Casey Gardner, Engineering Major, Harvey Mudd

What are you currently doing now?

I am currently majoring in Engineering at Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, CA. 

What area of engineering are you interested in?

I'm leaning towards vibrational dynamics which could apply to civil, mechanical or aerospace engineering. That was the focus of the research I was doing this past summer--we were applying it to concrete dams to predict earthquake responses.  This gave me the opportunity to go in depth and see all parts of a project, from planning experiments, to data collection and analysis, to interacting with dam owners and engineers, and ultimately drafting final reports and research papers.

What skills or abilities did Highland Hall help foster and grow?

Throughout many years of main lesson books and interpretive class projects, Highland Hall taught me to take pride in my own work and ideas. The constant stretching of my creative abilities gave me the self-confidence to take ownership of the things I create and accomplish. In college, this naturally extends beyond watercolor paintings and intricate borders—when I complete a particularly difficult problem set or finish a final technical report for one of my classes, I have the confidence to approach new challenges and tackle new concepts. As my work begins to have more and more real-world impact outside of the classroom, it is extremely helpful to know what I am capable of and where I can make meaningful contributions.

Are there any particular lessons you learned from your classes at Highland Hall that help you in college?

One of the most important lessons that I learned from Highland Hall was how to be a contributing and supporting member of a community. This wasn’t taught explicitly, but I definitely learned it from the examples of others around me—fellow students, my teachers and numerous parents. I learned when to ask for help and how to seek out those best suited to provide it, as well as how to lend a hand when asked, and to recognize on my own when one was needed. Highland Hall gave me the opportunity to explore what roles I wanted to play in the community—student, teacher, staff, etc.; having that experience and self-knowledge has definitely been helpful in college, for both academic and social situations. I have the confidence to ask for assistance and I have the ability and skills to help others when the occasion arises.

What was your favorite class at Highland Hall?

It’s hard to pin down just one favorite class, but my top two favorites were definitely Handbells and Frankenstein. I remember as a lower school student being awed by the precision and teamwork required of the (imposing) high schoolers, as each person added a note at just the right time. When I was finally able to participate myself, it was always incredible to see the journey from our first attempt at a new song to the moment everything finally clicked into place. My other favorite class was Frankenstein (10th grade) because of the fascinating discussions we had as a class as well as the opportunities that were given to individually process and interpret the many layers of the story. Each week, we were given the freedom to share with each other the connections that we had made to our own experiences as well as the connections we had made to other materials read in class.

In your opinion, what makes Highland Hall Waldorf School different from other schools?

Highland Hall is unique in many ways. For me, Highland Hall stands out because it gives students the opportunity to discover themselves. In my experience, my personal development and learning was always prioritized over rote memorization or a test grade. I was granted the freedom to explore multiple methods of learning, interpreting, and synthesizing the information presented, to find which were the best for me. Additionally, my teachers were always willing to go more in depth into a subject when they saw that myself or my classmates were interested. I especially appreciated how topics would be introduced in earlier grades and then would return in high school for a more critical analysis, and how science classes always began with the history of discoveries so we could see the reasoning behind conventions and fundamental theories. By presenting science, art, history, and literature as constantly evolving ideas, I believe that Highland Hall grants its students the opportunity to find a place when they can contribute to continued discoveries in those fields.