2011 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Majors: Political Science and
Real Estate and Urban Land Economics
Age: 27 | Burbank, California
President, Team Rubicon
In September 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech highlighting the work that young American military veterans are doing to improve the country and the world. The first example she cited was Jake Wood ’05 — “Badger Jake” to the followers of his blog.
At the UW, Wood was an accomplished multi-tasker. Not only did he maintain a double major — in political science and in real estate — but he also played varsity football as a lineman for the Badgers. But though the work was hard, it wasn’t simply for personal fulfillment. For him, the UW wasn’t merely “the means to a steady job and a stable paycheck,” he says. “Rather, I saw it as a stepping stone to an opportunity to impact the world around me and make it a better place for generations to come.”
Wood graduated in 2005, with the United States engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He joined the Marine Corps in order to serve the nation, and he ended up serving in both conflicts, earning the Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a V for valor in the face of the enemy. He saw violence, death, and destruction during his tours of duty. But he also found a deep determination to use his skills to aid others.
After his military service ended, Wood found himself watching coverage of the Port-au-Prince earthquake that rocked Haiti in January 2010. He saw how the Haitians were suffering, and he saw how long it was taking for established aid organizations to get help to the Caribbean nation. Working with two other veterans, two Milwaukee firefighters, two doctors, and a Jesuit priest, he formed Team Rubicon to organize and deploy help to Haiti as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
“Despite being told by all around us not to go, we chose to take action and do what we could to make a difference,” Wood says. “This decision was the culmination of the lessons I learned while studying and living the Wisconsin Idea.”
In his own words
What is the one thing every UW student should do?
Get in a snowball fight on University Avenue.
Who is your hero?
Pat Tillman. He was a pro football player who [decided to forgo] his paycheck and career to join the army and fight in Afghanistan after 9/11. He was killed my senior year, and that was what put me on the path to joining the marines.
What five items would you take to a desert island?
My laptop, a wireless hotspot modem, sunglasses, a lounge chair, and a piña colada.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Spotted Cow. (They really need to distribute in California.)