Making Community Where You Are

photo of a young man in a suit and tie looking at the camera and smiling with his left shoulder pointed slightly forward and a gray background behind him

Alabama native Nick Tolbert knew he wanted to study politics after he graduated from high school. He considered attending a university in Washington, D.C., but he also wanted to remain close to his family. Fortunately, he knew of a university where he could get a prized education without going too far from home: The University of Alabama. Nick turned his sights to Tuscaloosa and was delighted to find that UA offered him everything he was looking for. He began his freshman year in 2020 with a double major in political science and philosophy.

Nick instantly fell in love with the exciting atmosphere on campus, and he was confident that this was the place he meant to be.

“Within the first week, I just instinctively knew that I made the right decision. I could not be more relieved with the decision I made,” he said.

With his new fervor for the Capstone, Nick quickly began searching for involvement opportunities in student organizations on campus. He felt a calling

towards the Student Government Association (SGA) since it fit his personal interests and his double major. His very first position was as a member of the Lobby Board, a team within SGA that advocates for political initiatives among students such as voter registration and expansion of higher education resources. He greatly enjoyed working on the Lobby Board and was appointed to serve as one of its co-directors in the following year.

“I really loved the Lobby Board. It was fantastic to work on something I found meaningful that also contributed to my personal and professional growth,” he said.

His efforts in SGA didn’t stop with the Lobby Board, fortunately. He later was appointed as the director of the First Year Council (FYC) and currently serves as the cabinet treasurer. His role with FYC has been his favorite activity throughout his time at UA.

“I had the time of my life leading FYC. Being able to lead 65 freshmen, to guide them away from mistakes and towards smart decisions and to mentor them was one of the most rewarding and inspirational experiences of my entire life,” he said.

nick standing at a podium giving a speech

Nick’s passion for politics also led him toward the Blackburn Institute, a leadership development and civic engagement program that focuses on improving the state of Alabama. He was admitted to this institute of positive change-makers during his sophomore year. He later worked with a group of fellow Blackburn students to submit a grant proposal to create a bilingual book section in the Tuscaloosa Public Library. Their hard work paid off, and they soon received a grant to fund and implement the project in the city library. Over 200 local community members came to the kick-off event, and Nick mentioned how important it was to see the impact of his group’s idea.

“It was very surreal. It was full of joy, and it really reoriented what was important to me. It was so simple but important to see a child’s smiling face when he picked up a book written in the language he spoke with his family at home. It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done, and we’re still seeing positive impacts from it around the community.”

Nick is now in his senior year at UA and plans to obtain his Ph.D. afterwards. His work and experience here at the Capstone greatly reflect his personal values for political and community involvement, and he encourages other students to search for involvement opportunities on campus and elsewhere.

“Focus on something bigger than yourself. Wake up every day and think about other people’s problems and take the initiative to make a community where you are. You’d be surprised at all the awesome things that will come to you.”

a large group of students stand and hold a university of alabama sign in washington d.c. with capital hill in the background

a group of students are standing and posing inside of bryant denny stadium for a group picture