Tobias Varntoft

Tobias Varntoft BA '21



Degree and Class Year

BA ’21


Terslev, Denmark

Current City

Pasadena, California


Environmental Studies


Political Economy


International Students of Lewis & Clark (ISLC) member, Environmental Studies Symposium organizer, Pioneer Success Institute facilitator, music technician

Job Title, Organization

Senior Associate, Program Operations at Larta Institute

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Progressive, Challenging, Welcoming

Life After L&C

September 2022 update

What have you been doing since graduation?

After graduating in May of 2021, I was able to secure a job at Larta Institute as a program associate. Larta is a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating entrepreneurship and innovations by having supported over 6,000 startups translate their ideas into sustainable enterprises through commercial services. I was recently promoted to senior associate where my primary responsibility has been to lead and manage our contractual programs that Larta has with the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation and Research Awards, working with over 200 small startups on taking their technology to market. I have also taken full ownership of leading the Technical and Business Assistance Program, providing commercialization support to companies across multiple government agencies including NASA, NOAA, NSF, DoD, and many more. Being an international student, I was also able to apply for the optional OPT-STEM extension that allows me to work for an additional two years in the United States while still on my student visa. I am grateful to have been given two additional years, and my current focus is preparing to attend my master’s in business administration program starting next fall as well as securing my project management professional certificate here in Los Angeles.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for my job?

During my time at Lewis & Clark, I was heavily involved in various events and conferences (International Fair, ENVX: Environment Across Boundaries and International Affairs Symposiums) as well as several committees and clubs. These experiences helped me gain skills in organizational planning, project oversight, and program execution, which have proven to be invaluable skills that I use daily at my job. My environmental studies major specifically prepared my intellectual understanding of sustainable enterprises whereas my political economy minor helped me gain knowledge on business and market needs to commercialize sustainable products. Moreover, hard skills like ArcGIS and Excel, which I gained at Lewis & Clark, have also proven great considering that the majority of the employers at Larta are from the pre-computer era.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

Never, ever, doubt yourself and your own capabilities. I came to Lewis & Clark from abroad as a lost individual with no support system. Over my time at Lewis & Clark, I became more aware of my goals and it quickly became clear that only I could decide what my future would look like. I would advise anyone, though, to truly take the time to appreciate the time in college. I have come to realize that college is potentially the last time an institution offers the opportunity to expand your social skills and circle, and it gives you countless opportunities to branch out to other communities, identities, and people. After college, this is an effort that has to come from yourself and it is definitely something I wish I had not taken for granted when I was in college.

How do I stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alumnus?

I have a few ways that I stay connected to Lewis & Clark after having graduated last year. I am regularly in contact with the International Students and Scholars Office to ensure that my immigration status remains valid. These frequent check-ins also include catching up with the staff and getting to know how the current international students are doing at Lewis & Clark. Despite not being an active social media user and having moved away from Portland, I still keep in regular contact with many of my friends, many of whom still attend Lewis & Clark. I also visited Portland and Lewis & Clark back in May, and it was nice to feel the nostalgia of college and seeing your friends again.

Life at L&C

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

My absolute favorite class I have taken so far at Lewis & Clark is Social Change (SOAN 214) taught by Professor Bruce Podobnik. The class tackles various social issues globally, and as a student I got insight into some incredible activism that I have been applying to my own actions in my home town in Denmark. To be able to read, discuss, and learn about some inspiring activists has not only been informative, but the class itself has been one of my most engaging classes so far because I felt that every single student in my class wanted to learn from one another.

Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?

I think Professors Jim Proctor and Liz Safran are the mentors I have on campus. They are both teachers in the Environmental Studies Department and I always seek their advice when I want to do something. For example, as I was preparing to go abroad, I asked them whether it was a good idea to do it in your sophomore year since most people do it in their junior year. Having people who are experienced teachers within your major is comforting because I know that my future at Lewis & Clark is in good hands.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

Being an international student, it can be quite difficult to pick a college when you cannot physically see the campus and you do not really know much about American schools. I was intrigued especially by Portland’s landscape and the vicinity of Lewis & Clark. I had also heard from talking to people at the International Students and Scholars (ISS) Office that the school offers great support for international students, whether it is through the Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) Office or Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). I had also read on L&C’s website about the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies major, which I was excited about because I like to combine my natural sciences with social sciences.

If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience so far?

I am currently studying in Australia. In my freshman year, I already knew I wanted to connect my overseas study to my major and potential thesis. Australia was a great pick for me because it is an ecologically diverse country and the program has loads of biology. Having lived in Germany for two years of my life and at the time not speaking fluent German, I also knew that I wanted to go to a place where language would not be a hindrance for my learning. The program so far has given me real experience, especially because we face some of the brutal realities of Australia’s history and the fact that we get to meet inspiring people almost every day. The program has also brought me closer my major and made me realize how I would love to pursue something within natural sciences in the future. I am excited to go back to the Lewis & Clark campus to continue my learning and use the knowledge I have acquired in my overseas studies.

How do you feel supported as an international student at Lewis & Clark?

I could not be more grateful for the ISS Office at Lewis & Clark. Not only have they helped me through taxes, settling in another country, and academically, but I have also created friendships and memories with the office that I am forever grateful for. Being an international student at any school, you can often feel alone and lost. However, I have come to appreciate and utilize the various supports Lewis & Clark has to offer. As a member of International Students of Lewis & Clark (ISLC), I have also realized that there are so many events and offices that I can seek out if I feel hopeless or I want to raise my voice about any issue I have. The community between international students is a safe space to be, especially when I feel overwhelmed by the American structure and culture.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Put yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. As a freshman, college can feel quite overwhelming. Having to adapt to living away from home with new people, and having to make a new friend group while maintaining good grades can be quite intimidating. My advice is just to understand that this is all overwhelming, but also to understand that this is your chance to grow and develop sets of skills that you might never have the opportunity for again! Join clubs, governments, offices, or whatever is comfortable.

Another piece of advice is to learn what to prioritize. It is different for every person, but I have had to learn the importance of finding a balance between studying, sleeping, and having a social life, and finding that balance have been a life-saving achievement!

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

Being a religious person, my favorite spot on campus is definitely the chapel. I go when I want to either pray or just be in silence. It is the sort of place that comforts you, and the fact that my job is in the chapel means I get to spend most of my time at my favorite spot!

What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?

If I had to choose one it would be Thanksgiving during fall 2018. My friend and I stayed on campus over the break and decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner for the other people who stayed. Both of us are not Americans and we had absolutely no idea how to make a full-sized turkey plus side dishes. However, it turned out to be such a fun and great experience! The most rewarding bit was when 25 people arrived at the dinner with their own meals to share and we all sat comfortably together for a true Thanksgiving dinner!

How do you manage stress?

Stress might be one of the biggest challenges I have had to figure out while I have been at Lewis & Clark. What I love to do to manage my stress is find a room in the library with some of my closest friends, play some music, and just slowly do the studying. This obviously requires us to start our homework many days ahead and not the night before, but being surrounded by people who I feel comfortable with has managed to reduce my stress a lot! Personally, I think it is impossible to completely manage stress, but I try to reduce the stress to the minimum! For example, I get more stressed out if I leave my room a mess so I try to keep it tidy so when I get back from a long day of school, I at least have a clean room.

How has Lewis & Clark changed you?

Lewis & Clark was my first experience in the United States. It welcomed me into a small community and through this experience, I personally feel more mature. I take on more responsibility because of the independence we have at Lewis & Clark, and I have grown into a more authentic self. There is really not more to say other than I am grateful that I chose Lewis & Clark.