Rob Underwood (AB ‘06) is the President of Energy Marketers of America and a new member of the SPIA Alumni Board. His motivation for joining the board this year was to find ways that he can give back to students. “UGA is special to me, and I want to support students striving to come to DC and make an impact,” explains Rob. During his time on the board, Rob plans to fundraise and ensure students continue to experience the opportunities he had at UGA.
Rob fondly recalls the relationships he built during his days as a SPIA undergrad, especially the connections made with the SPIA faculty, such as Dr. Carson and former Dean Lauth. Both were supportive of Rob’s ambitions to get to D.C., which at that time wasn’t as easy as it is today. “It was before UGA had a D.C. presence like they do now,” says Rob. There was no Delta Hall and making connections in the nation’s capital from Athens was a challenge. With the support and sponsorship of Dr. Carson, Rob secured an internship in D.C. with then U.S. Senator Chambliss. With the ambition to learn, a desire to be in the thick of all things politics, and some faith, Rob decided the internship was the right decision. “I took the leap and moved up to D.C.,” said Rob.
That opportunity led Rob to his first job, getting hired while he was still a UGA student. “Senator Chambliss noticed I was a hard worker and hired me as a staffer even though I was still in school.” He was able to come back to UGA during the summer to complete his coursework and graduated on time. The relationships he built during his time at UGA propelled him in the direction of his dreams, and he hasn’t forgotten those who helped him make that dream a possibility. “It would have never happened without Dr. Carson’s sponsorship. For me, that was the big experience.”
Now Rob runs a national trade association advocating on behalf of energy marketers. He represents and advocates for clients on Capitol Hill, which was made possible by his time spent there during school and after graduation. He explains that his interest in the energy sector evolved after spending time in Washington, learning the process and seeing the actors on the federal level. While he didn’t plan to be president of an association, his career path was tied to the relationships he cultivated. Rob’s advice for students who aren’t sure of what they want to do is: “Get to know as many people as you can.” He believes the opportunities that arise when you network are pivotal to both your UGA experience and career journey.
Rob explains that the best advice he could give students now is, “Be yourself, and do the right thing at the end of the day. If you can do that then you can go places.”