After nearly a year long hiatus, Mills has hired an
administrator to oversee issues of multiculturalism on campus. On
April 1, Dr. Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle took her post as senior
advisor to the president on multiculturalism, diversity and
Her job will entail assessing all areas of the campus community
and then reporting her findings, as well as recommendations to the
president. President Holmgren said that she expects
Hernandez-Gravelle will take the remainder of the semester and
summer to get an overview of the college. According to President
Holmgren, the position is newly created in that it encompasses
three areas of focus, to serve current needs. As opposed to her
predecessor Ramone Torrisea, former director of multiculturalism
and academic planning, Hernandez -Gravelle was not hired as a vice
president, and was appointed for a one year term.
“The position is framed in the context of a year, ” said
Holmgren. She said that she would be consulting the board and
senior members of the administration to decide how the position
will be handled after that time.
Hernandez-Gravelle said she will be observing and assessing the
current climate and situation at Mills.
“I will be looking at the strategic plan, census data, profiles,
faculty and administration, groups that have a perspective on
what’s happening,” said Hernandez-Gravelle. “What the existing
information is, a range of perspectives around issues and gaps and
what interventions are needed.”
She added that she wanted to make clear that issues of this kind
do not get addressed overnight.
“Everyone needs to be thoughtful…but realistic,” she said.
Hernandez-Gravelle was instrumental in helping organize the
recent sessions on access, diversity and the strategic plan
according to Holmgren and this is exemplary of the type of work she
will be doing. In addition, Hernandez-Gravelle said that she will
be developing a diversity committee and a retention task force.
“When we talk about issues of diversity, we are talking about
theories, perspectives and experiences. All of those things
combined help us understand how we are feigning,” she said.
Some members of the campus community said that they have felt
the void since Torrisea left last year and are happy to have
someone who will be focusing on these areas.
“I am excited about having this person on campus,” said Margo
Okazawa-Rey director of the Women’s Leadership Institute and
visiting professor of women’s studies. “She will be dealing with
the big picture issues and of diversity and multiculturalism
institution-wide, which is really necessary. She has wonderful
experience and will look at the student retention question. What’s
working for students of color and other marginalized students,
diversity isn’t just about race.”
Other members of the administration feel that it’s about on
ongoing commitment to issues of diversity and multicutluralism, not
that you get to a certain point and decide that there is no longer
a need to address them.
“This is an insurance policy that work [of this kind] will keep
coming, that we are systematically integrating it into the
institution” said Myrt Whitcomb, Dean of Admissions. “You have to
be vigilant and attentive if you’re intentional.”
Although Hernandez-Gravelle is new to Mills, Mills is not new to
her. She worked with Mills through the James Irvine Foundation,
where she oversaw the campus diversity initiative, a
multimillion-dollar grant program for private institutions of
higher education in California. As well, she is not a stranger to
women’s colleges. She worked at Simmons College as Associate Dean
of Student Life, and had a 12-year stay at Harvard where she was
the Assistant Dean of Students and Founding Director of the Office
for Race Relations and Minority Affairs.
Hernandez-Gravelle said that she is very happy to be at Mills
and welcomes all members of the campus community to stop by her
office, which is located in the president’s office.
“I am eager to have conversations,” she said. “I welcome
students to visit me in my office and invitations from student
groups on campus to get together and talk.”
Hernandez-Gravelle addressed the campus community at her welcome
reception and said, “Our successes will be joint, and our failures
we will share as well.”