Why I stayed: Ian Roy

October 23, 2020

Since Brandeis opened its doors in 1948, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Brandeisians have come here to complete their education. But after they graduate, Brandeis oftentimes becomes a distant memory, an alma mater that they’ll donate to and where they’ll go to reunions every few years. However, there are a select few individuals that choose to either stay, or come back to Brandeis, after graduation. This series will tell the stories of Brandeis alumni who decided to stay or return. 

Five years after graduating from Brandeis, Ian Roy ’05 found himself back in Waltham, without a direction or purpose, he told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. 

“It was like finding yourself in the forest and deciding that’s your new home,” he explained. “I found myself in Waltham.”

When initially deciding on a school to attend for his undergraduate studies, Roy really wanted to attend a liberal arts school, but was fascinated by the fact that Brandeis also had a strong research community. While at Brandeis, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and philosophy with a minor in film studies. 

Roy was hired right after graduating from Brandeis and worked at a high-end jeweler to upgrade their accounting system. While working there, he discovered that much of the photography done for magazines was not actually using real rings, but 3D printed versions of the rings. Roy explained that jewelry was one of the first industries to use 3D printers extensively for their business.

After his contract was up, Roy found himself back in Waltham after dealing with family issues and applied to four Brandeis jobs in six months before getting an interview. “I told them I would work for free,” he told The Hoot in an interview. “You don’t know how much I wanted the job.” His first job at Brandeis was working in the repair shop, helping with machine repair on broken equipment around campus. 

“I never thought I would come back,” he told The Hoot. “Now it is my favorite place in the world.”

“My exit from Brandeis was pretty rough as a student,” Roy told The Hoot. “I was coming back from a totally different paradigm, a very different view. I came back a different person” He further explained that the weirdest thing about coming back was how familiar everything was. “The people you knew weren’t here, but the culture was still here,” he explained. “I was a different person coming back to that culture.” 

Roy realized that Brandeis was a place where he could participate and contribute and find a community where he could be part of something bigger. “Brandeis was the first place where I had a job where it wasn’t just for me, or my client,” he explained. “We were on a trajectory for a bigger conversation with a bigger target.”

Roy’s favorite part about Brandeis is the “anti-disestablishment start-up mentality” and the multidisciplinary connectivity of campus, he told The Hoot. He explained how everyone on campus is part of the same spectrum of humans and you can’t tell the difference between an undergraduate student, a graduate student or a postdoctoral student. “If you show up enthusiastic, you can be on an egalitarian playing field, which is connection based,” he added. 

Roy is currently the Director for Research Technology and Innovation through the Brandeis Library, where he leads the Brandeis MakerLab, as well as a contract adjunct professor at the Brandeis International Business School and a contract lecturer in the anthropology department. 

The inspiration behind starting the MakerLab came from making tools that the university offered more accessible to the public. “The MakerLab was the first time I could find a way I could do something I was extremely passionate about that other people found helpful,” he told The Hoot. Roy explained that the MakerLab was a place for all members of the Brandeis community to help them find something that they “find true and beautiful.” 

“I hadn’t even found a way to participate in society where I could make a contribution where other people felt it as a contribution,” Roy explained. 2020 is the 10-year anniversary of Roy’s total life reboot. “I had a second adolescence where I could learn again,” he told The Hoot. “Brandeis had all this potential and all these ways to be involved with the mission.” 

“My passion for the rest of life is to help people build their tools to build their passions,” he told The Hoot in an interview. “Brandeis is my favorite place for that because we can see more connections.” 

This year, the MakerLab looks a little different thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but members of the Brandeis community are able to book time in the lab with a 48-hour advanced notice for academic projects, with one person allowed in the lab at any given time, Roy told The Hoot in an email. New services that are available include 3D printing and laser cutting on demand, remote access to high end computers, equipment loans with curbside picking and shipping and virtual workshops.

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