Sai Gudapati set to lead Energy Coalition as 2023-24 Chair

By Ed Bailey

Sai Gudapati has seen a little bit of everything as part of the Energy Coalition during her time at the University of Houston.

Her journey began while she was pursuing a juris doctoral degree at the University of Houston. A friend who was on the EC board informed her about a talk by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee at one of their events. Intrigued, Gudapati attended and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, Gudapati has emerged as one of the most active leaders of an organization that, thanks to its nearly 6,000 members, is the nation’s largest energy-centric student group. She’s held numerous board positions – serving as vice chair of student relations in 2021 and then spending the 2022-23 school year as vice chair of energy education – and has helped steer the EC through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic while also contributing to the group's resurgence.

Now serving as the ninth chair of the Energy Coalition, Gudapati aims to build on her leadership experience to maintain the group’s momentum heading into Fall 2023. She said balancing her experience and knowledge with humility is key to aiding her fellow board members succeed in their roles.

“Having that experience is something I believe gives me credibility with the other members because I’ve been here so long, I know I can help and I know what I’m talking about, but I’m not expecting them to just blindly follow what I say or do,” she said.

Credibility is a central pillar of Gudapati’s goals for the Energy Coalition. She emphasized the importance of ensuring the future workforce not only comes from the University of Houston but is also well-prepared for the evolving energy industry. While renewable energy is gaining prominence, Gudapati acknowledges the need for expertise in both renewable and non-renewable resources, as companies value professionals well-versed in both.

“You need to have that knowledge on both sides. I see that a lot in the legal industry where companies who recruit us are still looking for those who have expertise working with non-renewable resources,” she said. “I want our students to be knowledgeable and conduct research in the renewable industry going forward and lean into it. A lot of us talk about a sustainable future, but we really need to have conversations on how to actually get there and how to prepare to work in industry.”

According to Gudapati, part of preparing energy Coogs involves facilitating needed connections, creating more on-site visitation and internship opportunities within industry and encouraging constant growth. She envisions the EC focusing heavily on leveraging the group’s relationships as well as her own to best position the group to impact the marketplace as well as fellow students interested in energy.

In laymen’s terms, Gudapati said the EC means business going forward.

“When I started in my first leadership role, we had a weird transition going from the peak of COVID and coming back. This past year was amazing for us, and I believe the EC grew as an organization,” she said. I want to keep that momentum going. We want to really focus on our professional development, and part of that will involve having events. Hopefully, we can implement things like resume reviews and informational sessions about the industry itself. That way, when we send our EC members out, they won’t be unprepared.”

While Gudapati looks forward to using this opportunity to grow her professional and leadership skills, she stressed that serving the members of the coalition comes first. She considers the students the heartbeat of the EC.

Citing the group’s progress and resiliency since its inception in 2015, Guadapti encourages current members to stay involved and those on the fence to get involved so they can reap the same rewards that she has from EC.

“Our members define our success. One of the most ambitious goals I have is that the EC is able to help everyone who attends our events find those jobs and internships,” she said. “We’ve come an extremely long way since our beginning, and especially so with the bounce back from COVID-19. It shows that the EC is a unique and great organization that encompasses UH. It’s a very inclusive and heartwarming organization to be a part of. It doesn’t matter what your major is or what you want to do in life, if you have just a sliver of interest in energy, we have a little bit of everything for everyone. You’ll make a lot of friends and you’ll make a lot of connections.”