A trip to the Mills ceramics studio will reveal a poster hung above the sink in neon ink-stamped letters. It proclaims: “We are creating and living in the future we want to see.”
In some ways, this message embodies the Mills ethos, and in others, it speaks to an idealism that gets at what we are always trying to achieve.
For some, Mills is a sanctuary. It is feminist and queer and a champion of justice. Mills provides a safer and more welcoming space for people of diverse backgrounds than we often find in the outside world. This has a profound impact on our capacity for growth, confidence and comfort with ourselves. Importantly, Mills serves as an incubator for creativity and personal growth, which is arguably the point of a liberal arts education.
Liberal arts degrees foster “problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability,” David Deming writes for the New York Times. “Such skills are hard to quantify, and they don’t create clean pathways to high-paying first jobs. But they have long-run value in a wide variety of careers.”
The skill of adaptability that Deming refers to is a quality inherent to a Mills education. Seeing people who look like us and share our identities is healing and powerful, and being exposed to new perspectives through classes and the people around us is invaluable. Mills shows us more of who we are; it reveals to us different sides of ourselves that we often did not know existed before.
Some Mills students point to the excellent reading materials and eye-opening discussions facilitated by Mills’ small humanities classes as evidence of this. Through these courses, Mills equips us with the language and reasoning to refine our thoughts and develop strategies for effectively listening to the ideas of others.
By taking an intersectional approach to academic topics and providing students with a broad range of readings and experiences, we deepen our connections with others’ lives and perspectives. Mills allows us to step outside our own biases and extend empathy to others, and this is a skill that will serve us beyond our time at Mills.
The school still needs to work on providing its students with a greater range of easily accessible class choices and ensuring that students are being taught in the ways they need to succeed. Specifically, Mills needs to provide marginalized students with the tools and environments they need to be successful. Students have attempted to remedy the lack of much-needed resources by spearheading efforts to provide these resources to their peers. Last year, ASMC President Dylyn Turner-Keener initiated a Black Wellness Proposal in this vein.
Mills opens our eyes to the many systemic injustices in our society and enables us to find ways to close that gap. Having valuable growth experiences at Mills means that we can later in turn help others in a greater capacity. We are hopeful because of the inspiring people around us that we might see a more positive future that looks better than our present reality.
Albert Einstein once spoke about the importance of becoming a person of value rather than merely a person of success. Some schools teach students to chase success in terms of how society defines that, emphasizing technical skills rather than critical analysis and other liberal arts skills. Mills prioritizes teaching its students to become people of value, and that makes all the difference.