More than three years ago, Starr King began its New Beginnings process, a time of reimagining the future of our beloved school. When that process began, we never could have anticipated a global pandemic that would fundamentally change the way in which our communities and our society operate. At times, this change has been hard and heartbreaking, particularly as we have all come to realize that our world will never quite be the same as it was. However, this time of change has also presented us with new opportunities to reflect on how Starr King can best educate the next generation of Unitarian Universalist and progressive religious leaders in a COVID-normalized world. This has been the work of developing our five-year roadmap, helping us understand where we want to go and how we can best become the hub for counter-oppressive theological education.
That work continues – but has taken new shape because of changes at Mills College. As many of you know, Mills College made the decision to merge with Northeastern University last fall. At that time, we did not know what this new relationship between Mills and Northeastern would mean for Starr King. However, a few months ago, we learned that we would need to leave our new campus at Mills this Fall as Mills @ Northeastern University charts its own new path.
While initially saddened by this news and the loss of the potential that originally brought us to Mills two years ago, we also recognized the opportunity this change could bring, given the new future we had begun to envision for the school. We reflected on what so many of our staff, faculty, students, and board members shared with us in the first stage of building Starr King’s five-year roadmap – the idea of Starr King being a multi-local institution with the nimbleness required in a COVID-normalized world. Many of you imagined Starr King existing in different forms at different times across the country and around the world, while still providing robust online learning to our students. We recognized this next moment of change as an opportunity to find a new home that better suited this new vision for the school’s future, one that could position us to stay on the leading edge as we engage in the theological education required in this extraordinary moment in human history.
Even as we continued conversation with Mills @ Northeastern University to gain clarity about its timeline, we immediately began to search for a new home that better suited the future we hope to create. And we found it!
This July, Starr King will be moving to our new home – 414 13th Street, Suite 700, in Oakland.
Our new home sits in the heart of downtown Oakland. The building is directly across from the historic Oakland Tribune building, with an urban courtyard just outside its doors. There is a coffee shop across the street and delicious food within walking distance of the building. Our neighbors in the building and in the area include several nonprofits and community organizations that we are excited to get to know better. The building is also next to a parking garage and around the corner from the 12th St. BART station, making it far more convenient to reach than our current campus. And we are only minutes away from the First Unitarian Church of Oakland—our original home and a longtime partner with our school.
We’ll be residing on the 7th floor, which spans nearly 3,000 square feet. The floor includes a reception area, a kitchen, two ensuite bathrooms, eight enclosed office spaces, and one large, flexible workspace ideal for classes, faculty workstations, chapel services or other uses. It’s a fully accessible elevator building and features a beautiful mix of exposed brick and natural light from its many windows, reminiscent of our previous home in Berkeley. You can see photos and take a virtual tour of our new space here.
While touring this space, both myself and our Dean of Faculty, Gabriella Lettini, immediately fell in love with the charm, accessibility, and possibility inherent in this new location. From this new home, we can reimagine what it means to gather and teach in-person classes again, while continuing to teach online for the greatest flexibility and accessibility for our students. Additionally, while this new location will be our home base, we are actively exploring new opportunities for us to gather in community across the country to better connect with our students in the regions where they live.
Shortly before Memorial Day weekend, we signed our new five-year lease. We will quickly begin the process of planning our move, which will take place throughout the month of July. There is much to be done as we prepare for this move, and decisions that still need to be made.
We have been in a liminal space for some time, seeking to understand what the next chapter of Starr King would be amidst the changes the pandemic has brought. Today, we see a future that is bursting with new possibilities for the school to grow and better live into our mission in this new world. We have already begun to build that future together, so let’s keep going! Let us celebrate all that we have done to assure our school’s future and rejoice in this next step toward making that vision a reality.