Harvey Mudd College conferred bachelor of science degrees upon 183 students—84 women and 99 men—at its 59th commencement ceremony, May 14, 2017, in Claremont, California.
Richard Tapia, a leading researcher in the computational and mathematical sciences and a national leader in diversity education and outreach, gave the keynote address. Tapia directs Rice University’s Center for Excellence and Equity in Education, with a mission to empower underrepresented students who are passionate about STEM education.
Tapia shared his experience pursuing a career in academia as a first-generation Mexican-American.
“When you encounter obstacles and adversity, learn to look both ways,” Tapia told the graduates. “Your challenge is to handle adversity. Prosperity is quite easy to handle. Realize that tragedy and failure are as much a part of life as are triumph and success. Failure is a part of every successful person’s life. You must learn to grow from your failures and to develop compassion and sensitivity from your tragedies. At each stage of your life and career, continue to dream and work to make your dreams come true, but learn to cope and still enjoy life if they do not all come true.”
Graduating senior Dylan Baker gave the student keynote address. Baker, who pursued an individual program of studies in computational data science and art, described the Mudd experience with the saying, “you can’t step twice in the same river.” The College and its students are constantly influencing and changing each other, Baker explained.
“We’ve watched dorm communities shift. We’ve watched core class curricula get written and re-written. And we started FemUnion. We helped build Black Lives at Mudd and the LLC (Living Learning Community). Baker said that as the College has seen more people from underrepresented groups on campus arrive, the graduating seniors have pushed Harvey Mudd to grow, “…because the old Mudd just doesn’t fit any more.”
Baker thanked faculty and students who impacted the life of the institution and individual lives, and recalled a conversation with fellow senior Willie Zuniga, who passed away during the year and whose family accepted his diploma at the ceremony.
“[Willie] reminded me that this degree isn’t just an accomplishment, but a gift and privilege of insight into the world,” Baker said. “It’s not just an accomplishment, but a tool that we can use to educate and do work that means something and help lift up the people around us.”
David Sonner ’61 welcomed the graduates into the HMC Alumni Association.
“Life’s transitions, like today’s graduation from Harvey Mudd College, can be exciting and a little scary because you don’t know what the future holds,” Sonner said. “But please believe me: Like thousands of alumni before you, you are extremely well-prepared for your future….but probably what you will value the most are the close friendships forged during your Mudd experiences together.”
President Maria Klawe was the final speaker of the day.
“We are so proud of all that you have accomplished,” Klawe said. “Your achievements in research, clinics, competition, and national awards are incredible. Your commitment to helping each other succeed, to having a positive impact on the world, and to preserving a strong sense of humor and humility are inspiring. Whatever your next steps after Mudd will be, I know you will bring your full talents to bear and spread creativity and joy to those around you.”
According to preliminary data, 62 percent of the Class of 2017 are headed into the workforce; the most frequently mentioned employers are Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Northrop Gruman, Oblong Industries, Yelp and Space X. Eighty-two percent of those who expect to be employed in the fall have already secured a position, and of those who have secured positions, 19 percent indicate they are with start-up companies.
A large percentage of the Class of 2017 is headed to graduate school: 28 percent are enrolled or expect to be enrolled in graduate programs, with the most common institutions being MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, USC, Yale and Northwestern.
The remaining members of the Class of 2017 have various plans including volunteering for Teach for America and AmeriCorps, studying on a Watson Fellowship, participating in internships and traveling.
View the full Commencement ceremony