Nick RobertsHuman Science Student
Like many kids growing up in the 1980s, Nick Roberts was fascinated by technology.
"I had a computer in my house before all the other kids, and I was tearing things apart, trying to figure out how it worked," he remembers.
So naturally, when he went to college, he got a degree in Information Science and went to work with computers. Everything went just the way he'd planned it … except he quickly realized that learning how machines work is a lot more interesting than working with them 8 hours a day.
So you fix a computer. So what? "I lost interest," he said. "It didn't seem to have any value. I was disenchanted."
But people, and the things they do, still mattered to him. During the 2000 election and its aftermath, he found his passion for fixing things anew. "My roommate convinced me that was I was interested in wasn't just politics, but sociology," he says. "Figuring out how this happened, and why, in a way that's more extensive than just ‘who's going to win the election,' was what I wanted to do."
So Nick went back to college, got a BA in liberal studies, and then went directly into a Master's program for Law and Public Policy.
"I was trying to bring sociology and political science together into one program," he said. "I was always interested in culture and people and knowing what's happening, not just between one or two people, or a small group, but to really have a sense of the impact that systems have on populations and large groups."
While getting his MA he discovered he loved to teach, and after graduating he started teaching political science and sociology at the community college level. To take it to the next level, he knew he needed a PhD.
"I started a really intensive look for political sociology programs across the US and England," he says. "I compiled hundreds of different schools and looked at their faculty and research interests."
A friend of his, learning about his search, mentioned that one of his professors had gotten her PhD from Saybrook, and had often commented about what a unique, transformative, place it is. So Nick made an appointment to talk with her about it.
He was amazed at what he heard – it had never occurred to him that a graudate school could be like this. "Here's a person who went through all kinds of great schools, and she's telling me that Saybrook was the best educational experience of her life, that she'd been blown away by what she could do there – and after she graduated she got a job at a conventional state university and moved up pretty quickly," he says. "After that, I looked into it, and saw that Saybrook graduates were teaching all over the place, so I decided to apply."
As he applied, the decision just got better and better. " When I saw they had a concentration in Social Transformation, I was blown away," he said. "The thing that seemed really great about Saybrook was the ability to be transdisciplinary: to have a clear vision of what you want to do and to pursue it, even if traditional disciplines have failed to address that issue."
Unlike working with computers, actually being a Saybrook student has been exactly what he'd hoped.
"The school where I'd gotten my Masters had been very conservative, and I knew I would get an A if I wrote what the professor wanted to hear and didn't think to critically," he says. "Saybrook was the first time that I could really pursue anything that I was really passionate about pursuing. I look at the (Saybrook) Residential Conferences like they're a vacation."
As he studies, Nick is working for the Library of Congress, supporting a program that connects Library of Congress documents and primary source materials with k-16 classrooms. It's exactly the kind of teaching he hopes to do once he's earned his PhD – and he's confident he'll be prepared.
"I work with the Library of Congress, and I adjunct at a couple of other places, and I've got a real leg up on other people because of what I've been exposed to,' he says. "People tell me all the time that it seems like I'm really getting a great education – and people who have recently graduated tell me they wish they'd had the experience I'm having. It's really amazing."