In his campaign for Young Trustee, senior Jacob Tobia wants to strengthen the voice of the student body.
Tobia served as vice president for equity and outreach for Duke Student Government and president of LGBT student organization Blue Devils United. Along with participating in Project WILD pre-orientation program, he was an active member of Rhythm and Blue a cappella group, has been involved in theater productions such as the Me Too Monologues and is currently a member of the selective living group Round Table.
“People know me as an activist, but I’m much more than that,” Tobia said. “I’ve seen so much of this place—my experiences are broad enough to represent the student body well.”
Tobia’s priority is to increase avenues through which students can voice their concerns to the University. Tobia said that the current model enables informal discussions of serious topics where professionalism is preferred.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Tobia said. “It is important that any great campus has a mechanism where they can hear back from their community.”
Tobia said he is committed to making the Board of Trustees more accessible to students by creating a student forum designed for professional dialogue.
Despite these challenges, Tobia has pursued a number of his own projects. Through work with DukeOpen and the Business and Finance Committee of the Board, Tobia has worked to increase investment responsibility.
Senior Sunny Frothingham, one of Tobia’s friends since freshman year, said that the Young Trustee’s job is to elevate student interests and bring the perspective of current students to the Board.
“Jacob has already done this,” Frothingham wrote in an email Monday. “His work with DukeOpen demonstrates that he already has the ability to speak up to Trustees, hold a presence in the Board room and change policy.”
Tobia also helped with the efforts to expand gender neutral housing to SLGs, West, Central and East Campuses.
“Gender neutral housing is something that nobody was talking about substantially four years ago,” Tobia said. “Its current expansion reflects my ability to engage students to understand the value of changes that matter and to bridge students in a way that people don’t expect.”
Further, Tobia plans to ensure that the conversation about investment responsibility remains a strong dialogue. He added that he is committed to creating a strategic plan for increasing the socioeconomic diversity of the school from recruitment to financial aid. In regards to his previous LGBT activism work, he noted that it is time to bring about larger social change.
“I’m one for proactivity,” he said. “I’ve learned the patience and persistence necessary to bring about large-scale changes.”
Anthony Brown, professor of the practice of public policy and sociology, said that it is easy to see Tobia as a quirky personality, but that the “real Jacob” is a combination of forces.
“Jacob is remarkably talented—distinguished in terms of his charismatic leadership, high moral principles and humility,” Brown said. “There is always a sparkle in his eye that accompanies his can-do attitude.”