UC Berkeley, Mills College formalize partnership, introduce new cross-campus programs

Mills Hall, Mills College, Oakland, CA
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Mills Hall, Mills College, Oakland, CA

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Chancellor Carol Christ and Mills College President Elizabeth Hillman signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday, making a long-standing informal partnership between the campuses official.

The partnership allows UC Berkeley students to live in Mills dorms in central Oakland, take an introductory biology course sequence at Mills and access accelerated pathways to master’s degrees from Mills. The partnership also grants Mills students access to UC Berkeley’s Summer Abroad and Global Internship programs.

Margaret Hunter, associate provost for recruitment and student success at Mills, and Catherine Koshland, UC Berkeley vice chancellor of undergraduate education, co-chaired the task force that developed the formal partnership. Hunter said cross-registration and faculty collaboration between the two institutions has existed for decades, but she explained that the task force was created to consider new ways the communities can benefit from each other.

“The two schools have had a friendly and loose collaboration historically because we’ve both been neighbors for a long time,” Hunter said. “What makes this task force unique is how much we’ve accomplished in the relatively short time that we’ve been meeting.”

UC Berkeley students began living in Mills residence halls last year because of an increase in student enrollment. Mills students will be able to study abroad through UC Berkeley programs starting summer 2018, and two UC Berkeley students are taking introductory biology courses at Mills for the first time this semester.

Alex Engel, a Mills assistant professor of biology, teaches these two students in his general biology class. He said the partnership between the two schools allows students to benefit from small sections of 30 to 40 — compared to sections of up to 500 at UC Berkeley —  while offering Mills professors the opportunity to improve their general biology curriculums.

“I would love to have a whole section of 30 to 40 Cal students,” Engel said. “In a very practical sense, it means bringing more great, active minds into the classrooms here.”

According to Koshland’s chief of staff Cindy Bumgarner, who serves on the task force that developed the memorandum, participation in these programs is projected to increase. The task force is still working to open up new opportunities. Hunter said the team is discussing creating a double-degree program, allowing students to graduate with degrees from both Mills and UC Berkeley.

Bumgarner emphasized that for UC Berkeley students who find the campus “big” and “overwhelming,” the partnership with Mills offers a “smaller environment.” She added that in return, UC Berkeley can offer Mills students access to the resources of a large research university.

“If we can carve out (the opportunities) that make the most sense for those students and broaden those opportunities, that’s really fantastic,” Bumgarner said.

Contact Olivia Nouriani at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @olivianouriani.