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New UC Berkeley-Mills College Collaboration Seeks to Address Ongoing Challenges Facing Each Campus

OAKLAND, CA – Two East Bay higher education institutions located only nine miles apart geographically but worlds apart in many other respects have formed a partnership that will leverage their respective strengths and help maximize limited resources while enriching the student experience. It also aims to address the four-year capacity issue in California. The unique agreement between the University of California, Berkeley and Mills College was commemorated at Mills on October 19, when the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding took place.

This new collaboration, developed by a joint task force, builds on the institutions’ longstanding relationship, which in part has enabled students to cross-register for classes. Encouraged by earlier successes, leaders determined that the distinct challenges faced by their separate institutions — such as capacity issues at UC Berkeley and enrollment issues at Mills — could be mitigated by broadening students’ access to each other’s services and facilities. The result: UC Berkeley and Mills students will have access to a myriad of opportunities that do not exist at their own institution.

Impetus for Collaboration
The partnership speaks to the separate set of issues facing state-run universities and small, independent colleges across the country. Many public universities — including many of the UC campuses — lack the capacity to place all of the qualified applicants looking to enroll, and tend to have large class sizes. Smaller private colleges may not be able to offer many of the opportunities provided by larger public, government-supported institutions. Both institutions approach this MOU with the understanding that such a collaboration must be nimble enough to evolve in response to changing strategic directions at each institution.

“This is a win-win for our students and our institutions,” says Carol T. Christ, chancellor at UC Berkeley and the architect of the collaboration, which she conceived while serving as the university’s executive vice chancellor and provost, in collaboration with former Chancellor Dirks and President Elizabeth L. Hillman of Mills College. “With our campuses only a few miles apart, we can each provide solutions to some of the other’s challenges, and in turn give our students a fuller college experience.”

“We’re excited about this new opportunity for our students and the East Bay community,” says Elizabeth L. Hillman, president of Mills College. “Both institutions have so much to offer, and this new partnership allows us to make the most of our differences and complement each other’s strengths. It’s our hope that the collaboration will grow in the coming years, and that students will take full advantage of the new options available to them.”

Efforts Already Underway
The expanded collaboration is already underway, with several other projects scheduled to roll out in the near future. Those currently in operation include:

  • Undergraduate Biology at Mills: UC Berkeley undergraduates are enrolling at Mills for the first Biology course sequence, where smaller classes will allow for more direct interaction with faculty.
  • Housing: Currently, 25 UC Berkeley students are living in Mills’ residence halls, helping to ease UC Berkeley’s housing shortage.
  • 4+1 MBA or Masters in Management (MM) at Mills: UC Berkeley undergraduate students who complete the prerequisite course during their undergraduate work, or who take the BASE program or summer accounting program, can have an accelerated pathway to an MM or MBA at Mills.
  • Summer Study Abroad and Global Internships: Mills students now can join summer Berkeley Study Abroad programs, as well as Global Internships, providing Mills students with a wider range of opportunities and helping UC Berkeley to fill slots to make the programs financially viable.

Future plans envision deeper collaborations such as semesters in residence or joint degree programs.

Model for Other California Campuses
Task force members expect the UC Berkeley/Mills collaboration to serve as a model for other UC campuses and their neighboring liberal arts colleges around the state, many of which are coping with the same challenges faced by the East Bay institutions. “We believe we’re developing an effective partnership that can be replicated elsewhere, and will help to resolve capacity and curriculum issues that continue to affect many of our counterparts,” says Christ.

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