In November 2013, Harvey Mudd College announced its plans to expand to 900 students over the next 10 years. Since then, the college has been slowly but steadily moving toward that goal, starting with the hiring of four new faculty members and the construction of a new residential building to be completed fall 2015.
HMC has the smallest student population of the Claremont Colleges, but, according to President Maria Klawe, the college has grown by more than 400 students over the past 40 years.
“Adding another 100 students over 10 years is going to be the same [linear] rate we were growing at,” Klawe said.
Student population expansion did not begin this academic year. A total of 197 first-year students enrolled in the class of 2018, 20 students fewer than the 217 students who enrolled last academic year. According to Klawe, the college is planning to accept 207 students next year.
She noted that many students have expressed concern about the potential effects of expansion on the college’s culture.
“I think especially for the students they feel like, ‘We really love this institution, the learning community is so magical,'” Klawe said. “And what if it’s the case that we can [maintain] this at 800, but at 842 it’s going to disappear?”
To address this concern, Klawe said that HMC will monitor changes across the college in 2018, five years into the 10-year plan, “to make sure that the things we all value so much about this institution are still doing well.”
“And if they’re not, we will stop at 845 and figure out what we need to do to change it,” Klawe said.
HMC is also conducting a baseline assessment this year to determine the current state of the college. In four years, after several admission cycles of increased population, the college will refer to the baseline evaluation to discern whether components of the school like student adherence to the honor code, overall academic success and social environment have changed.
Ran Libeskind-Hadas, R. Michael Shanahan Professor of Computer Science, is the chair of the computer science department, the college’s largest department. This year, there will be 60 computer science majors graduating, along with 35 students graduating in a joint major with mathematics and 10 students in a joint major with mathematics and biology.
“Just over 40 percent of Harvey Mudd students are majoring in some computational major,” Libeskind-Hadas said.
However, Libeskind-Hadas said that he is more concerned about accommodating non-major students since a rapidly growing number of non-major 5C students are taking HMC’s introductory computer science classes, such as CS5.
“We feel challenged, but we also feel very excited,” Libeskind-Hadas said. “We have a very positive view about this. Our view is that it is wonderful that so many students want to take computing. We believe that computing is pervasive, that it’s important for people to understand it regardless of their ultimate major. And we’d be desperately eager to serve all takers.”
Catherine McFadden, Vivian and D. Kenneth Baker Professor in the Life Sciences and the chair of the biology department, said that she is not concerned about the expansion because the biology department, with an average of about 15 biology majors graduating each year, will not be affected as much as larger departments.
“We’d be happy to grow the biology major by the same percentage that the student population is going to be projected to grow, and I think in the major we can accommodate that fairly well,” McFadden said.
She said that there is more room for impact in the core curriculum, which includes a one-semester biology lecture course that 200 students take every year.
HMC’s new hires this year include one biology professor, one engineering professor, three faculty members for the computer science department, along with one new position of sustainable design.
Computer Science major Sisi Cheng HM ’15, who was a student grader for an introductory computer science class CS5 last year, said she often felt stressed out by the workload, which she felt prevented her from offering detailed feedback on students’ assignments.
“It’s a class where you have a lot of lab work, and all of the work is hand-graded … It takes a lot of hours to grade these assignments,” Cheng said.
Klawe said that she wants to offer one of the best undergraduate experience to even more students but emphasized that HMC will not rush the process.
“I’m happy we’re growing,” she said. “I’m happy we’re growing slowly and carefully and cautiously.”
Diane Lee contributed reporting.