When Jake Wood enrolled in the Wisconsin School of Business, his primary goals were to complete his bachelor's degree and join the NFL. Five years later, however, he found himself in Haiti assisting the victims of the January 2010 earthquake, which destroyed millions of homes and lives.
During his time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wood was a backup offensive lineman for the Wisconsin Badgers and received his B.S. in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics in 2005. After graduating, he went on to serve as a United States Marine in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader and scout-sniper, respectively. Back at home after completing his military service, Wood was watching television one day when he saw the devastation of the Haitian earthquake. As he watched, Wood realized how he could help the Haitian people and also his fellow veterans: create a nonprofit organization, Team Rubicon, which gives veterans the opportunity to use their military skills to help those in need.
One hour later, Wood gathered his comrades (including two other veterans, two firefighters from Milwaukee, two doctors, and a Jesuit priest) to join forces to assist the earthquake victims in Haiti who were without medical care or assistance. Upon arriving in Port-au-Prince, Wood and his team were faced with the utter devastation plaguing the Haitian people.
"The inspiration for my organization was seeing the destruction in Haiti after the earthquake, and realizing that it was no more dangerous or uncertain than Iraq or Afghanistan," Wood said. "We knew that we could have an impact and help save people's lives, and that was all the motivation we needed."
Despite not having enough medical supplies and battling against waves of aftershocks, the team successfully treated hundreds of earthquake victims. As co-founder and president of Team Rubicon, Wood also oversees the financial and business aspects required to run the non-profit organization.
"I've certainly had to dust off a lot of the skills I learned in Grainger," Wood said. "I run all business aspects of Team Rubicon, from financial planning and accounting to measuring the impact of marketing and media campaigns."
Wood's Team Rubicon also assists those in need closer to home. He and his colleagues orchestrated a mission to Joplin, MO, to help those who lost their homes, lives, and loved ones during the tornadoes. "The destruction caused by those was incredible; beyond words," Wood said. "However, it provided nearly 30 Team Rubicon veterans a chance to come together and help their neighbors and local authorities."
On a daily basis, Wood applies both the skills he learned in military training and knowledge and perspectives he gained during his time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become an effective and inspiration leader of Team Rubicon.
"My time at Wisconsin in general prepared me to have big ideas and value a diversity of opinion," Wood said. "You can't survive four years in Madison and not be open to new things."
In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama recognized Team Rubicon's efforts at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, and Wood was also a recipient of the 2011 Wisconsin Alumni Association's Forward Under 40 Award. He delivered UW-Madison's mid-year commencement on December 18, 2011. Watch Wood's commencement address.
Since its founding, Team Rubicon has responded to situations all over the world, including in Chile; Pakistan; South Sudan; Joplin, MO; and Mozambique. In 2012, Team Rubicon plans to begin operations in 10 U.S. geographic regions consistent with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's. More information about Team Rubicon and its activities can be found at teamrubiconusa.org.