In the sixth grade, Ethan Tobias ’23 planted his own garden and set up a compost bin in his backyard. “As I grew up, I knew I wanted taking care of the planet to be part of my career,” he remembers.
Now a senior at St. Edward’s, Tobias is majoring in Political Science and Business Administration with the goal of shaping environmental policy in Texas.
Tobias puts his values into practice by serving as the president of Students for Sustainability (SFS), which helps clubs, university departments and individuals live more lightly on the Earth. The group hosts forums about environmental justice and climate change, picks up trash and organizes hikes.
SFS runs the campus garden, a beloved space where experienced gardeners teach newbies how to cultivate crops including spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños and sunflowers. Tobias’ twin brother, Luke Tobias ’23, is the garden director, and the two pass along the skills they learned years ago in their backyard garden.
“An important part of SFS’ mission is community building — bringing together people who are advocating for good change,” Tobias says.
He also works as the sustainability intern in University Operations, helping with initiatives such as recycling, composting and reducing the university’s carbon footprint. Working alongside university leaders has helped him see issues from the perspectives of both a student activist and an administrator who makes long-term financial and logistical decisions.
Tobias is taking a mix of business and political science courses, as well as art history and religious studies. By far, his favorite class is The U.S. Congress, taught by Associate Professor of Political Science Nicholas Long. “The class is like a conversation,” Tobias says. “I love discussing my opinions and ideas with other students and the professor, but I also really like learning what they think.”
Tobias serves as director of the University Programming Board, which organizes entertainment for the whole campus: a comedy night, silent disco, movie screenings and Hillfest, a carnival with live music. He’s also the program director of The Big Event, an annual service extravaganza where students volunteer in parks, schools, animal shelters and food banks across Austin.
In rare moments of free time, Tobias goes hiking at St. Edward’s Park, a “hidden gem” in northwest Austin with flowing water and challenging hills. “Austin has so many trails and outside experiences,” he says. “No matter whether you’ve lived here five, 10 or 20 years, there’s new things to do.”
By Robyn Ross