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Northeastern University in talks to absorb California women’s college

Pedestrians walk near a Northeastern University sign on the school's campus in Boston on Jan. 31, 2019.
Pedestrians walk near a Northeastern University sign on the school's campus in Boston on Jan. 31, 2019.Rodrique Ngowi/Associated Press

Northeastern University is in talks with a struggling Northern California women’s college about a plan to absorb the smaller school and create an institute for women’s leadership, officials said.

The board of trustees of Mills College in Oakland voted Thursday to explore the “strategic partnership” with the university, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said in a message to the university community.

Aoun called the potential partnership “a transformational opportunity that has the potential to shape our community for generations to come.”

Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul said the university had been in talks with Mills for about two months.

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If finalized, the Mills deal would increase Northeastern’s presence on the West Coast, an expansion that began nearly a decade ago in Seattle. Three years ago, Northeastern added a campus in San Francisco. Elsewhere, it has campuses in Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Maine and the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto, according to its website.

Mills College President Elizabeth L. Hillman said in a statement that Northeastern’s “leaders understand and support the vital contributions Mills offers, and … we share a vision of what education can and must be in the coming decades.”

“This collaboration will enable the extraordinary legacy of Mills College to thrive within the global networked campuses of Northeastern University, an innovative and growing university,” Hillman said. “It will sustain Mills’ educational mission as a college within Northeastern University, ensure the Mills campus continues to be a place of inspiration and learning, and expand Mills’ impact into the future.”

Under the proposed alliance, students at Mills would receive degrees from Mills College at Northeastern University, and current students would have the option of graduating from Mills or applying for a free transfer to Northeastern, Aoun said. Northeastern would honor all of Mills’ existing financial aid commitments.

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“We will also establish together the Mills Institute, a hub for research and advocacy that will advance women’s leadership, equity, inclusion, and social justice,” Aoun said.

Founded in 1852 , Mills College said in March that it would no longer enroll new students after this fall. After the announcement, Aoun said, “it soon became clear to many of us that a strategic partnership would open up exciting new possibilities that would strengthen both Mills and Northeastern.”

He said Mills’ “deep passion for impactful social change through learning and innovation” is aligned with Northeastern’s “enduring focus on inclusion and empowering people from all backgrounds to realize educational and lifelong success.”




Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.