Travis Paddock

Humans of Mudd

Interviews by Michelle Lum

Like its distant photoblog cousin in New York, Humans of Mudd is about getting to know people in your community. The Mudd version was started in early 2020 by Michelle Lum ’23, a journalist (The Student Life, Muddraker); computer science major; baking-climbing-tennis-book-carbs enthusiast; and collector of blue things. She’s conducted numerous interviews with a goal of sparking conversations and helping bring the HMC community closer. “I feel like coronavirus is forcing us to think of ourselves more as a society and think of others more,” Lum said in a May 2020 interview with TSL. “Hopefully Humans of Mudd will continue to be something nice for our community as well.”

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Rin Ha ’24

Montage of zoom chat windows

I was very lucky to have found friends. They’re really what made the fall semester bearable and actually somewhat fun, despite the circumstances.

In the beginning of the school year, someone created a frosh study groups sheet that had different tabs for different classes. You could put a Zoom link and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be working on this homework problem at this time. If you want to join, just put your name there, and hop in.’ For the first Spec Rel homework, eight or nine of us joined, and we took forever on the very first problem. We all even hopped into Saeta’s office hours. He gave us a hint, and we were like, ‘Oh we got it,’ and then we went back and we were like, ‘Wait, we actually don’t get it.’

So, because we couldn’t solve that first problem, we made a Discord chat to figure it out. After more struggling, we were able to finally figure it out. And since we had a group chat, people kept talking, and we decided to continue doing physics together. So, on the day the Spec Rel homework came out, we would all meet on a Zoom and pull through the homework together. It was really fun collaborating, even over Zoom. I can’t imagine how much better it is in person.

I don’t feel like part of the whole Mudd community as much as I would have if we were on campus. But I feel like I have a small community in my group of friends. We just enjoy spending time together. And, I mean, there’s no better way to bond than over struggling to do Spec Rel homework.

We have a Zoom link we usually go to. We play Among Us or Jackbox or Every Friday—because there’s the Great British Bake Off going on right now—we watch it together through Netflix Party. When it’s someone’s birthday, we all go on Zoom and have some crazy virtual background on to make fun of them. We awkwardly sing ‘Happy Birthday’— totally not in sync—and we usually coordinate to get them a gift. My friend’s birthday was a couple days ago, and we got him a yodeling pickle.

My friends make me feel like I am still in the Mudd community, but I don’t feel like that’s the complete Mudd community. We’re kind of in a frosh bubble. So, I definitely can’t wait for when I actually get to fully experience the Mudd community.

In terms of returning to campus, I’m just excited to meet everyone at Mudd. I’m excited to talk to upperclassmen and to hear what their experiences were like. I think it’ll just be fun to meet new people, because from what I’ve seen so far, even in breakout rooms, everyone’s been really nice and helpful, and I think it’d be really great to get to know a lot more people once I’m at Mudd.”

Kayleah Tsai ’24 and Lilly Lee ’24

Kayleah Tsai ’24 and Lilly Lee ’24

Tsai: My dad is a Mudd alum, and I always looked at his yearbooks when I was younger. So, I always thought that going to Mudd would mean getting a yearbook. I was a little disappointed when I found out that Mudd recently stopped having yearbooks. But I heard that someone was restarting the club.

So, I sent an email out to Spectrum and was like, ‘Hi, I wanted to join the yearbook club,’ not thinking that I was going to be given the entire club. I just thought I was going to join as a frosh, but they gave me the club. So, that was a little scary. I’m thankful for Lilly because I could not have done that by myself.”

Lee: “I met Kayleah at one of the Mudd meetups in Claremont. Basically, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t have a ride. Is anyone available?’ And Kayleah said, ‘If no one else volunteers, I can pick you up.’ Then, she became my Uber driver, unofficially.

I decided to join the yearbook club because I saw Kayleah’s email, and I thought, ‘This person is cool, and I’m interested in yearbook as well, so I’ll sign up.’ The club president thing came afterward.”

Tsai: “Lilly was so helpful the first meeting. She was like, ‘I can do this for you, I can do this for you, I’ll send out this email,’ and I said, ’Lilly, you need to be promoted. You need to be a co-president.’ That’s how we became co-presidents.

Our club is mostly frosh. There are a few sophomores that are pretty active. I think it’s probably because frosh are interested in giving back to the community they just recently joined. But we’re also friends. That makes it better; we can chat about other things, not just the yearbook.”

Lee: “I really like the spread I made—the fashion spread—because I was able to make little side comments in it that I felt like regular yearbooks would say were too casual. But because Mudd is so unique and wild, I don’t feel pressure about putting it in there.”

Tsai: “Anything that has Lilly’s writing is going to be precious because she has the best humor, and she’s so snarky. So, definitely look out for those paragraphs. I think you can tell which ones she wrote.

Something I’m looking forward to is Liza’s map showing where everybody is in the world this year. It’ll be cool to see how spread out we are. The theme of the yearbook—Mudders Around the World—is that we’re still a community even though we’re around the world.”

Lee: “With student submissions this year, we get to see another side of students that we wouldn’t normally be able to see. It’s nice to see students submitting what’s personal to them, what’s important to them.”

Tsai: “I think it’s also a community effort. Everyone helps contribute to the yearbook, so everyone gets to have a part in it, and hopefully, that’s a reason to buy it.”

Travis Paddock

Travis Paddock in maintenance cart

I’m the custodial services and mailroom manager. I’ve been at Mudd for six years now. I started at the night shift, working custodial, and worked my way up to lead, and then to night supervisor. Now I’m supervising during the day. I’ve had the pleasure, within the past two and a half years, of managing the mailroom.

With coronavirus, it’s a whole new world. We’ve got a lot more guidelines to follow: CDC guidelines, L.A. County guidelines. We’re sanitizing, disinfecting areas multiple times a day. We’re cleaning each restroom three times a day. We’ve re-strategized to make sure that we’re providing the safest environment for folks on campus.

We’ve added signs to direct the flow of traffic, placing arrows that keep you going a certain way to prevent folks from crossing paths. There are sanitizing stations and wipe stations as far as the eye can see. We’ve got signs posted clearly at each entry, saying if you’ve got any kind of symptoms, please don’t enter. Each day, we have a safety check-in process, where we acknowledge the fact that we don’t have any symptoms, that we will maintain our CDC protocols of keeping distance throughout the day.

When the students come back, we will need to maintain this level of quality. Right now, things are very quiet. However, when everybody’s back, we’re going to try to continue to do this on a large scale—which I have confidence that we will have no problem with. However, it will be a different beast, that’s for sure.

It is strange to be on campus without all the students. It’s lonely. We miss everybody. We have enough to do here so we are not bored by any means, but we miss the traffic. We miss the activity; we miss hearing everybody around. It feels good to see all the faces you’re trying to care for. But we stay diligent. We miss everyone, we look forward to having them back, we know that we’re on the edge of having at least some kind of normalcy —whatever normal is defined as now. We’re looking forward to it. And we’ve just been here practicing the same skills that we’re going to utilize when folks get back.

I love it here. When I first started here, I was just totally inspired. I started on the night shift, which is also a different aspect of the College—the things you see at night, the kids that are up studying all night, the professors you run into—it was great. It was inspiring to come here and see all that the kids were accomplishing—stuff written on these walls and boards that I couldn’t figure out if I had a mathematician right next to me. I fell in love right away, and I’ve been here ever since, just enjoying each year. We’re looking forward to having you all back. Can’t wait to see you.”

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