Oakland campus comes alive and students couldn’t be more excited about joining the Northeastern community

A student hugs their father on the sidewalk at the Northeastern in Oakland campus
Shannon Damuth of Milwaukee hugs her father, Scott Damuth, during move-in at Mills College at Northeastern University in Oakland, California. Photo by Ruby Wallau for Northeastern University

OAKLAND, Calif.—Jacque Yu-Banos lives with her mother in the Philippines. Her father lives in Boston. And her older sister, Jasmine, recently moved to Los Angeles.

Yu-Banos knew she wanted to attend college in the United States, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to study on the East Coast or West Coast.

Northeastern University gives her an opportunity to do both.

“That’s why I applied. That’s why it was my No. 1 choice,” said Yu-Banos, a psychology major. “I have family in Massachusetts and California, so I get to spend a year in Oakland, then three in Boston.”

Yu-Banos is participating in a program that allows students to spend their first full year on Northeastern campuses in Oakland or London. A similar program gives students the opportunity to spend their first semester abroad before returning to Boston.

On Wednesday morning, Yu-Banos was among the 500 first-year students who arrived at Mills College at Northeastern. They will be joined Monday by about 400 returning undergraduate and graduate students.

The location of the Oakland campus was attractive to Yu-Banos. So was its size.

“I feel like it’s perfect for my first year of college,” she said. “It’s not too big and it’s not too small. I feel like it’s going to provide me with a really good acclimation period.”

When Northeastern and Mills merged on July 1 it created the only university in the United States with comprehensive campuses on both coasts—campuses that include undergraduate and graduate learning, residential life, recreation and research. The news was celebrated by faculty and staff, alumni and alumnae, community leaders and elected officials.

In addition to Boston and Oakland, Northeastern’s global network also includes campuses in London, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle and Silicon Valley, as well as Portland, Maine; Charlotte, North Carolina; Arlington, Virginia; and Burlington and Nahant, Massachusetts.

And the Oakland campus has never looked better. New landscaping, dozens of picnic tables and colorful Adirondack chairs are hard to miss. So are the new signs, fresh paint and smiling faces.

Rachel McCreary was one of those smiling faces.

A resident of Concord, California, about a 30-minute commute from Oakland, McCreary is a third-year Mills student who has also worked part-time on campus since 2017. On Wednesday, she was part of an army of Northeastern employees and volunteers who helped make the move-in process a smooth one.

“So far so good,” said McCreary, who distributed iPads to the arriving students. “It looks like all the new students coming in are happy.”

McCreary is a biology major who would like to pursue a career in prosthetics after graduate school. She welcomed the merger with Northeastern.

“I’m a STEM student,” she said. “For me, it’s only going to get better and better. More funding, more choices for classes. Everything will be better.”

McCreary was also happy to learn that Northeastern will continue Mills’ 170-year legacy and commitment to social justice, gender equity and women’s leadership. Mills was previously an all-women’s college.

“The mission will continue,” she said. “That’s so important. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

McCreary agreed the campus has never looked better. 

“It’s a lot of housekeeping that Mills just didn’t have the finances to do,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how much livelier the campus got by putting a coat of paint over things and power washing the sidewalks. Plus, the landscaping and building upkeep. Northeastern has just made everything a lot nicer.”

Mary Ludden, Northeastern’s senior vice president for global network and strategic initiatives, said making the Oakland campus shine was one of the university’s top priorities this summer.

“We are incredibly proud of our team that readied the beautiful Oakland campus for our students, faculty and staff who are joining us for the fall semester,” she said. “The dedication of faculty and staff across the university over the last three months has been nothing short of inspirational. The beauty of the Oakland campus and the important role it plays in our student’s experience cannot be underscored enough.”

Maura Logan was the first student to arrive on campus just before 8 a.m. Wednesday. Accompanied by her parents, they made the left turn from MacArthur Boulevard onto Richards Road and passed the welcome station where they were met with a welcoming wave.

Logan is the youngest of four children. Her three older brothers all attended the University of Pittsburgh, where they live. But she toured Northeastern in Boston last summer and fell in love with the campus.

“But she always thought about going to school in California too, so this was kind of the best of both worlds,” her father, David Logan, said.

Northeastern chartered five flights to San Francisco International Airport as a transportation option for students, and luxury buses brought them from there to the campus. As Northeastern has done on the Boston campus for years, professional movers helped bring students’ belongings to the residence halls.

Alexander Greenway is a bilingual first-year media, screen studies and journalism student from Austin, Texas. Wednesday was his first time on the Oakland campus.

“It’s gorgeous,” he said. “I’m from Texas. I mean, these (eucalyptus) trees. … We don’t have anything like that. And the weather (70 degrees)? It’s perfect. It’s 105 back home right now. So, yeah, I’m very happy.”

Shannon Damuth, a first-year political science student from the Milwaukee suburbs, toured the Oakland campus in April. She’s looking forward to spending a whole year here.

“I like the greenery. There’s trees everywhere. The atmosphere is just incredible. There’s birds chirping and all that stuff. And the weather? Winter in California is going to be totally different from winter in Milwaukee. That’s for sure.”

Atlanta native Ariella Phometsi will spend one semester in Oakland before moving on to Boston. An architecture major, she narrowed her college choices down to Northeastern and Boston University before electing to become a Husky.

“I liked that Northeastern allows you to take classes in your major right away,” she said. “I’m so excited to be here.”

A native of McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., Hala Gilbert arrived in the Bay Area on Saturday and spent a couple of days hiking and sightseeing with her parents. They toured the Mills campus on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a big, exciting adventure for her,” her mother, Rouba Gilbert, said. “The campus is beautiful. A lot of historic buildings. She’s going to love it here.”

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