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The Changing of the Guard at Harvey Mudd

With an enrollment of approximately 700 students and 78 tenured and tenure-track faculty, Harvey Mudd College (HMC) measures its yearly turnover in academic personnel in the low single digits. Professors tend to stay put at this highly ranked liberal arts college of science, engineering, and mathematics, where the focus is on teaching and student-faculty research is an integral part of the curriculum.

With eight tenure-track faculty joining the college this academic year, six of them in the sciences, HMC is benefiting from an influx of new talent not seen since the early 1990s, when biology and computer science majors were formally established. Indeed, this year's class is larger than the first group of faculty hired in 1957, shortly after the college's founding.

Out With the Old ...

Four of the eight new hires will fill lines vacated by retiring faculty. The first seven faculty members who started at Harvey Mudd College in 1957 have long since retired, and most of the faculty hired in the 1960s to meet the infant college's expanding needs have also moved on. Only three faculty members hired before 1966 remain.

The recent retirees are all male, nearly all white, and all between the ages of 65 and 70. Their demographics coincide very closely with those of the scientific and technical elite that began their careers in the post-Sputnik era and led the United States through the Cold War. Indeed, many HMC faculty worked with military and defense contractors before joining HMC, and did consulting work with them while working at the college.

... And In With the New

This year's faculty class at HMC is the largest in recent years, but it is merely the continuation of a trend that began at HMC in the early 1990s. The retirement of post-Sputnik professors, as well as the expansion of faculties in new and growing fields like computer science and biology, has left HMC with a young faculty. About 55% of current tenured and tenure-track faculty at HMC were hired within the last decade.

The new faculty class of eight includes six women. This is particularly remarkable since four of the six are in fields dominated by men: engineering, biology, mathematics, and computer science.

The engineering department profile has been transformed: Women now occupy four of the 18 faculty positions in the department. The one alumnus hired this year--1995 HMC graduate Elizabeth Orwin--studied with an all-male engineering faculty.

"I am enjoying being back on campus very much--it feels like coming home in a sense," said Orwin, who returned to her alma mater as an assistant professor of engineering and biology. "It's very strange to have your past professors turn into colleagues. I am still having trouble not calling everyone 'Professor X.' " After leaving HMC, Orwin earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in biomedical engineering. Since then, she has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and working for Gel-Del Technologies investigating a new protein "matrix" for healing wounds. At HMC she intends to continue her research in tissue engineering.

Jennifer Stroud Rossmann is the other new assistant professor of engineering. Rossman comes to HMC from the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Ph.D. in applied physics. Rossman also attended Berkeley as an undergraduate, earning a B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in English. Her Ph.D. research dealt with biofluid mechanics, specifically numerical simulation of blood flow in plaque-inhibited carotid artery bifurcation. Rossman was hired last year but chose not to start at HMC until this year.

Also hired last year, Anette "Peko" Hosoi will be an assistant professor in the department of mathematics. After earning her bachelor's degree from Princeton, Hosoi went to the University of Chicago for her master's and doctoral degrees; all of her degrees were in physics. Hosoi spent 3 years as a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellow in applied mathematics, first at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and then at MIT. For the past year, she has been doing more postdoctoral research at the Courant Institute. At HMC she plans to study the mathematics of fluid dynamics.

Hosoi is joined in mathematics by Michael Orrison, who comes to Harvey Mudd as an assistant professor after completing his Ph.D. in mathematics at Dartmouth University. Orrison earned his A.M. at Dartmouth and his A.B. at Wabash College. His interest lies in permutation representations of finite groups and associated combinatorial and computational questions--work he intends to continue at Harvey Mudd.

Thomas Minehan, assistant professor of chemistry, comes to HMC after serving as an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. He earned his B.A. from Columbia and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard. At HMC, Minehan plans to initiate a research program in synthetic organic chemistry, including explorations of "green" synthetic techniques.

Melissa O'Neill joins the computer science department as an assistant professor. O'Neill earned her Ph.D. in computing science from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Previously, she had earned the M.Sc. at Simon Fraser and a B.Sc. from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. Her research interests include tools and techniques for advanced programming languages and parallel and distributed systems.

Marianne De Laet joins the department of humanities and social sciences as an assistant professor of anthropology and science, technology, and society. Her undergraduate and master's degrees are in psychology, from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht she served as an assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and as a visiting scholar and visiting assistant professor at Columbia University. De Laet joins HMC from Caltech, where, as a senior research fellow, she has been conducting an ethnographic study of the California Extremely Large Telescope project, a collaborative effort between the University of California and Caltech. She expects to continue working on this project while at HMC.

HMC's tenure-track class is rounded out by Heejung Kim, who will begin teaching in January 2002 as an assistant professor of psychology in the department of humanities and social sciences. Kim recently completed her Ph.D. in social psychology at Stanford University. She earned an M.A. from Stanford, a B.A. from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. (French literature) from Ewha Women's University in Korea. Her research interests include cultural influences on individual preferences and choice, and the influence of cultural assumptions on how talking affects cognitive processes.

In addition to these tenure track appointments, Ann Esin will teach at HMC as a visiting assistant professor of physics. Originally from Russia, Esin completed her undergraduate work in mathematics and computer science at MIT. She graduated from Harvard with an M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy, and later held an NSF Graduate Fellowship there. Since 1998, she has been a postdoctoral fellow in theoretical astrophysics at Caltech. Her research involves the study of accretion flows and emission processes around neutron stars and black holes.

Good Work If You Can Get It

HMC's unusually large freshman science faculty class is a particularly stark example of a transformation that is occurring nationally, one that has long been predicted but now seems slowly to be coming to pass. Since the 1980's, many reports have warned of a shortage of scientists, as demand increased and post-Sputnik scientists began to retire. In many fields, several factors--cutbacks in corporate R&D expenditures, the end of the cold war, and the longevity of senior scientists, some of whom have continued to work well into their seventies-resulted in a shortage of jobs, not of trained personnel. In the early-to-mid 1990s applications for several physics faculty jobs numbered in the upper hundreds. One position--at Amherst--drew more than 1000 applications.

Competition for science faculty positions is still keen, but the situation has improved somewhat for young scientists, with the number of applications for science jobs typically numbering in the low hundreds or less. Nevertheless, the new HMC faculty won the prize in a competition against a large pool of talented applicants--numbering, typically, in the low hundreds. According to Michael Moody, chair of the department of mathematics, many of the recent hires in mathematics also had competing offers from major research universities.

What set HMC's chosen few apart from the competition? Many applicants had very strong research credentials. But because Harvey Mudd is an undergraduate institution, faculty members' skill in teaching is valued as highly as is research prowess. Professor Clive Dym, chair of the department of engineering, reports that both of the engineers hired this year "had undertaken significant teaching assignments during or immediately after their graduate work, and both demonstrated sensitivity to teaching HMC students during their interviews."

Moody seconded that sentiment. In addition to strong scholarly qualifications, "A successful candidate must also demonstrate a superior classroom presence, enthusiasm, and ability to teach. We will hire someone only if we have a strong consensus in the department that that person will be a superior teacher. Thus, we demand quite a lot of our new faculty, and a job at HMC will appeal to people who respect and want the balance between scholarship, teaching, and mentorship."

No Guarantees

Though the appointment of these young scientists to HMC's tenure-track faculty marks the end of one long and trying process that began with their first undergraduate science class, it marks the beginning of another ordeal: the pursuit of tenure.

HMC's gains in the number of women mirror gains in the number of women on science faculties nationally. Yet, nationally, women have tended to stall at the upper levels. Far fewer women than men have tenure, and the number of women at the full-professor rank has hardly budged since the early 1970s.

HMC's new women--indeed, all of HMC's new tenure-track hires-- have an advantage over new faculty at other colleges and universities, particularly at some elite universities where junior faculty have very little chance of achieving tenure. At Harvey Mudd, says dean of faculty Sheldon Wettack, "we presume that everyone we appoint to the faculty will eventually be tenured." This commitment appears to be real--over the past 10 years, roughly 90% of tenure-track faculty have earned tenure.

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