[Y HMC?] Ruby Peterman

Hello Blog-goers!

My name is Ruby Peterman and I am a current sophomore here at Harvey Mudd College. I’m from Hollis Maine but this year, I am a resident of Case Dorm. While I have yet to declare my major or HSA concentration (Harvey Mudd students can wait until the end of their sophomore year to declare), I am planning to major in Engineering and concentrate in Art. 

Choosing what colleges I wanted to apply to was not the easiest decision I’ve had to make, especially in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was I unable to actually visit schools, but I was attending my senior year of high school online and had no idea what to do the next year. When I had initially come across Harvey Mudd as a sophomore or junior in high school, I didn’t think of it as an option. Why would I move all the way across the country for college when my entire life had been based out of New England? But, after learning about the community and curriculum of the school, I decided to learn more. “Visiting” colleges was fairly difficult during the lockdown, but I was able to attend a virtual tour of the school and interview with a current student. After hearing about everything Harvey Mudd had to offer, I was hooked. After much deliberation, I decided to apply Early Decision II, and low and behold, I was accepted! 

Photo of a plane wing in flight

Flying across the country for the first time for orientation. Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I would have made it through my first year at Harvey Mudd without the Academic support they’ve built into the community. While the school is fun and I love STEM, the classes can still be, and are, difficult. A huge transition for me was the difference between homework in high school and homework in college. In high school, homework was a chance to practice the things that we had already learned in class. In college, the homework is designed to teach you just as much as the lectures are. Don’t get me wrong, the professors do an amazing job of teaching us, but learning outside of the classroom like that was something I just hadn’t been exposed to before Mudd. Thankfully, the school knows this and has put countless resources in place for students. For instance, homeworks are often collaborative and we are encouraged to work through problems together, if it’s not already a group assignment. Beyond that, every professor has scheduled office hours for students to come in and ask questions. There’s also Academic Excellence (AE) where students can work with each other or upperclassmen tutors in group study sessions. For writing help, there’s the Writing Center where students can go and work through essay ideas, gain feedback and discuss their work with peer consultants. So, while I enjoy my Mudd classes and the new learning style, I don’t think I could have done it on my own, which was a big change for me.  

A student erasing mathematical work on a chalkboard

The remnants of an AE session. Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

Something that I find most important about Harvey Mudd is the balance and engagement between subjects. At a STEM centered school or program, the amount of disciplines you are able to cover can be fairly limited, and most colleges in those majors require you to declare coming in. At Harvey Mudd, we are given the rare opportunity to take classes in every major before we are even allowed to declare. This means that even though I’ve been planning to major in engineering since applying, I got to experience other subjects like biology, chemistry, computer science, physics and math. Not only does this help students learn more about the different majors offered, but it opens up a huge window of opportunity for interdisciplinary applications. Many of the Harvey Mudd Core classes try to integrate aspects of different disciplines and subjects so that students are learning about the ways that you can use one thing to understand another. For example, my Core biology course’s homework assignments often had sections where we would use computer science to answer biology questions. And since everyone had taken the introductory computer science course the semester before, we were all able to use the things we learned in that class to solve problems in a completely different discipline. Outside of class to class connections, many of the Harvey Mudd courses are designed to tie into real world applications or problems. For example, the freshman chemistry course uses different topics and methods to ask and answer questions about things like the Flint Water Crisis, sustainable energy and historical uses of chemistry. So, as we learn about STEM subjects, we also learn about their impacts and what we can use them for in the real world.

Bowl of soup with a tortilla

Bowl of pho

Unrelated to academics but the dining hall soups are always amazing! Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

This isn’t limited to STEM subjects either. As an Liberal Arts College, Harvey Mudd has a HSA (Humanities, Socials Sciences and the Arts) requirement that makes up one third of our curriculum. Within that, we take a range of different humanities classes as well as choosing one subject to focus on for our concentration (what I often refer to as a humanities minor). Additionally, we can take these classes, or any classes that aren’t our major requirements, at any of the five colleges within the consortium. This semester, I am taking an introduction to black and white film photography class at Scripps College to count towards my concentration. I also plan to take a variety of other courses for my “breadth” requirement, such as language classes, creative writing, and this one course that is offered through Mudd called “Geographies of Education.” 

The sunset over frisbee practice last spring. Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

This approach towards embracing variety shows in Harvey Mudd’s social life as well. Even though Mudd students are notoriously busy, we are still encouraged to engage with all sorts of things outside of academics. Whether it’s clubs, sports, hobbies or more, Mudd and the rest of the Claremont community provides countless opportunities for student life. This semester, I’m entering my second year on the 5C Club Ultimate Frisbee Team, the Claremont Greenshirts. I’m also part of a couple of different clubs, on campus jobs, and like to spend my free time being creative in the makerspace or exploring the LA area. Two friends and I are also starting a consortium wide club this semester called the 5-Zines, where we can meet with other Claremont students and make zines together. Our first meeting is actually later today!

Coloring dinosaur pictures

With a taxidermied rat

Visiting the Natural History Museum during Fall Break. Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

All in all, I have really enjoyed my experiences at Mudd so far and cannot wait to see what else this school has to offer. 

Some friends and I visiting downtown LA. Photo Credit: Ruby Peterman

This blog was written by: Ruby Peterman '25; Intended Makor Engineering; Hollis, Maine