An Interview On
Harvey Mudd College

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: East Asian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in San Diego, California with a graduating class of 600 students. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: The main thing I do is swing dancing. I go to the Gymnastic Club, and I play a lot of music. I’m taking piano lessons at Scripps.

Academic Experience

Is there anything you feel Harvey Mudd has done especially well or poorly academically?
I think the support system in general is great, and the way the college is set up where incoming students have to take one and a half years of the Common Core Curriculum. This gives you the resources of collaborating with people around you. It’s helpful because you can ask anyone in your year for help, and they’ll be able to.

How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
I’ve never felt that it’s necessarily competitive. I think a lot of people don’t discuss grades here, so that takes away the competitiveness. The classes are graded on a curve, and it’s actually pretty arbitrary because most of us don’t know where the cutoffs are until we get our final grade. This also helps with not going neck and neck with people in your classes.

What is your favorite class so far?
I really like Mechanics here, and the professors in the Physics department. I’m also really into music, so I like my piano classes. They give me valuable feedback.

What is your least favorite class so far?
A Probability and Statistics class I had to take. It was a core class, and it wasn’t taught very well. It wasn’t so much the professor as it was the organization of the class, and trying to fit the content into 7 weeks.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
It’s fairly easy to go meet with them. Most professors are good about having office hours and answering emails, and wanting to meet with students.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Atwood Dorm with one roommate.

Sophomore: Sontag Dorm one roommate.

What was your favorite living situation?
Definitely the one I’m in right now. I’m in a five-person suite with a kitchen. I technically have a double to myself because my roommate is living with her boyfriend in a different dorm. In my suite, there are three seniors who are in singles.

How was transitioning from your hometown in San Diego to Claremont, CA?
It was easy. San Diego is only an hour and a half from home, and the weather feels the same. I live in a suburban area, and Claremont is pretty much the same.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve felt pretty safe. I think I tend to stay away from college parties that involved alcohol and people I don’t know. I’ve definitely wondered around late at night after midnight, sometimes with friends and sometimes not. I haven’t encountered any dangerous situations personally. I have had my bike stolen, but it happened over night and I wasn’t there.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Anywhere with friends. I’ve gone to a couple dance conventions over the weekend, but they are in various locations.

What are the pros and cons of being located in Claremont, CA?
Pros:
1) It’s a fairly safe town, and the weather is super nice. It gets a little colder in the winter than I expected, but my definition of cold being from San Diego is like 50 degrees.

Cons:
1) It’s a problem when it rains because no one knows what to do, and it’s hard to get to my Pomona classes. I usually bike there because I have 10 minutes between classes. If it’s raining I can’t bike and then it would take me 20 minutes to walk, and I’ll be late.
2) I really enjoy doing things outdoors where it’s really green, which is more so a Northern California vibe. It’s not very green here, and most of the shrubbery is dry.
3) If you like city life. If you want to find things to do off campus late at night, there isn’t a whole lot besides going to a 24-hour diner.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Harvey Mudd?
Generally, swing dancing. My first year the club held events on Friday or Saturday nights, or in the afternoons. Last spring and this fall I’ve been going to an off-campus dance every Friday night with some friends. That’s in L.A., so we drive about an hour and stay there for a few hours. I’ll occasionally do homework, but not usually.

How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I found really good friends in the dance community, and so that’s why I’m spending all my time with them. If you want to go to live music concerts, most of those happen in L.A., so it’s a little hard if you don’t have transportation to go to the concert halls.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Through swing dancing. The Swing Club is a 5 C club, so there are people from all the colleges, but mainly Harvey Mudd and Pomona. There’s something about dancing with people that makes you feel a lot closer to them than just having classes with them. There’s someone I met through my dance friends that I get along with well. The other close group of friends I have are people in my grade at Mudd, and the reason I’m close with them is we did a lot of homework together last year and hung out in the same dorm lounge.

What have been your favorite times at Harvey Mudd?
I made close friends with some upperclassman, and they are in my suite sometimes. Our first semester is pass/fail, which is really nice. I’ve stayed up late with them until 5 AM watching meteor showers with them at Pomona.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Harvey Mudd?
At Mudd, there’s a lot to do with dorm culture, and each of them has their own personalities. A few are considered party dorms, and they usually have music playing Thursday night through Saturday night. I haven’t been to those at all, so I assume there’s socializing that goes on there. I’m in the what’s considered the quiet dorm, and it’s hard for underclassmen to get into it because seniors usually want it. I’m a sophomore but got pulled into it by seniors. Within my dorm, we don’t socialize much because we have suites, so people hang out in there rather than the common area.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think they do more than my experience in high school. At Mudd I have friends of all different races, so I think it’s generally more diverse, at least compared to my high school. [The population is 31% White, 3% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 19% Asian.]

How would you describe the student body?
The overarching thing that’s similar to most people here is their love or passion for STEM. Some people love STEM and know exactly what they want to do, and there are people who have no idea what they’re doing. Some people are athletic and sportier than I was expecting. I thought it would be a school full of nerds who aren’t athletic at all. There are lots of artsy people here too.

How strong is the Asian community on campus?
There’s a group called API-SPAM, and they have sponsor groups for Asian Pacific Islander freshman. People have the option to join, but I didn’t make the effort to. Personally, I don’t know how strongly I identify with my Asian culture because I am second generation. My grandparents moved to the United States when they were college students, and my parents were born here, so I grew up in an Americanized household. It’s a small school without a lot of international students, so it’s hard for them to exclusively interact with each other, especially because it’s a very collaborative environment.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
This is something that varies year to year, but in my freshman year, a lot of people hung out in the dorm lounge. There was some homework going on, but there’s also a ping pong table so it’s generally a very chill vibe. The dorm culture in the lounge isn’t as strong this year as it was last year.

Reasons to attend Harvey Mudd:
1) It’s a very small school, so I feel like you get a lot of attention, support, and one-on-one time with the professors. [The total undergraduate population is 889 students.]
2) I really like taking the same classes with other students because it’s nice to be able to work with other people and ask questions without having to travel. You could just turn to the person next to you and ask about a homework problem.
3) Generally, people are very kind here. I feel like at larger colleges you walk by people and just try not to make eye contact. Because of the small community here, it’s less of that because you see a lot of people you know.
4) Because it’s mostly made up of STEM majors, you have a lot in common with most everybody around you.

Reasons to not attend Harvey Mudd:
1) It’s rigorous, and I have friends who have not done so well in the core classes and will probably have to retake them. It depends on your high school background for how well prepared you will be.
2) There are still some issues with some core classes. A lot of people are disappointed with the way some of them are taught, like the stats class I took. They are in the process of revising things, but nothing is perfect.
3) If you don’t like humanities and don’t like writing, I also wouldn’t recommend coming here. We have to take two writing classes as part of our core curriculum.

Notice: Harvey Mudd College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Harvey Mudd College.

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