The Mills concert may never have been filled with such focused
silence. Crowded with students, alumnae, faculty, staff, family and
friends, the audience hung on every word as graduate student Yogita
Maharaj delivered a speech at Convocation on Friday, Sept. 10.
Convocation is as much as a tradition at Mills as commencement.
It marks the beginning of the academic year, honors the graduating
class and students receiving scholarships, allows alumnae to
reconnect with one another and in this particular case, it allowed
Maharaj a chance to share how the school has affected her life.
“The women and men at this institution come from so many
places, and languages, and experiences that it is difficult for me
to encompass all of that into my brief talk,” said Maharaj,
“…let me tell you something I do know about, which is
my own path towards Mills and my experiences since I came one year
Maharaj’s story seemed to resonate with many in the
audience, as she stressed how unique and necessary a woman-centered
space is. She related how disappointed she was when her father told
her that he “didn’t trust her enough to go away to
college” and that she’d have to attend Stanislaus State
University as an undergraduate, because it was the only university
close enough to her Modesto home.
When Maharaj described how her parents had flown her out to the
Fiji Islands for two and a half weeks for surprise meeting with the
man they had chosen for her to marry, in an arranged marriage,
which she refused, glassy eyes, quiet sniffles and compassionate
sighs filled the room. Those experiences dramatically impacted her
life, but she describes the moments when she received her
acceptance letter from Mills for graduate school as a “more
satisfactory” life—challenging moment.
“Mills has allowed me so many pleasures that I, up until
now, had imagined only happened to other people,” she said.
“It is through Mills College that I have been given the
tremendous academic and personal opportunity to develop my
self-confidence, which is something I have struggled with over the
course of my life as a person, as a student, and as a
When Maharaj’s speech was the highlight of the
convocation, the event provided a venue for the introduction of one
of the new ASMC co-presidents, Erika Rickard, the awarding of a
honorary doctoral degree to Pauline Oliveros, a music composer and
distinguished professor of music, and the presentation of a gift of
$363,000 by the class of 1954.