As a part of the Mills College Strategic Plan, the Mills community is enacting a “Vibrant and Inclusive Campus Imperative,” which is one of six imperatives that is currently being implemented into campus life.
President DeCoudreaux started the most recent strategic planning process in 2012; the strategic plan is renewed every five years. The strategic planning committee develops five year checkpoints to help the college reach its 15 year goals. With Mills’ budget continually in flux, reallocating budgetary needs to support futuristic goals is also important in the success of the College’s vision.
The strategic imperatives range from internationalizing Mills by developing partnerships with community colleges and other liberal arts colleges to creating a curriculum that encourages students to be proactive citizens. The Strategic Plan is also committed to strengthening Mills’ commitment to inclusion, social justice and sustainability while providing a vibrant and inclusive campus life.
Dean of Students Eloise Stiglitz is the point person for this project. Stiglitz is responsible for overseeing every step taken within this initiative.
“The over-arching goals of the strategic plan are to create a campus that promotes recruitment [and] retention and is student-centered,” Stiglitz said.
According to the Strategic Plan, the entire Mills community contributed to the initiatives through surveys and community forums where Board of Trustee members, faculty, staff, students and alumni met to discuss their vision of Mills in the future. It was through these discussions and responses to surveys that six working groups were formed with the intention of delving further into the central topics addressed by the Mills community. Students expressed their interest in what they would like to see more on campus.
According to Stiglitz, each imperative will be working toward a comprehensive purpose. The overall goal is to gain a better understanding of campus diversity in order to build more community among Mills students.
“The third imperative, ‘Social Justice,’ is about inclusion and ‘Vibrant Campus’ is also about inclusion,” said Stiglitz.” We want everybody to feel like the campus is a welcoming place [where] they want to spend their time.”
The Strategic Plan for 2013-2018 states that there are five different tactics that will increase student engagement within the Mills community: promoting a vibrant workplace, creating an active campus core, bolstering wellness through athletics, exploring more transportation options and providing opportunities for leadership.
Promoting a vibrant workplace focuses heavily on the success of faculty and staff. According to the Strategic Plan, a staff member in the Human Resources department will be appointed the responsibility of assessing the current conditions of the campus workplace and developing a plan for increasing the professional engagement and personal success of the faculty and staff.
Creating an active campus core includes the renovation and expansion of existing facilities on campus. According to Stiglitz, the planned expansion of Lisser Hall will promote a stronger creative space for the dance department as well as the music department.
As a part of this initiative, APER is promoting personal wellness and community building. According to Athletics Director Themy-Jo Adachi, APER will be adding a Softball Club, expanding the existing Cheer Squad, sponsoring free fitness activities and providing new fitness center equipment.
“We hope this will provide more outlets for students and avenues to engage in physical activity,” said Natalie Spangler, Head Athletic Trainer and Advisor of the Softball Club. “Currently, they have the options to register for a PE class or commit to several hours a week to play a sport. Many students have [noticed] a drop in fitness classes or intramural style sports, so I hope that free fitness classes and the Softball Club can provide that.”
Stiglitz said many students have expressed interest in having more transportation options in order to create a more vibrant campus. The idea is to grant campus residents as well as commuters more access to the Mills community and the greater East Bay. While this process is still in its early stages, the next step is to audit and assess current transportation (the Mills shuttle service and AC Transit cards) to create a more effective and accessible schedule for all students.
Opportunities for leadership include ideas for student run facilities such as Cafe Suzie, which would be able to maintain itself financially, and the campus farm. This will allow students to experience peer mentoring and community engagement that they can carry with them into the professional world.
“I think [Cafe Suzie] is a great way to have leadership for students,” Stiglitz said. “Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean positional leadership. It means that you take responsibility and you have a commitment to having an impact. I think that would make a vibrant campus.”
In addition to these action steps, Laura Engelken, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, Director of the Center for Urban Schools and Partnerships, and Nicci Van Dyke, Fitness Center Supervisor will be spearheading a project called Alternative Spring Break, which will take place during spring break of 2014. According to Engelken, there will be two separate programs called “Spirituality and Social Justice” and “Educational Equity.” This five day retreat in the surrounding Bay Area will allow for the 20-25 students participating to engage with each other as leaders as well as get involved with the community that exists beyond the Mills gates.
Engelken will be working closely with Joyelle Baker, Spiritual and Religious Life Assistant, on the “Spirituality and Social Justice” program for Alternative Spring Break.
“I am so ecstatic that this program has been integrated into Mills campus life,” Baker said. “I strongly feel that we could use more spirit here at Mills from students, and access to leadership and volunteer opportunities helps students to build relationships and connections between one another and within the larger Oakland community.”