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Alumni Profile: Nolan T. Jones

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pittsburg, KS

Major(s) / Minor (s) at KU:
B.G.S. in Theatre & Film with an Emphasis in East Asian Language & Culture

Graduation Year:

Current profession:
Managing partner of The Orr Group, LLC, the company behind Roll20.net. Essentially I tell the story of what makes a "virtual tabletop" for gameplay important - both to my coworkers and to the general public.

How did KU prepare you for the career and life you lead now?
My partners-- Richard Zayas, Riley Dutton-- and I learned a great deal at KU through involvement in activities. We all participated in clubs, student jobs, pitched an animated series to a cable network, and most importantly got involved in Student Senate. Lots of students don't understand that KU Student Senate has a lot of power, a multi-million dollar budget, actual voting power for things like the add-drop schedule of classes, and a great deal of policy influence. My partners and I got involved not to build resumes, but because we saw things we wanted to change and contribute towards. One of the amazing things I learned at KU is that with a small group of people you can accomplish nearly anything.

Give us a brief summary of how you got from KU to where you are now.
After graduation my wife, Cayla, and I were both working at KU - parking and public safety respectively. Neither of us were particularly fulfilled, so when Cayla received a great offer to attend UNLV Boyd Law we moved sight unseen to Las Vegas in the midst of the 2009 economic crash. As she went to school, I worked for Nevada Highway Patrol as a dispatcher and slowly worked towards a career writing comic books.

During this time of change, Riley, Richard and I were looking for a way to stay in better touch long distance and wanted to find a way to play "Dungeons & Dragons" together online. None of the existing options satisfied us, so Riley put together his own version which I suggested we take to Kickstarter. April of 2012 we launched our Kickstarter requesting $5,000. Eighteen days later we'd made more than $39,000 and began viewing Roll20 as a business that we needed to truly develop.

You recently came back to campus to debut the Roll20 Esports Lounge in the Kansas Union. What did it mean for you to be back at KU doing what you love and what KU set you on the path for?
It's always nice being back in Lawrence, and it was doubly excellent having friends and family there as part of the event. My hope is that the Roll20 Esports Lounge can be a space for students to meet and push themselves in gaming pursuits.

What advice would you give Film & Media Studies students today?
"There are no adults." Everyone is making it up, and there are no rules outside of feeling good about your decisions. Looking for someone to have the answers or path for you is a long wait with no end. Walk confidently, learn from mistakes, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

What’s your favorite KU memory?
If I had to choose just one... After my freshman year, I made the decision to stay in Lawrence for the summer, and my funds were nonexistent. Family and KU Endowment helped, but still things were going to be tight. On the day I moved out of Grace Pearson, a senior who lived across the hall gave me an envelope and said to open it later. When I got to my car with all of my stuff jammed inside, I opened the envelope. Inside was a $100 check as the "first scholarship" in that student's name, written to me because he said he could tell I really cared about helping my fellow students. I sobbed for five minutes straight. Thanks, Matthew.

What is one goal you’d like to achieve in your life (personally or professionally)?
At some point I'd very much like to return to making animated projects.

If you had a superpower it would be…
"Instant Transmission," as Son Goku learned from the inhabitants of Yadrat!