What I (Really) Learned From Core

I have officially begun my first “non-core” semester at Harvey Mudd. With the end of what feels like a significant chapter of my time here, I have been reflecting on what I learned from core… and I mean like what I reaaaally learned. Sure, I can tell you a few things about unit cells, Style and Grace, reference frames, Robespierre, and Picobot, but that’s not what I’m going to look back on this and remember.

Problem solving skills, grit, allies, perspective- the list goes on. Instead of just leaving you with a nice collection of buzzwords, I want to give you a little more insight into what I have gained from core. I want to emphasize the in “what I have gained”. Everybody’s experience is unique and I speak only on behalf of mine. With that being said….

A gif of Tina Fey with the caption : "Let's do this."

Source: https://tenor.com/view/lets-do-this-tina-fey-gif-4354528

On Community and Connection

There are many experiences that are central to being a Mudder: late night Jay’s runs, getting lost in the Libra Complex, wondering what time the mail room opens, and of core-se, c o r e.

Group work is heavily integrated in all core classes. From labs, class discussions, peer reviews, group projects, and more, core requires that Mudders work alongside one another in areas that are both their strengths and weaknesses.

Not only does this help students learn to work well in teams with diverse groups of people, it also introduces students to each other. No matter what dorm or extracurricular activities you choose to immerse yourself in outside of class, you are going to meet students from your class in core courses that you may never have interacted with otherwise.

On the contrary, while you are interacting with many new people in class, you are also taking the same classes as your friends. Now that I’ve begun taking off campus humanities and classes specific to my major, I realize how convenient it has been to have taken the same classes as my closest friends for the past three semesters. From now on, my study groups will evolve, and I will further develop the connections that I’ve made with the peers that I met in core classes.

While the mere socialization and interactions of each class strengthens the community, core does much more than that. Core challenges many students (eg. Me), in ways they have never been challenged before. It was fun at times, especially when taking courses that related to my areas of interest, but it was also stressful. The challenges that core presents become a “rite of passage” that connects students across classes, majors, and even generations.

Gif of someone who is stressed out with the caption: "We don't know what we're doing"

Source: https://tenor.com/view/the-house-the-house-gifs-will-ferrell-idk-gif-8225002

Although I haven’t been on the other side for very long, I anticipate a long strong sense of accomplishment and with this, respect for my peers’ accomplishments as well. Yes- core fosters interdisciplinary thinking and fulfills countless learning goals, but one of the most valuable things I really got out of core is connection.

A moving picture of the High School Musical cast dancing and singing along to "We're all in this together".

As they say, we are all in this together. Source: https://tenor.com/view/hsm3-high-school-musical-were-all-in-this-together-dance-gif-5323618

On Scope and Personal Ability

Core exposes students to every department at Mudd and provides students with experience working in the laboratories of three different departments.

A list reading: "One course each in computer science and engineering, One course in biology and a laboratory, Three semesters of mathematics, Two and a half semesters of physics and an associated laboratory, One and a half semesters of chemistry and an associated laboratory, A half-semester of college writing, A course in critical inquiry offered by the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts."

The core curriculum requirements.

While I was required to study a similarly diverse range of subjects in high school, I was still exploring which subject intrigued me enough to study in a more advanced setting in college. Now I am in college and I’m still taking classes in topics outside of my chosen focus.

The rigor of the core courses at Mudd require dedicated and engaged study habits, no matter if the student feels strongly connected with the subject matter. That’s where my experience delineates from high school.

I am no longer just dipping my toe in different waters. Core requires that you take a full dive into subjects that you might have considered intimidating, and ones that I personally thought I would never have a chance at succeeding in.

The scope of core has developed me to be adaptable, open minded, and to not shy away from a learning opportunity, no matter how far off a subject seems from my “specialty”. There’s no such thing as tunnel vision here, at least not in the realm of disciplines.

A gif of a scene in a Harry Potter in which a bad guy is hugging a main character with the caption "Embrace your uncomfort zone".

Source: https://tenor.com/view/voldemort-embrace-your-uncomfort-zone-gif-4091577

The scope of core taught me to embrace my “uncomfort zone” and it also taught me a lot about the different departments. I gained some familiarity with what each major’s content resembles and have gotten to know at least a couple of professors from each department.

Although I never spent much time deciding between two or more majors, I know a lot of students who have. Having these points of contact representing the different departments can enable students to feel greater mobility between majors. This network of faculty that each student gains throughout core is unique to Mudd and is possible because of our size, campus culture, and truly, because of the scope of core.

On Moving Forward

I have learned a lot from core and I know that even though it’s over, the learning isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I’m thankful for the lessons, formal and informal. From learning how to ask for help from strangers to learning how to juggle what feels like countless problem sets a week, it has challenged me and helped me grow in ways that I never foresaw.

Through core, I gained an invaluable community that I gladly get to spend the next two and half years working alongside. I bonded with my peers, alums, and even future Mudders, too.

I learned what it takes to be a Mudder and I accomplished learning things that I didn’t know I was capable of learning. I am proud of myself and my peers and I’m excited because it’s just the beginning, really.

A gif with the words in "Thank you next" in a crafty font.

Source: https://gph.is/2yYiglH