Update on Nov. 2022 Saddle Rock Retreat

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College Community:

The Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees held its annual Saddle Rock board retreat Nov. 4-6, a weekend when we traditionally step back and discuss the longer-term success of the College. The theme of this year’s retreat was “Connection and Community,” which felt particularly meaningful as we gathered in-person after two years of virtual meetings. 

We began on Friday with a pre-session for early arrivals focused on strengthening personal connections. After a brief update on the presidential search, two panel discussions followed; the first, “Mudd from an Outside Perspective,” provided insights into the College from the view of applicants, job recruiters, donors and current parents. Vice President for Advancement Hieu Nguyen shared recent trends in giving, both at Harvey Mudd and nationally. Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Thyra Briggs shared recent application and financial aid trends, challenges and opportunities. 

In the second panel, “Trustee Engagement Stories,” trustees talked about why they joined the board, what they enjoy about being members and the ways they have contributed to the life of the College. Each described a passion for Harvey Mudd’s mission, respect for the quality of instruction and a desire to help transform STEM education through strengthening the College as key reasons for their involvement and support. They also highlighted the breadth of opportunities available to trustees to become engaged.

The afternoon session kicked off with small group discussions, followed by a keynote from President Maria Klawe, “Our Journey Together—the Last 16 Years.” Maria reflected on the changes, challenges and accomplishments during her time as president.  She highlighted the progress the College has made in increasing diversity—on the board as well as in the student body, moving from 30% female students in 2006 to 50% in 2022, including in CS, Engineering and Physics majors; from under 1% presenting as Black (including multi-racial students) to almost 18% in the class of 2025 and from 5% Hispanic to over 20%. She also discussed the continuing work needed to increase inclusion and belonging in the community as well as to increase diversity in the faculty. She expressed the importance of the strategic visioning process and the campaign that raised $179 million to further the goals the community had set, including new residential and academic buildings, renovated academic spaces, faculty resources and student support, all of which contributed to furthering the College’s mission.

During Saturday’s first session, “Why Mudd?,” Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Marco Valenzuela led a panel of faculty and students in sharing why they came to HMC, why they stay, and their aspirations for the future of the College. Faculty talked about the joy of working with students who are passionate about STEM and with colleagues who are enthusiastic, humble and kind. Students shared how they valued the supportive community and the close relationships with faculty. Both students and faculty described how they value the increasing diversity on campus.  

A second panel of trustees and alumni led by emeritus trustee and president of AABOG Gregory Rae ’00 shared their perspectives. Alumni talked about how they grew into leadership during their time at HMC and wanted to continue that leadership after graduation. Others reflected on the growing importance of the College’s mission in their lives now and how they want to continue contributing to strengthen it. Several trustees shared how unique it is that HMC has board members who joined not because of a direct connection to the College as alumni or parents, but because they share a passion for the College’s mission to improve and diversify STEM education, as well as to have a greater impact on society. 

Saturday’s second session provided an opportunity to talk about the future. Attendees broke into six small groups to discuss their aspirations and concerns for Harvey Mudd’s next chapter. The group then reconvened to share key themes and takeaways from the breakout sessions, which included a desire for greater engagement with—and impact on—society; greater emphasis on leadership training and opportunities; space and resources to develop new interdisciplinary courses; increased financial aid to make a Mudd education more accessible to all students while allowing for more freedom for graduates to choose careers in the nonprofit sector; increasing inclusivity and belonging for all. 

Trustee Yvonne Wassenaar led the Saturday afternoon session with a workshop called “Limiting Beliefs.” She described how one of the biggest barriers people face in achieving their greatest impact in life is their limiting beliefs. The group spent time discussing limiting beliefs pertaining to the College and its future.

Sunday morning’s first session built on the previous day’s discussion on limiting beliefs. The group divided into smaller breakout rooms, and each group explored two or three beliefs about the College that had been identified in Saturday’s session. Groups looked for evidence to support the belief as 100% true; and then evidence to show that the belief is not 100% true. The groups reconvened to explore what new thinking was unleashed in the process and how it potentially opens new ways to think about the future of the College and the actions that can drive long-term success.

During Sunday’s final session, the group shared key takeaways, and began building a shared narrative around where the College has been and where it is headed. After a time of individual reflection, each member of the group shared with their table one thing they commit to doing in the coming year to support the future success of the College.  

In closing, it was wonderful to reconnect as a community, to share our aspirations for the College’s long-term success and to reflect on our strengths as well as the work ahead. We celebrate all that has been accomplished under the outstanding leadership of outgoing HMC President Maria Klawe. Despite being a young institution, HMC has made exceptional progress over the past 65 years, becoming a leader in the national conversation in STEM education, particularly as it relates to diversity and inclusive pedagogy. As we look forward, we are primed to lead the nation along many other axes including climate education, entrepreneurship and the transformation of both STEM education and the STEM workforce. 

As we move through this presidential transition and work together to set new priorities as a community, we will continue to listen to each other, listen to our community and engage with each other to ensure the future success of the College. 


Jim Bean ’77
Chair, Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees