November 22, 2013

Alumni Profile: Sam Royston BA ’12

Meet Sam Royston BA ’12, a mathematics major.
  • Sam Royston BA ’12
Sam Royston BA ’12

Major: mathematics
Hometown: New York City, New York
Current work: Computer software developer 

What drew you to attend Lewis & Clark?

My aunt actually recommended Lewis & Clark to me, and I liked the idea of going somewhere totally new. Then, I saw the beautiful campus and couldn’t help but be attracted. All of my friends were going to east coast schools, and Lewis & Clark seemed pleasantly different from any of that.

What was your most memorable moment at Lewis & Clark?

Playing Rachmaninov with the school orchestra was by far the most terrifying moment. Getting spirited introductions to relativity from my peers, late at night in the observatory, brought me back to how I felt on field trips in elementary school. Jacking up my minivan to remove the tire lock placed on it by campus safety was a last act of joy that punctuated my transition into adulthood.

Were there any formative experiences, courses, or faculty that helped shape the path you took after graduating?

I walked into Discrete Mathematics at the beginning of my sophomore year, and within the first ten minutes of class, I felt nervous and excited in a way that I had never previously felt while sitting behind a desk.  That course had the perfect alchemy of rigor, cooperation, and competition that had the effect of making most students perform to their highest abilities.

I met very often with Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences Iva Stavrov, who was the professor of this course and my advisor. She suggested that I might be one of those math people who absolutely loves computer science and also noted that I was decidedly “combinatorial” (i.e. calculus was not my strong suit).  Iva was totally correct on both accounts, which is a testament not only to her perceptiveness but also the relationships that students are able to develop with professors at Lewis & Clark.  College is not just about learning the arts and sciences, but also about understanding yourself, and when professors are able to understand the way you think, you can accelerate both those processes.

Taking on difficult material, whether in my coursework or in playing music, helped me build general problem solving skills. I learned to set benchmarks in achievement that I can refer back to when faced with stubborn obstacles today

How has Lewis & Clark inspired you to be a leader and an innovator?

My relationships with professors were much more direct and genuine than they may have been at another school. It is fun to report to professors on problems that you have encountered and find that they have very useful advice to give. While many factors are responsible for success in any field, having the ability to say with confidence to yourself and others that you have the resources to solve a given problem is extremely important.

How did Lewis & Clark provide you with a global perspective?

My Introduction to International Affairs course encouraged me to place any critical questions I asked in a global context.  I am now closely involved in a project aimed at bringing digital media exposure to West Africa, and my global perspective continues to widen as a result.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to current or future students?

College life is fundamentally different from postgraduate life, so milk these years for all that they are worth. To have no responsibilities other than learning things about world and yourself is an insanely good deal that you won’t be offered frequently.

Mathematical Sciences