Jul 15, 2024  
2017-2018 Catalog 
2017-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED PUBLICATION] Use the dropdown above to select the current catalog.

Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts

Professors Steinberg (Chair), Alves, Balseiro, Barron, Dadabhoy, de Laet, Dyson, Evans, Fandell, Groves, Hamilton, Kamm, Mashek, Mayeri, Plascencia, Seitz, Spackman, Sullivan, and Wright.

As a liberal arts college, Harvey Mudd offers its curriculum in the spirit of providing a broadly based education. One reflection of that commitment is the College’s Core, to which all academic departments contribute. Another is the program in Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts (HSA), which each student completes along with the Core and a major. Exposure to the subjects and methods of the various HSA disciplines builds analytical skills and offers avenues for the development of increased self-knowledge, a humane concern for society, an understanding of the wider context in which science and engineering are practiced, and an examined and evolving set of values.

The required program consists of HSA 010 HM  (Critical Inquiry)—a Core course taken in the spring of the first year—along with a minimum of 10 other HSA courses. These 10 (or more) further courses must together satisfy the distribution, concentration, writing, and departmental requirements described below. A given course may be used to satisfy one or more of these requirements; e.g., the same course might count toward a student’s concentration and satisfy the writing requirement. There are no prescribed courses other than HSA 010 HM ; thus, students have significant flexibility in planning their programs of study.

Distribution and concentration requirements. The distribution requirement is satisfied by taking at least one course in each of five different HSA disciplines. The concentration requirement is satisfied by taking at least four courses in a single HSA discipline or interdisciplinary field chosen from the distinct areas of liberal arts study offered at The Claremont Colleges (see the list of approved concentrations under “Advising Resources” on the HSA Department website). Together, these requirements ensure that students gain exposure to a variety of methods and perspectives within HSA, but also achieve depth and intellectual development within one area of study. Since the concentration is intended to represent progress in a field of study, even though that field might be interdisciplinary, the concentration should typically advance beyond introductory level courses. Students should work with their advisors to ensure that their concentrations include an appropriate balance of intellectual approaches to the subject. For example, advisors will generally expect that a music concentration includes at least two courses that are not performance based. A concentration in foreign languages should normally represent study of a single language and not include courses of literature in English translation. Concentrations in linguistics, ethnic studies, or other interdisciplinary areas may, with the advisor’s approval, include a maximum of two foreign language courses. Students who intend to concentrate in areas not covered by the department’s faculty should plan their program carefully in order to be able to fulfill all requirements.

Writing requirement. So that students can build on the writing skills addressed in HSA 010 HM , at least one HSA course taken in addition to HSA 010 HM  must involve significant writing. Both departmental courses and HSA courses offered at the other Claremont Colleges (or outside of Claremont) can satisfy this requirement. The department’s website contains a list of the departmental courses with significant writing, as well as an approval form that can be used to satisfy the writing requirement with a non-departmental HSA course. In general, a course satisfies this requirement if it assigns at least 5,000 words of formal graded writing, excluding exams, short response papers, email or online discussion contributions, and in-class writing.

Departmental requirement. The department is responsible for ensuring that exploration of the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts constitutes an integral component of the life of the Harvey Mudd College community. This means that Harvey Mudd students and the department’s faculty should explore these disciplines together to a significant extent. Accordingly, at least five of the courses required in addition to HSA 010 HM  must be taken with departmental faculty. Remaining coursework (including any extra courses) may be done at the other Claremont Colleges, and the department encourages students to take advantage of this opportunity. Courses offered by departmental faculty in the Joint Music Program (Professors Cubek and Kamm) count as departmental courses. To facilitate academic and cultural experiences not available directly at Harvey Mudd, the department waives one departmental course for students who study abroad or who concentrate in an area not regularly supported by the HSA department. However, unless transferring from another institution, a student may not take fewer than four departmental courses in addition to HSA 010 HM .


The department assigns each student an HSA advisor in the spring of the first year. Normally, a student’s HSA 010 HM  instructor fills this role. The student and the advisor meet at least once a semester with the approach of preregistration to review the student’s progress in the program and plan future coursework. The HSA advisor can be helpful at other times also, such as when a student is considering dropping a course, encounters academic difficulties, or is thinking through choices regarding graduate school or career. Since the HSA program affords students significant choice, students are encouraged to plan ahead and keep in touch with their advisors from semester to semester. Students should also consult the department’s Advising Handbook and the “Advising Resources” section of the department’s website.

Other Considerations

In addition to the requirements outlined above, the department also encourages students to include in their HSA programs coursework that provides exposure to cultural diversity, and the department is committed to offering courses that meet this goal.

The department tries to offer a balanced mix of courses each semester. Students may also arrange for independent study by agreement with individual faculty members. Normally, an independent study course is undertaken in a discipline in which the student has already taken at least one regular course.

Special Interdepartmental and Intercollegiate Programs

The Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts participates in a number of interdepartmental and intercollegiate programs that provide suitable areas for concentration and offer courses that may be of interest to Harvey Mudd students:

Africana Studies

The Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies offers a multidisciplinary curriculum that examines the experiences of African, African American, and Caribbean people from the liberal arts perspective. Courses accommodate the needs of majors and non-majors, providing significant preparation for careers in education, social work, public policy, law, medicine, business, international relations, and advanced research. Consult Professors Isabel Balseiro or Talithia Williams (mathematics).

American Studies

American Studies is a multidisciplinary program that introduces students to the complexities of the American experience and encourages them to think critically about American culture. An essential component of the American Studies curriculum is Introduction to American Cultures, which is team-taught by members of the intercollegiate faculty. Consult Professors Hal Barron or Jeffrey Groves.

Asian-American Studies

The Intercollegiate Asian American Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the hitherto neglected experience of Asians in the U.S. The courses are open to all students of The Claremont Colleges, and they provide undergraduates with an understanding of the diversity and complexity of this segment of United States society. Consult Professor Hal Barron.

Chicana/O-Latina/O Studies

The Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies Intercollegiate Department, the academic program of the Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies Center, offers a curriculum with a multidisciplinary approach to the study, research, interpretation, and investigation of the Chicana/o-Latina/o experience. The courses are open to all students of The Claremont Colleges. In recognition of the vital presence of Chicanos and other Latinos in the West, Southwest, and increasingly the entire nation, Chicana/o-Latina/o studies provides significant preparation for students pursuing careers in education, social work, public policy, law, medicine, business, and scholarly research. Consult Professor Isabel Balseiro.

Environmental Analysis

The Harvey Mudd Center for Environmental Studies coordinates courses and research in all departments of the College, and provides links to major ongoing programs of environmental studies at other Claremont Colleges. A strong advising program administered by the center helps students arrange programs that take advantage of courses in their majors as well as concentrations in the humanities and social sciences program, leading to a strong emphasis in environmental studies as a part of the Harvey Mudd College degree. Consult Professor Richard Haskell (physics) and see https://www.hmc.edu/hcsed/.

Media Studies

Harvey Mudd College participates in the Intercollegiate Media Studies (IMS) program, an intercollegiate, interdisciplinary program that investigates social histories, cultural contexts, theoretical approaches, and technologies of media forms. IMS production is oriented toward “independent” narrative forms, documentary, video and digital art, and community-based and activist media. Consult Professor Rachel Mayeri.


In addition to its own offerings in music, Harvey Mudd College participates in the Joint Music Program with Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps colleges. Courses are offered in music history, music theory, and performance ensembles, including the Claremont Concert Orchestra and choirs. Consult Professors William Alves, David Cubek, or Charles Kamm.

Religious Studies

The intercollegiate program in Religious Studies recognizes the importance and legitimacy of personal involvement in the study of religion, but it does not represent or advocate any particular religion as normative. Rather, its aim is to make possible an informed knowledge and awareness of the fundamental importance of the religious dimension in all human societies—globally and historically. Consult Professor Erika Dyson.

Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

The STS program is designed to deepen students’ understanding of both the context in which science and technology develop and the social consequences of scientific and technological change. Work in STS should not only enhance prospective scientists’ and engineers’ abilities to exercise influence within and on behalf of their professional communities, but also to assess the probable social impacts of their work. In addition, the program is intended to provide background for graduate work or career choices in such fields as history of science and technology, philosophy of science, public policy, law, medicine, science writing, science librarianship, or secondary school science teaching. The College’s interdepartmental Hixon Forum for Responsive Science and Engineering works directly and cooperatively with the Claremont STS program. Consult Professors Marianne de Laet or Vivien Hamilton.


Theater is one of the liberal arts and serves students from the five undergraduate colleges. It includes acting, design, directing, theater history and dramatic literature, and the practice of theater. Students concentrating in theater become proficient in bringing creative solutions to complex problems. They also develop sensitivity to the interpersonal relationships inherent in the collaborative process. Thus, they are prepared for a wide variety of careers in organizations and enterprises that value these qualities. The program is housed in excellent facilities at Pomona College. Consult Professor Jeffrey Groves.

Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Feminist Studies

Women’s Studies at Harvey Mudd is part of an interdisciplinary and intercollegiate program that focuses on the nature and scope of women’s achievement, promotes open and rigorous inquiry about women and sex roles, and questions cultural assumptions about women’s place. This program also explores such areas as the relationship between gender and society historically and cross-culturally; the changing roles and concepts of women; and women’s participation in major social institutions. Consult Professor Isabel Balseiro.

Course Descriptions