History of the Clinic Program

Five decades ago, while watching a homecoming parade, one of Harvey Mudd College’s engineering professors turned to a colleague and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to channel the energy and ingenuity these students use to create a winning float into solving real technical problems?” In a moment of revelry-induced inspiration, the concept of the Harvey Mudd College Clinic Program was born.

Founding faculty members Jack Alford and M. Mack Gilkeson sought to channel HMC student initiative, drive and intelligence into projects of real-world nature. They felt the best way to do this was to give students a “clinical” experience similar to that which medical students receive as part of their training – thus the name “Clinic”.

“I gained the idea that engineering was like dancing, you don’t learn it in a darkened lecture hall watching slides; you learn it by getting out on the dance floor and having your toes stepped on.”         – Jack Alford, Emeritus Professor of Engineering and Clinic Program co-founder

In 2012, M. Mack Gilkeson and two other HMC faculty received the nation’s most prestigious engineering education award, the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

The Engineering Clinic was established with initial funding from the Ford, U.S. Steel, and Sloan foundations. The Mathematics Clinic began in 1973 with funding from a National Science Foundation grant. The Computer Science Clinic began in 1993, the Physics Clinic in 1996 and the Global Clinic component of the program began in 2005 with an endowment from the Vickery family.

Social Justice Clinics

New in 2018 are three projects that are focused on issues of social justice, funded in part by an educational leadership grant to President Maria Klawe from the Carnegie Corporation:

  • One team will be working on an air quality monitoring project with the Black Chamber of Commerce in Fresno to assess some infrastructure changes to improve public health.
  • Another will be working with Claremont Locally Grown Power to design the layout of a factory for affordable, locally produced solar cells.
  • A third project will partner with PilotCity to explore an integrated communication solution that can effectively, seamlessly, and scalably connect students to work-based learning experiences while in the classroom.

Global Clinic

Global Clinic, established in 2005, prepares students for the future challenges of practicing engineering, science and mathematics in a global context. This program supports the activities associated with undertaking several yearlong, industry-sponsored global engineering and science projects in which teams of Harvey Mudd students collaborate with teams of students from international partner schools with particular emphasis on partnerships in Singapore, China, India, Japan and Israel, with future plans to expand into South America and Europe.