Harvey Mudd requires a unique combination of coordinated courses in all the STEM disciplines—biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, math and physics—as well as classes in academic writing and critical inquiry. The Core gives students a solid foundation in STEM courses and highlights the relationships between them. Not surprisingly, this focus on STEM disciplines attracts science-minded students. “Mudd is basically a school of science nerds, and being around people who think like-mindedly to me was important in my college decision. I love that at Mudd I can make a science joke and the people around me get it, and I love that everyone is as dedicated to science, and as hard working as I am,” a mathematical and computational biology major told us.
Harvey Mudd isn’t just about STEM classes, though. In keeping with its mission to educate scientists who understand the implications of their work on society, Harvey Mudd also requires one quarter of students’ coursework be in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. The students certainly appreciate this approach. One undeclared major explained, “Given how much groundbreaking work is being done in interdisciplinary fields, I liked the idea of a sort of ‘liberal sciences’ degree—one where I’d really be getting breadth before and while digging into one particular subject.” Another student agreed, explaining that the school “has a good math and science program, but also ensures its students are educated in the humanities and social sciences.” “I wanted a strong liberal arts education AND a strong STEM education, and Harvey Mudd was one of the few places where I could have both,” a physics major explained. The faculty designed the Core, and any revisions to the curriculum require full faculty approval.
Students and graduates alike recognize the value of Harvey Mudd’s emphasis on hard work. Glen Hastings, a Business Operations Manager at Facebook, who graduated in 1993 with a BS in Chemistry, explained how his time at Harvey Mudd impacted his career: “My career trajectory was shaped by Mudd initially through the specific jobs that I had immediately post-graduation which leveraged the chemistry and engineering that I learned at Mudd. Subsequent to that, the elements of hard work, intellectual curiosity, and the confidence to learn that were fostered at Mudd shaped my decision to go to business school, transition to consulting, and then move on to strategy and analytics at Yahoo and Facebook.”
As a strictly undergraduate institution, Harvey Mudd offers research opportunities that many students wouldn’t expect to find until graduate school. “It is an undergraduate institution, so the focus is all on undergrads. We get all the research positions, on-campus jobs, etc.,” a computer science and mathematics major told us. An engineering student cited the “small community [and] lots of research opportunities,” as the main reasons he chose to attend the school. After just one year of coursework, students have the opportunity to become full research collaborators, working directly with faculty rather than graduate students or post-docs. Students also may pursue paid research opportunities through the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, during which they partner with faculty to explore a topic of mutual interest. Roughly 200 students—a quarter of the student body—take part in the summer program. Beyond these optional experiences, the college also requires either a capstone research or Clinic Program experience, providing all students with real-world research or design experience. In the Clinic Program, juniors and seniors work in small groups with a faculty adviser in partnership with a corporate client. Students work together to present solutions to real-world, technical problems for their client. These projects run from September through May, and involve 1,200 to 1,500 hours of work, giving students valuable experience before graduation. It is no wonder that many students identified the “many opportunities for students to do research or pursue internships” as a major asset.
There are eighty-nine tenured or tenure track faculty at Harvey Mudd, all of whom hold PhDs or an equivalent degree in their fields. The school’s small size leads to a 9:1 student to faculty, a benefit that isn’t lost on the students we surveyed. A chemistry major told us, “I wanted to go to a small school where I could really interact with professors,” while a mathematics and computer science major cited “close contact with professors” as a key strength of the school. Beyond being available, faculty members at Harvey Mudd really care about their students. “Undergraduate education is our No. 1 priority, and everything we do is student-centered. We pride ourselves on close student-faculty interactions both in the classroom and beyond,” Dr. Karukstis said. Students agree. “The professors at our school are all excellent and are all incredibly smart, and are always willing to help you if you come in with questions or even just want to chat. The professors are part of the reason why Harvey Mudd is so great and successful,” a physics major told us, while a computer science major added, “The professors at Harvey Mudd are enthusiastic and truly care about their students. They aren’t just interested in delivering facts; in addition, they relate concepts to their real-world applications, showing students how the material they learn now can be used in their future work.” Finally, an undeclared major shared, “The professors are extremely competent, knowledgeable, and successful at what they do. But even more than that, they are jumping at the opportunity to help students and are the most helpful and kind people I’ve ever met. I’m blown away by the quality of my courses and amazed by how much I’ve learned in a single semester.”
Furthermore, the faculty at Harvey Mudd is 62 percent male and 38 percent female, which is one of the highest percentages of female professors at any STEM-focused school in the United States. The college puts a high value on encouraging diverse students to pursue STEM fields. The student body is nearly gender balanced with 46 percent female and 54 percent male students. The computer science department faculty worked together in 2006 to redesign the computer science curriculum to make it more engaging and supportive of women; in the four years after these changes were made, the percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd jumped from 10 percent to 40 percent, the highest of any co-ed college in the nation. Harvey Mudd now averages about 40 percent female computer science majors annually.
Graduates from Harvey Mudd are hard working and adaptable team members, and potential employers know it. Alumnus Glen Hastings, Business Operations Manager at Facebook, relayed to us something he’d been told by a fellow Harvey Mudd graduate: “If you have an MIT grad and a Caltech grad on a team, you have two smart people. If you add a Mudder, you have much more than three smart people. The Mudder simply makes the team better than the sum of its parts.”
Mr. Hastings, who majored in chemistry, valued the real-world experience he gained through summer research, the Clinic Program, and working as a student grader. Students we surveyed also mentioned work grading and tutoring as valuable experiences during their undergraduate careers. Beyond the experiences they gain during college, students can also rely on an active alumni network once they graduate. “There are a number of alumni at my company and in the Silicon Valley and I often attend social events in the area. I currently do not recruit students, but I set up the alumni LinkedIn group and assist the career services office with networking and outreach,” Mr. Hastings told us.