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Next up in our 2020 Incoming Grad Series is Royce Olarte, who is entering the Ph.D. program in Education. Learn more about his research on mathematics education as well as his past as a traveling singer and musician!

By Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Tuesday, September 29th, 2020 - 9:00am

The 2020 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts about 8 students who are part of the entering class at UCSB.

Royce Olarte is entering the Ph.D. program in Education, where he will focus on mathematics education. From Redlands, California, Roy has traveled around the world performing as a musician, actor, and singer. Read on to learn more about his background, why he chose UCSB, and some surprising fun facts--including the new hobbies he's picked up as a result of quarantine!


Royce was born and raised in the Philippines, and his family immigrated to California when he was seven years old. Royce grew up around a community of both medical professionals and musicians, so he originally pursued degrees in Piano Performance and Pre-Medicine at La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. After his freshman year of undergrad, he discovered a love and passion for education, particularly in the field of mathematics, so he changed his major and began his journey into the field of mathematics education.

Immediately after graduating with his B.S. in Mathematics, Royce moved to Portland, Oregon to complete his M.S. in Mathematics for Teachers. There, he served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and instructor on record for pre-calculus courses. Royce told us that the toughest part about that experience was having to teach and lecture undergraduate students when he was only 22 years old, and was an undergraduate student himself just a few months prior!

After completing his masters degree, Royce decided to take a year off from school to work as an adjunct mathematics professor at the same university where he completed his undergraduate degree. In that gap year, Royce looked for programs to continue his doctoral studies, and that is how he came to apply to attend UCSB this fall.


Royce chose UCSB because of the mathematics education research area through the Gevirtz School of Education and its interdisciplinary emphasis. Royce was attracted to the collaborative nature of the program and the opportunities to work with outstanding faculty. The work/life balance that UCSB fosters, and not being too far from home, ultimately led Royce to commit to attending UCSB and he is extremely excited to start this next phase of his personal and professional life.


Royce's broad research area is mathematics education. He particularly wants to explore the intersection of students' mathematical thinking as they transition from high school mathematics to undergraduate mathematics, and the professional development of undergraduate mathematics instructors. He hopes to research how to effectively equip instructors who primarily teach recent high-school graduates. Another major research interest, which was amplified in response to the social unrest and racial tensions in the country this year, is equity in mathematics classrooms and equity in STEM more broadly. He hopes to research equitable teaching practices and increasing representation of historically under-represented groups in STEM.


For fun, Royce loves hiking and backpacking, hammocking, playing volleyball, singing, playing music, traveling, working out, and trying new food! Pre-pandemic, he loved attending concerts and musicals, and just generally hanging out with his friends. During the pandemic, his newfound hobby has been cooking and baking, with the next big endeavor: croissants from scratch! Royce did not grow up being very interested in playing video games, but the pandemic ultimately changed that. He now enjoys playing Call of Duty with his friends, even though he's still not very good!

Although no longer pursuing music as a career, Royce has been actively involved with music groups, ensembles, and productions. His past musical involvement includes playing bass clarinet for the Portland State Wind Symphony, singing and acting in productions of "Into the Woods" and "The Sound of Music", and even touring internationally in countries such as Japan, Italy, and the Czech Republic playing bass clarinet and saxophone and singing.

Royce is colorblind and told us he only found out in his psychology class in undergrad!

Royce also really loves playing volleyball. He was a former club team coach for middle-school boys and high-school girls. His favorite foods are sushi and boba, and his favorite TV shows are Friends, New Girl, and Criminal Minds. A big personal goal of his is to travel the world while having the opportunity to teach and study how other countries approach mathematics education.

Welcome, Royce!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series. Our final profile features Asish Ninan Chacko, an incoming Ph.D. student in Chemistry and Biochemistry from India. He tells us what it was like to grow up in a village below sea level, how he became interested in chemical synthesis, and why he loves Taylor Swift!