“I’ve always loved that you can observe the natural world, ask, ‘Why is that happening?’ and then dive into it… and Harris approaches policy with that same mindset.”
Matt Roy

As a high school science teacher, few things frustrate Matt Roy like lawmakers distorting science for political aims. That is especially true when it comes to attempts to downplay issues of climate change, such as when a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma brought a snowball to the floor of Congress in 2015 in an effort to brand global warming a hoax.

Roy, who teaches in Chicago, is used to helping his chemistry students sidestep scientific pitfalls on their way to grasping complex concepts. But, with a newborn son and concerns about the future of our planet, Roy found himself wanting to broaden his skills to address environmental issues head-on.

Admitted to The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program for fall 2019, Roy plans to study how to craft and implement evidence-based environmental and energy policies. Much like he does for his students, Roy ultimately wants to help translate the science behind that policy in ways that help the public—and lawmakers—understand and support it.

Raised in Kents Hill, Maine, Roy forged his love of nature during his summer bike rides through the area’s expansive woods and the winter ice fishing trips with his dad atop the region’s frozen lakes. At the University of Maine at Farmington, he developed a passion for teaching, graduating cum laude in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education focused in chemistry.

After graduation, Roy taught high school science in Richmond, Virginia, where he met his wife, a Chicago South Side native. The relationship led him to accept a teaching position in 2016 at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood. There, he became the leader of the school’s robotics team, teaching himself to code on the fly so he could help students design, prototype, build, and test robots for regional competitions.

Though Roy’s environmental concerns are what initially drew him to Harris, he said he made a firm decision to apply to the University of Chicago when he learned of the wide-ranging utility of the school’s MPP degree. He is eager to develop the data analytical skills that can lead to good policy and decision making.

“I could envision myself working at an NGO or nonprofit or in the public sector,” Roy said. “There are so many tough questions that need answers, and Harris talks about turning your desire to do good into social impact. As a tinkerer at heart, I’ve always loved that you can observe the natural world, ask, ‘Why is that happening?’ and then dive into it… and Harris approaches policy with that same mindset.”

And if his policy interests shift to something entirely new during his two years at Harris?

“I’m leaving that door open,” Roy said. “This degree could be useful in so many areas. Who knows what happens over these next couple years? I’m excited to meet the faculty and my fellow students and to be pushed and challenged by them.”

In advance of the autumn quarter, Roy and his wife already have relocated to Hyde Park from Chicago’s North Side. They love their new neighborhood, noting its high number of restaurants and proximity to the Harper Theater. Plus, their new apartment has a second bedroom—perfect for a nursery.

While contemplating being a new father, Roy recalls frigid Maine winters and hopes climate change doesn’t erase those seasons and experiences for future generations.

“You see the world changing in your lifetime and it scares you,” Roy said. “I want to protect nature and our natural resources for my own child and to make sure it’s there for people hundreds of years from now.” Over his next two years at Harris, Roy is excited to develop the skills to join the worldwide fight to make modern living sustainable.