previously worked with other educational institutions. She worked as the University Counsel in the Oakland Office of the General Counsel for the Regents of the University of California in 2002. In this position, she provided legal advice to the whole UC system.

Leone wanted this position at the University so that she could spend more time with her only child Sahaas, now seven years old, and to experiment with a career outside of working for a law firm. “I never intended to be an educational lawyer,” Leone said. “I wanted to see if it was better on the other side, and it was.”

Providing legal advice for the University was a way for Leone to connect with people. “You get to meet the students instead of working in a high rise building. It’s a reminder of why you are working,” she said.

The search for the General Council position began in August, according to Ramon Torrecilha, executive vice president. Members of the Mills community, including President Janet Holmgren and Dean of Student Life Joi Lewis interviewed Leone among other candidates.

Interviewers were impressed with Leone. “She was very smart,” said Torrecilha. “With her knowledge of the legal profession and how it applies to higher education, her commitment to women’s education. I knew she was going to be a terrific colleague.”

Others who worked with Leone praised her. Suzan Bateson, the executive director of the Alameda County Food Bank, knew Leone when she was a board member of the food bank. “We really appreciated her talent; she’s really charismatic. and was a fabulous volunteer,” she said.

President Holmgren announced Leone’s appointment in an e-mail to the campus on Jan. 15.

In an effort to know Mills students better, Leone welcomes students to contact her. Her Mills extension is 2228 and her e-mail is