Community Corner

Community Corner is a collection of articles and resources created by members of the HMC community, for the HMC community, and can include submissions from parents and families, students, alumni, faculty and staff. We hope that you will enjoy these resources and find them useful. 

We welcome additional submissions of inspirational thoughts, best practices, or other helpful and insightful information. Please send contributions to Note that all submissions will be reviewed/edited in partnership with the contributor prior to publishing.

The Value of a Harvey Mudd Education

by Gary Hunter P21
April, 2021

Gary Hunter, a parent of one of the members of the Class of 2021, shared his thoughts about the cost and benefits associated with attending Harvey Mudd as part of a recent Facebook conversation, and he’s agreed to let us share this here.

“It sounds like you’re not convinced [Harvey Mudd College] is worth the money. Frankly, it is a lot of money, so it would be odd not to question its value. I cannot speak for other parents, but I will offer my experiences and opinion as a “pre-frosh” parent about investing in Mudd and what sold me on Mudd.

Having worked for large research universities myself, I feel that I have a pretty good idea that what really separates HMC as an institution of higher education is the actual learning experience. At Mudd, students learn more than they would elsewhere. In my mind, what makes Mudd most unique is the absolute dedication to undergraduate teaching by a faculty with strong research skills. At many large research universities, publishing research is what drives faculty value. Faculty are rarely rewarded by academia for their efforts in the classroom. So, quality teaching, for a research-capable faculty member, has to be driven from an internal motivation. At HMC, quality teaching is part of the culture. Yet, the faculty still publish quality research.

Typically, to get research done at research universities, faculty turn to graduate students for help. At HMC, with no graduate students, they turn to our undergraduates. The result is that HMC students not only get quality teaching in the classroom, they also work with faculty on quality research outside the classroom. The faculty will engage your Mudder and help them develop a career path, but also help them get started on it. They are remarkably selfless.

The final factor is that the HMC student body is not only brilliant, but also collaborative. The students work and learn from one another while trying to reach the extraordinarily high expectations set for them by their faculty. In a nutshell, this is what I thought the investment was about on the front end and what we experienced over the past four years.

Reflecting as our Mudder awaits graduation this May, it was indeed worth it for him. He learned so much from his classes that he scored very high on the MCAT (med school admissions test) with relatively little preparation for the exam. He then gained admission to an excellent medical school without taking a “gap year” despite the extraordinary level of competition for med school admissions. Medicine is not even a focal profession at HMC, and still the education our son received from Mudd has helped him reach his goals. If your students interests are in CS, engineering or STEM academics, those are all more proven paths. A lot of students have similar stories in different STEM areas that align with their career goals. As such, HMC students can literally explore their STEM interests and start their careers from ideal positions.

Without question, we would definitely do the HMC investment all over again. Yet, it is a personal choice and you should consider your options fully. What you should know is that, by making HMC an option, your child has put you in a very desirable position. Congratulations on that!

Welcome to Mudd!

Reflections on Family February 2021

One of Lisa and my favorite events at HMC is Family Weekend. Claremont weather is usually rather nice in February, so you can be outside in the sun and chat with faculty, students, admin, and other parents while snacking on fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, and orange juice. You can usually steal a bit of one-on-one or small-group conversation with HMC President Maria Klawe, meet some of the professors your student raves about, and even grab lunch and/or dinner with your student and their Mudder friends (and parents, too). We even brought the grandparents along last year so that they could see the campus and get an idea of why their granddaughter is so enamored with her Mudd experience.

Alas, Family Weekend was not to be this year, another Casualty of Covid. But, just like the students learn to be flexible, adaptive, and innovative in their classes and experiences at Mudd, the wonderful HMC staff successfully morphed Family Weekend into Family February with virtual activities scattered throughout the month of February. While the interaction with the audiences wasn’t always as dynamic as it can be in-person, you also didn’t need to be on-time to a discussion as you could watch the recorded version of it later at your convenience. The information transfer still happened (you got your questions answered, right?) and you got a feel for the personalities of the presenters and a taste of the spirit that goes with HMC (as we write this, we’re looking forward to the Duck! Improv show).

Experiences and opportunities come in many different shapes and forms, and often in unexpected ways, and Lisa and I have heard many stories about how Mudders (both current students and graduates) have taken the circumstances of Covid and turned them into opportunities to learn, experience things, and do things that they wouldn’t have even considered during a ‘normal’ year. While our daughter wasn’t able to live on-campus this year, she did take the opportunity in the second half of the Fall semester to live with a classmate in Burbank, and is now spending the spring semester living with a pod of 4 Mudders in Kennebunkport, ME and getting her first real taste of winter—quite a change from our home in San Diego! Stephanie is graduating this year as an engineering major, and we are very proud of her and all of her classmates whom we have met, and we are very excited for the future opportunities that are in front of them and how well-prepared they are to tackle the changing problems and challenges ahead.

To close, for those of you who haven’t been able to attend Family Weekend on campus yet, Lisa and I would highly recommend making plans to attend next year if you can—and we’re not saying that just because we’re members of the PLC. The personal, human touch and casual conversations and people that you meet there really help you to appreciate Harvey Mudd College and get an insight into what your students are getting out of their experience as well as the caliber of the life-long friends they are making during their all-too-brief time at Mudd.

Best wishes to all you parents and families,
Lisa Clifner P21
Lance Clifner ‘83/84, P21
San Diego, CA

The Imposter Syndrome

At the beginning of each year, President Maria Klawe offers advice to first-year students about managing and dealing with the imposter syndrome, a real concern for the majority of new students. Given the level of rigor and challenge of the Harvey Mudd College curriculum, it’s common for students to wonder whether they should be at Mudd, to wonder if they are as talented as the other students, to suspect Admission somehow made a mistake.

President Klawe reminds students that many people who outwardly seem successful feel like this throughout their lives, even her. “I wake up most mornings feeling like a complete failure,” she says. “That’s the voice on one side of my head. Fortunately, there’s another voice on the other side that says, ‘I can change the world.’”

For many people, the impostor voice may make them work harder and be more successful. But for others, the impostor voice may result in not aiming high and being unwilling to risk failure.

When experiencing self-doubt, President Klawe shares ways to cope. “I promise that if you do all of these things, you will learn and grow immensely as a Mudder and as a person,” she says. “Please join me in making this year a year of learning and growth.”

  1. Ask for help. There are so many people who can help. Your professors. Academic excellence. The Writing Center. Your peers. Proctors and mentors. Dr. Gonzales and the rest of the student affairs team. And me, too. Asking for help and taking it is a huge part of what you will learn as a Mudder. It’s one of the core competencies that will make you successful throughout your life. Learn it early. Practice it often. Do it before you even start feeling like a failure. Ask for help!
  2. Recognize that feeling like a failure is likely to make you more successful in the long run. We learn more from dealing with failure than from success. Feeling like a failure is often the result of having very high expectations, which is the reason that so many very successful people spend a lot of time feeling like a failure.
  3. Share your feelings with others. You will feel much less lonely when you realize how many people have similar feelings.
  4. Celebrate your successes. So often we ignore the things that are going well and only focus on the problem areas.
  5. Surround yourself with people who encourage you.
  6. If one approach isn’t working, try others.
  7. Keep on working hard. Don’t let your fears undermine your ability to give your best effort.

The Resilience of Mudders

When the pandemic erupted last spring I had the typical worries that most human beings had. However, these were accompanied with profound sadness and anger that my 19-year old daughter was being ejected from her developmental trajectory that was rooted in college experiences – both academic and social.

Mudders are familiar with successes… they were the top of their high school classes; they were accepted to Harvey Mudd College. I knew that resilience was important to my daughter’s development. She had demonstrated it magnificently during her freshman year. She had “hit the wall” – as most Mudders do – and sought out peers and professors to regroup and succeed. She had persevered through the first one and one half semesters of core – in some areas which were not her “favorites”. She had navigated relationships, independence, and the struggles which come with them. But now everything that had become familiar was abruptly suspended on her 19 th birthday. I was disheartened and irritated…”now what?!” I asked myself.

I have learned that it was not my daughter’s resilience that I should be worried about, but rather my worries! She has repeatedly made “lemonade out of lemons”. My job was and is to acknowledge her resilient accomplishments. She has effectively problem-solved and clearly articulated her decision-making processes related to many, continuous hurdles. She adapted to home life, one which was more isolated than pre-pandemic due to stay-at-home orders, instead of dorm life. She navigated emergency-remote learning and long-distance friendships via technology. She persevered through the uncertainty of summer research; she learned how to handle the disappointment of her original summer plans (residence and research) being obliterated and reached out and found new research opportunities. She self-assessed and decided to return to HMC for fall 2020 when her close friends made alternate plans; she knew she wanted campus life and her biology lab. She preserved through the next weeks of uncertainty as LA County cases increased. She made and solidified plans within 20 hours of HMC’s inability to open for fall 2020 with a group of peers in which she only knew one student. She made an outreach to an-almost stranger/HMC sophomore to be his roommate. She boarded a plane on 8-23-2020 to an unknown city, to live in an unfamiliar community (and ended up the first night sleeping alone in an empty (no furniture nor roommate) apartment on top of a pile of yoga mats!) She, and her seven fellow students, have formed a bubble and embraced their “new normal” – as they navigate the last semester of core – “death core”, adjusted to their new surroundings, and have formed a hiking club for their PE credit.

I am sure many Mudd parents have similar stories –some in which their child has demonstrated more resilience and others in which there has been less. Regardless of the amount, it is resilience! I have seen similar posts on our HMC families’ Facebook site. It is wonderful to see/read these stories and know that my experience is not an isolated one. I am a college professor, and I have watched my own students, who typically have numerous environmental and financial obstacles to overcome, persevere in this “covid-world”. I am progressing on my own developmental task as a parent of a young adult, and beginning to worry a little less and appreciate my child’s growth more. I have been able to see and appreciate that she is still on her correct developmental trajectory, it is just on a bumpier and different road that the one my husband and I imagined.

Melissa Lane P23

A Parent Reflection on the Mudd Experience

by Dianne Stober P19
July 2, 2019

Hannah Slocumb ‘19 and Adam R. Johnson, Professor of Chemistry                              HMC Commencement, May 2019

As the parent of a recent graduate, I would like to give the “newer” families a glimpse of the future. I’m in Irvine this week, helping our daughter move into her graduate school apartment. Four years flew by soooo fast. So much growth, plenty of challenges and I can say that Mudd has launched her well. As one of eleven chemistry majors graduating this past year, she has had amazing lab and research experience (huge kudos to the profs in the Chemistry department–especially Profs Johnson, Van Hecke, Hawkins and Karukstis) and landed a great spot at UC Irvine. We tried to “hold things loosely” in terms of what major she chose when we dropped her off in the fall of 2015 and it’s been amazing to see her find her path, along with the support and help of fellow students, faculty and staff. Make no mistake, it’s a hard road full of hard work and challenges. It wasn’t always easy for her, but nevertheless, she persisted. She took advantage of opportunities beyond campus, including an amazing semester in China and a winter break trip to London as part of the Dickens-Hardy class (wow, I wish I could take that class!). And after a wonderful graduation celebration and a break to travel and relax, she’s now getting ready to launch her graduate career. For those of you who have read to this point, I hope you take away a sense of what Mudd makes possible. For those of you who have children currently attending Mudd, I wish them every success. Enjoy watching your children bloom and grow.

Wellness Coaching – First Year/Transfer Parents

Wellness Coaching for Parents Discover the Collaborative Process for Positive Support and Change with Susan Howard P17. During these uncharted times, we are experiencing many different situations that are unfamiliar to us. As a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and an expert with a Masters in Integrative Wellness, Howard’s guidance will provide the ability to support and collaborate with scientific, evidence-based approaches in creating positive outcomes.

Wellness Coaching – Returning Parents

Wellness Coaching for Parents Discover the Collaborative Process for Positive Support and Change with Susan Howard P17. During these uncharted times, we are experiencing many different situations that are unfamiliar to us. As a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and an expert with a Masters in Integrative Wellness, Howard’s guidance will provide the ability to support and collaborate with scientific, evidence-based approaches in creating positive outcomes.

Wellness Coaching – What’s In Your Physical PIE (Positive Integrative Energy)?

Susan Howard P17 is an integrative wellness professional with a master’s in kinesiology-integrative wellness from Point Loma Nazarene University and is certified by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. These slides are from Susan’s January 12, 2021 Wellness Coaching session and include tools to assess and enhance sleep, nutrition and physical activity to make substantial positive changes as you prioritize your physical wellness and influence positivity in your connected community.

January 12, 2021 Presentation Slides