Of Service and Belonging
A Conversation With
Robert Casanova '98
Robert Casanova spent 7th-9th grade at IMS, graduating in 1998. After working in government for most of his career (previously at the US International Trade Commission), he is now the Director of Industries, Statistics and Economic Policy at the non-profit Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). He is also an International Career Advancement Program (ICAP) Fellow and a Native Forward Scholar.
We spoke with Robert about his life of service and how IMS inspired him.
IMS: What led you into this career?
RC: My career path has always been International trade, trade data, and really focussed on high technology – semiconductors, robotics, artificial intelligence and everything associated with that. I’ve always been really interested in technology and how it influences our lives and our work. If you think about it, it’s really what has enabled us to work the way we have for the past two to three years now.
IMS: What motivates you every day?
RC: Prior to March 2020, nobody knew anything about a semiconductor. What is it? Why should I pay attention to it? Well, semiconductors allow for any technology to actually work. Educating society about semiconductors and how integral they are to our daily lives and our economy is certainly motivating.
Also, I am a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation and I was raised on the reservation. I am one of a handful of people that live outside of my reservation and as a person of color, as a minority, it’s important for me to be a person who can inspire others. To prove that despite whatever circumstance one may be in, there are opportunities to build something better. That motivates and inspires me a great deal in my personal and professional life.
IMS: What the biggest takeaway from your years at IMS?
RC: One of the things I learned at IMS that I still carry is the idea of being of service. You’re in such a small community — you know everyone, you’re making friends, you’re learning how to live with other people and how to be of service to your community. That’s something that I held onto and that has informed my career path.
The idea that I would be working in this industry and doing what I’m doing was so far beyond what I imagined at that age. I most likely thought I’d be working for my tribe in some aspect. But when I came to IMS, I experienced so many new things and became aware of so many possibilities.
IMS: Any favorite moments or experiences at IMS?
Mountain Day was the best! Every fall you’re waiting for the announcement! Also, the first time I ever traveled abroad was during spring break, when a few students and I went to Spain. It was my first time on an airplane, my first time in another country. And, I learned a lot about structuring my day: with homework, classes, sports, and so forth. That really helped me in high school and beyond. The structure I learned at IMS still carries me all these years later.
At IMS, I felt like I belonged. I think that’s something that’s important, especially for students of color, to have that feeling of belonging in a community, especially if you are a minority in that community. The teachers and the community made sure to show that I and everyone else belonged there. I have a lot of gratitude for my time there, for the people I met, and the teachers I had.
IMS: What advice would you give to current students?
RC: Again, it’s the idea of being of service. Whatever you’re doing in your life and career, you want to be helpful as much as possible. That’s my advice. It has helped me in my career and in my life.