Mills College – On May 2, 2022, The Campanil Chief News Editor Tashandra Poullard interviewed Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) Public Affairs Director, Lana Baptiste, about her dreams, accomplishments and visions for the future.
Despite the current changes and circumstances here at Mills, junior Communications major Lana Baptiste sees light at the end of the tunnel of higher education.
“I dreamed of being a Mills woman and walking the same path some of the most amazing women have walked,” Baptiste said, referring to Mills alumni such as film producer and movie screenwriter Sofia Carmina Coppola and U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district Barbara Lee. Baptiste’s dream came true in the summer of 2021 when she learned that she was accepted into Mills. She describes her experience at Mills as being “one of a kind,” which she is most grateful for.
Baptiste expressed gratitude for the assistance of Mills faculty, who have been instrumental in her experiences in the classroom. She gives a nod of approval to the hardworking staff in the admission, financial aid and academic advising offices, who she says have all been instrumental in helping her navigate through Mills.
“I am overjoyed I chose Mills College!” Baptiste proclaimed.
Baptiste’s pleasant experience at Mills has made her consider becoming a middle school academic counselor, desiring to help the young and impressionable students prepare for life by helping them set and achieve their goals.
Baptiste has refused to focus on the negative chatter surrounding the merger between Mills and Northeastern, instead shifting her attention towards uplifting students’ spirits and creating magical, unforgettable memories with Mills. Using her creative genius to plan and host many crafty events, Baptiste calls collaborating with ASMC “a pure joy.” She stresses that the key to a successful event is to pay strict attention to detail and choose great vendors.
One of the most festive events that Baptiste organized was the Student Appreciation Holiday Jam Event, which was held in the Student Union at Rothwell. The event was decorated with a lavish marquee sign that spelled out “Mills” in illuminated, golden capital letters.
The campus was buzzing following the Student Appreciation Holiday Jam on Friday, December 3, 2021. The event included a live DJ, a candy car with delicious deserts, a glamour photo booth and a smorgasbord of food selections.
“I loved the centerpieces. I can’t wait to help plan and attend the next event!” Communications major Melissa Ortiz said.
“I’ve decided it was best to unify students to gather for some lasting memories before Mills closes,” Baptiste said. “I wanted to create some beautiful events for students to celebrate their accomplishments, enjoy good times together and enjoy some forever memories.”
Baptiste wants students to remember the last days at Mills in a more positive light for years to come. She believes that Mills will always hold a special place in the hearts of alumni.
“It was only right that we celebrate each moment with joy, love and peace,” Baptiste said.
Some of the festivities that ASMC celebrates annually are Black History Month, which was celebrated this year on Monday, February 28, and International Women’s Day, held on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Other events this year included Grad & Bougie and Relax with Llamas, which were both held on Friday, April 29, 2022.
Baptiste’s outlook on the impending merger is positive, with a tinge of hope for the future changes it will bring.
“I look forward to creating new memories with Mills at Northeastern,” Baptiste said. “I have high hopes for the merger because Mills has a rich history with many traditions.”
Baptiste plans to continue her service to Mills, and to the broader Oakland community, by helping create traditions and memories that will build a lasting legacy that can continue at Mills at Northeastern.
Mills is one of many institutions of higher education in the U.S. struggling to keep their doors open. Since 2019, several factors have made it nearly impossible for Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) and historically women’s colleges to continue to serve their surrounding communities while dealing with a global pandemic, low enrollment, changing demographics and a lack of funding.
According to a 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Education, one in eight Americans have federal student loans. This equates to an estimated outstanding student loan debt of $1.59 trillion. Although the average student leaves college with nearly $30,000 in personal debt, African American students attending HBCUs are accruing more debt.
Inside Higher ED reports that “there are fewer than 50 women’s colleges in the United States, down from 230 in 1960, according to the Women’s College Coalition.” Mills College is a 170-year-old institution facing financial difficulties, causing remaining students to scramble towards the goal of graduating, transferring to another institution or make the tough decision to stay at Mills as it undergoes the Northeastern University merger.