Matters of the heart: Graduating class leaving a legacy

April 28, 2010

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it”
— Marianne Williamson

I am often reminded of the magical and transformative moments that not only shape a woman’s life and awareness, but her education and her world as well — especially at Mills College.

During my tenure as the dean of students at Mills (2005 to 2007), I had both the honor and privilege of  working closely with not only an amazing league of women, the class of 2010, but a Division of Student Life (DSL) team who also helped us transform campus life.

Just as Williamson speaks to the importance of the “work to be done” within our communities and the “wounds” to be healed, our seniors leave us with an important gift of the heart, as they prepare to graduate: a legacy of social change that informed all of us how to better respond to the diverse needs of our students, which, in turn, has benefited our campus community.

There were a lot of “firsts” associated with the class of 2010, as it was one of the larger first-year classes to ever enroll in the College. The students entered at a pivotal time, when a successful capitol campaign led to an infusion of major funding for DSL, academic programs and new learning technologies to support the expansion of campus-wide programs and services for students. \

The class of 2010 was the first to be served by my new hires in DSL — Erika Macs, Courtney Young Law, Gina Rosabal and Jess Miller — who all joined a dedicated DSL team of staff advocating for student: Themy Adachi, Dorian Newton, Kate Dey and others.

As first-year students, their first lesson of students activism and empowerment revolved around rallying with 300 other peers for the Coalition for Change, a movement  reminiscent of the early 1980s at Mills.

They were part of a successful silent protest to bring important issues to the forefront for the president, senior administration and Board of Trustees to address differently than before and, thus, worked closely with DSL to put Mills students’ needs first.

There were also other “firsts” related to their social advocacy, such as working with DSL teams and me to infuse staff training and orientation programs with more diversity and social justiceprinciples to better handle the issues affecting our students of color, religious and spiritual groups, LGBTQI and students with disabilities both inside and outside of    the classroom.

We also instituted unprecedented national policy changes in NCAA guidelines to protect our female athletes.

They were the first to experience the resurrection of a 15-year-old tradition at the College by rallying and aligning different student organizations, DSL, academic and College offices to co-host one of the only two remaining Native American pow-wows in the Bay Area — an event that still continues today. They worked together with Andy Workman and me to establish a Parenting Lounge and a new Wellness Center, the latter established with current dean Joi Lewis’ help.

They were also the first to experience the wounds associated with the tragic death of a classmate, which led to Erika Macs’ special ministry and outreach work, an important part of the community’s healing process.

As these amazing women prepare for their commencement, I am proud to say I have been an integral part of their evolution as social change agents. I also celebrate who they have become: legacy-builders  of the new millennium.

As Lao Tzu once said, remember that “there are many paths to enlightenment. [So] Be sure to take the one with a heart.”

Matters of the heart: Graduating class leaving a legacy was published on April 28, 2010 in Commencement, Opinions

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