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Formal Mills-UC Berkeley partnership provides new opportunities to both sides

New opportunities are being provided to both Mills and UC Berkeley students after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed last month between the two schools, formalizing a long-standing partnership.

According to a Mills College’s press release, the partnership helps to address Mills’ enrollment issues and UC Berkeley’s capacity issues, and draws off of the strength of each institution.

These collaborative actions include the continuing ability for Mills students to take classes at UC Berkeley, as well as the new opportunities to use Berkeley Global Internships and summer study abroad programs.

For UC Berkeley students, they can enroll in Mills’ first Biology course sequence, live in Mary Morse Residence Hall and now use Mills’ accelerated MM and MBA pathways. UC Berkeley students taking classes or living at Mills must be eligible under the college’s admissions guidelines.

“We don’t want to change who we are, we just want to give students more opportunities,” said Margaret Hunter, co-chair of the Mills-UC Berkeley Task Force.

More pathways for collaboration are in works for the future, including the possibility of semesters in residence and joint degree programs. The latter would allow students to double major, with one major at Mills that might be highly impacted at UC Berkeley and another at UC Berkeley in a major that isn’t offered at Mills, Hunter said.

According to the Mills website, UC Berkeley is one of the 14 different schools Mills students can cross-register at. Hunter said that UC Berkeley is the most popular of all these. Cross-registration is currently available for students with sophomore standing or above, although Hunter said policies could change if freshmen express interest.

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The task force is currently working on a pathway into the Education graduate program for UC Berkeley students, as well as an engineering partnership. One student interested in this opportunity for an engineering degree is junior Amanda Ma, for whom this is her second year taking classes at UC Berkeley.

“Having both the experience of close-knit family at Mills and an independent experience at Berkeley is a good mixture. It’s a well-rounded education,” Ma said.

Ma encourages other Mills students to take classes at UC Berkeley. She recommends getting started on the cross-registration process early in order to to get the required signatures from both campuses and find classes that work with personal and shuttle schedules.

“Taking the [UC Berkeley] classes empowered me,” Ma said. “I realized this is stuff I can do. I’m no less, I can succeed with the students who are in a number one public school. That’s awesome.”

Although Ma is willing to make the commute between cities three times a week, other students feel it is too much time and energy for a single class. UC Berkeley sophomore Skye Michel is currently in an introductory biology course, which is the class being offered to Cal students at Mills.

“If I hadn’t gotten into the biology class at stage one, I would have looked into it, but otherwise I wouldn’t choose to take the class at Mills over taking the class at Berkeley,” Michel said.

Michel was open to having Mills students in her classes, saying she didn’t think it would be any different than classes with just her UC Berkeley peers. Ma was also interested in diversifying classrooms in this way.

“I think [having UC Berkeley students at Mills] would be wonderful. We’ll have a lot to learn from each other in the same classroom. It would definitely be beneficial for Berkeley students as well,” Ma said.

In the press release from the college, President Elizabeth Hillman similarly expressed how the opportunities that come with this collaboration provide exciting opportunities for the students in both Oakland and Berkeley.

“Both institutions have so much to offer, and this new partnership allows us to make the most of our differences and complement each other’s strengths. It’s our hope that the collaboration will grow in the coming years, and that students will take full advantage of the new options available to them,” Hillman said.