PROFiles: Professor Mary Van Vleet

As part of our alumni professor feature series, Alma Mudders, we interviewed HMC chemistry professor Mary Van Vleet ’12.

Q: Which dorm(s) did you live in?

A: Atwood for two years, as a freshman and a junior, and Case for two years, as a sophomore and a senior. I was proctor of Topless as a senior.

Q: What was your favorite Mudd Party?

A: Slippery when Wet!  Or possibly Casemas. Basically anything Case throws is the most wonderful.

Q: What was your wildest college experience at Mudd as an undergrad?

 A: Oh, I don’t think I’m allowed to answer that question!

Q: What was the best prank pulled while at Mudd?

A: For frosh prank, my seniors transformed my dorm room into a jungle excursion, complete with soundtrack, lake, and live plants and animals. It was really great.

Q: What were your favorite and/or least favorite classes to take at Mudd?

A: Physical chemistry was probably my favorite course. Either that or discrete math. Least favorite was E&M, but that’s probably more my fault than that of the physics department.

Q: How many academic advisories did you get / did they exist?

A: They did exist. I got between 0 and 50.

Q: What was your biggest regret at Mudd during your undergrad?

A: Academically? I didn’t take CS70 or Scientific computing, both of which would have been a tremendous help in graduate school. Personally? You can ask me about that in Office Hours.

Q: What was your most embarrassing moment as professor at Mudd?

A: I bike to work every day, so I wear a biking outfit in the morning and bring a change of clothes in my bag. One day this year (a day when I had to teach lab and meet with a seminar speaker) I forgot to bring pants into work, and ultimately ended up wearing a sweater wrapped around my waist as a makeshift skirt. I found it hilarious, but I’m sure the seminar speaker thought I was really weird.

Q: Currently, what hobbies do you have outside Mudd?

A: I did (and still do) a lot of backpacking, climbing, playing cello, and reading. I was pretty involved with Intervarsity and with the Claremont Orchestra while at Mudd.

Q: What’s your secret talent?

A: I’m really amazing at the one-foot variation of mouth bag.

Q: What’s the biggest change between Mudd when you were an undergrad and now? 

A: The racial diversity of the student body. When I was a student, everyone, from the administration to the students, wanted more PoCs on campus, but the student population was largely white and Asian.
Q: Why did you come back to teach at Mudd?

A: Mudd is still, in my humble opinion, the best place in the universe, and it’s 100% because of the people here. I spent the last 5 years checking job postings from the Mudd department, and was lucky enough to have one open up this last spring!

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