What’s Going On

Discussions about student health and  well-being, academic excellence and rigor, diversity and inclusion dominated during spring 2017. Activities on campus included peaceful student protests and demands, something other colleges across the country—even the other Claremont Colleges—also experienced.

Students march on to Scripps campus.

Events, both internal and external, combined to make this an especially stressful year for Harvey Mudd students, faculty and staff. The deaths of several students (Tristan Witte ’18, Willie Zuniga ’17, Tatissa Zunguze SCR ’17), a divisive political climate, the publishing of the confidential Wabash Report that included frank and harsh remarks by faculty and students, a staff member being placed on leave—all created an atmosphere that was at times tense and confrontational.

Community members dug deeply into the issues that arose from these events, often leading to difficult conversations. Faculty members voted overwhelmingly to cancel classes for two days and found ways to reduce student workload for the remaining few weeks of the semester. During the brief hiatus, staff and faculty engaged in activities to reconnect with students and support the health and wellbeing of the student body. The Office of Institutional Diversity led a series of workshops for faculty on microaggressions, stereotype threat, LGBTQ+ identities and allyship. At the close of the term, faculty and staff attended a two-day forum “Beyond Diversity: A Workshop for Faculty and Administrators,” and academic departments, led by professors Dagan Karp, Darryl Yong ’96 and Dean Sumi Pendakur, participated in an assessment process using a diversity inclusion and equity rubric. Goals, set forth for each department, will be worked on throughout the academic year.

Following this short but necessary two-day break, additional funding for program staffing and student groups was put in place for the 2017–2018 academic year. The one-time budget additions include:

All of these allocations will be reviewed following the school year to determine which programs are effective and worthy of ongoing and/or permanent support. In addition, there are continuing programs. The three-year old course Social Justice and Equity: STEM and Beyond is being offered again in spring 2018. There are now year-round programs focusing on international students (Project 196+) and first generation and/or low-income students (Project Decode). HMC continues to build its campus-based health and wellness support, high on students’ list of priorities.

Faculty, trustees students, alumni and staff will be working together to ensure that the College achieves and improves outcomes in academic excellence, while also achieving the broader goals of diversity and inclusion as part of a comprehensive review of the Core Curriculum this year. The most recent Core revision (seven years ago) resulted in a 10 percent increase in the number of faculty, accomplished over several years with help from donations made to The Campaign for Harvey Mudd College. The College recognizes that rigor is essential to the Harvey Mudd experience and brand, but at the same time, the faculty wants to ensure that the curriculum is not unmanageable. Considering workload in relation to the curriculum is part of the normal review process.

“As the faculty re-evaluates the Core, we will, as we always have done, attempt to optimize the academic program to balance competing objectives,” says Lisa Sullivan, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “We want our students to embrace challenges as they acquire information and skills, but we also want them to leave us as passionate and energized lifelong learners with a flexible toolkit that will serve them in the future.”

There is already success in courses, such as CS5—and more recently E79 (formerly E59 or “Stems”)—where the faculty made adjustments to the curriculum to make instruction more engaging and effective for all learners. In email surveys distributed this summer to alumni and in early fall to faculty, students and staff, participants may provide input about their experiences at Harvey Mudd. This feedback will inform conversations about revisions to the Core Curriculum and student workload as well as the self-study being created for the external review. The Core Review Planning Team is organizing a strategic planning session that will take place early in the spring of 2018 and include all College constituencies.

The new academic year begins with even stronger support for students’ health and wellbeing, and new programs will be tested. As community members move thoughtfully and deliberately to achieve long-term strategies, all are mindful of the need to engage all community members in order to be successful.

Reimagining the Core Experience

Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach that places users at the core of the process. This summer, Angelica Virrueta ’18 and Lily Yang SCR ’18 worked with Fred Leichter, professor of engineering and director of the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (the Hive), and Pat Little, chair of the faculty and J. Stanley and Mary Wig Johnson Professor of Engineering, on an HCD project to “Reimagine Student Experience in the Core.” Sponsored by the Hive, the project builds upon skills learned in the course Human-centered Design. Using design thinking as their methodology/tool, the researchers are studying empathetic listening then unpacking user interviews to define the need space, generating ideas, and developing and testing prototypes.

“We are committed to the larger community having the central role in ideation, prototyping and testing,” said Little. “This project is essentially about problem finding more than problem solving. Our goal is to uncover narratives that express the emotional resonance people experience in the Core. Ultimately, we hope that these narratives and expressions will help us to understand how the Core impacts students, and to frame useful questions about how the Core might better meet the needs and wants of students.”

The intent is not to focus on statistically based samples, nor to follow formal surveys. Rather, researchers hope to add voices and points of view to the discussion, especially the personal and emotional responses of those interviewed. The product of the project will be expression of those voices, along with some questions that arise from this feedback. The researchers will share results during summer and fall.

More information at Inclusive Excellence.