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Campus village home for some faculty and staff

A group of houses in Faculty Village, nestled behind student dorms and the CPM Building. (Lauren Sliter)

Residential students are not the only ones who call Mills campus their home.

Past the CPM building, the Mary Morse and Ethel Moore residence halls, and across from the Education Complex/Children’s School, a cluster of houses and duplexes hide between the trees. This is Faculty Village.

The Spanish Revival-styled homes were provided by Mills to accommodate new faculty, visiting professors, the Provost and the Dean of Students. Designed in the 1930s and 40s by Walter Ratcliff, who also designed the art and music buildings for Mills, the homes of Faculty Village blend in seamlessly with the rest of campus. They present the Spanish tile shingles and smooth stucco exteriors that can be seen on other campus buildings.

The diversity of this community allows new professors to become more integrated into Mills life, according to Calculus professor, Maia Averett.

“I met many people from other departments who I wouldn’t normally meet,” Averett explained.

Averett has lived in Faculty Village since she started working at Mills in 2008. She chose to move on campus for many reasons, but most importantly because of the commute time.

“It’s a five minute walk away,” she said.

The convenience of living on campus is particularly important to faculty with children.

“I don’t have to miss bedtime,” said Priya Shimpi, an Education professor, who lives on campus with her 1-year-old son and husband.

Biology Professor, Jared Young, who has lived in Faculty Village with his three children and his wife since 2006, also stressed the importance of “living close to work.”

Another concern is the cost of housing. Both Averett and Young enjoy lower rent in Faculty Village than that of comparable housing in Oakland or the Bay Area.

As with the rest of campus, Faculty Village boasts a beautiful landscape.

“It’s like being in a park,” said Averett, who takes advantage of the environment when walking her dog or taking hikes.
Young also appreciates the park-like feel.

“It’s a great place to live with kids,” he said. His children love the campus.

It’s a great place to have pets, too, said Averett. Many residents have dogs or cats, and Averett lives with her black lab.

It is immediately obvious when walking through Faculty Village that they have no lack of vegetation; every home is surrounded by what seems like an endless expanse of trees and shrubs. The central oval is overtaken by wild grasses and yellow flowers. Each individual home has its own array of plants – one yard boasts a brilliant lemon tree, another, succulents. And a basketball hoop drowns in a sea of fallen eucalyptus branches.

In springtime, the plants take over, and the common areas of Faculty Village are not immune to the will of Mother Nature.

“The space is not maintained,” said Young, “the weeds might be as tall as me.”

Some say that the space could be better utilized.

“It has a lot of potential that isn’t fully realized,” said Young. He and Averett both suggested that adding a community garden would be beneficial to residents.

Besides the exploding greenery of Faculty Village, the age of the buildings has become a bit of a problem as well. Though Averett herself has not experienced problems in her campus home, she knows some of her neighbors have battled with leaks and other damages due to age.

Young recently realized that his duplex is becoming a bit tight, as his family has grown over the years.

“We have never really wanted to move until recently,” Young explained, “it’s a pretty small unit.”

Even while the school shuts down for breaks, life keeps moving.

“It takes extra planning,” on weekends and during breaks, according to Shimpi, as many campus facilities limit their hours when school is out.

Young and his family have had to adapt to Mills’s out of session hours as well.

“It is interesting,” said Young about living on campus year-round, “when school is out, everything gets very quiet.”

What would seem to be the largest concern – mixing home life with work – turns out to be the least of residents’ worries.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m in a campus building,” said Shimpi, who enjoys having equal access to her students and her family. “Living here allows us to have the best of many worlds.”

“You get used to it,” said Young, “it’s separate enough that you don’t see students when you’re home.”

Some feel that living on campus can be “too much Mills” said Averett, “but I feel like it’s my home.”