PGE Alumni Profile

Kent Keller, AB '17

Kent Keller_0.jpeg

Name, Graduation Year: Kent Keller, 2017
Current Role: Senior Regulatory Associate, Stateside Associates
Location: Arlington, VA

Can you tell me a little about yourself and your current role?

Since I graduated, I have been working at Stateside Associates a bipartisan policy research firm that assists mostly private companies and nonprofits navigate and comply with state and local policy. At Stateside, I research state regulatory activity across seven states and four regional entities. More specifically, I monitor official state publications and communicate with state agency staff to ensure Stateside’s clients understand their changing compliance obligations and are aware of any opportunities to participate in the policymaking process. In addition, I prepare more in-depth research projects for a variety of clients, including renewable energy and battery storage developers, hydropower operators, and a waste management company. My primary interest is in energy policy, specifically how public policy can help transition the electric grid towards clean energy.   

What was your involvement with the Program on the Global Environment during your time on campus?

When I was at U of C, I majored in Public Policy with a specialization in Environmental Policy and took several classes in the Environmental Science and Environmental Studies programs, as well as environmentally focused public policy courses.   I was also involved in the UChicago Climate Action Network (UCAN), an on campus environmental advocacy group that has now been absorbed by UChicago Student Action (UCSA).

Did your interest in the environment start at the U of C?

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been interested in nature and the environment. At U of C, my interest evolved from a broader passion for the environment into an interest in energy policy. My internship at the Paulson Institute, an environmentally focused think tank affiliated with U of C, my experiences organizing with UChicago Climate Action Network, and my classes at U of C were the main catalysts that sparked my interest in energy policy.

How did you get from the U of C to your current position?

My senior year at U of C, I enrolled in Career Advancement’s Rosenzweig Scholars program that matched students interested in public policy and public interest work with firms in the field. It was one of the predecessors to the Kimpton Fellows program. Stateside was looking for a candidate with an interest in environmental policy and I was matched with them.

What have been your biggest accomplishments in your current role?

My biggest accomplishment in my current role is spearheading the work my company does for some of our energy clients. My coworker and I established the company’s monitoring and research program for Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs). RTOs are regional entities that regulate wholesale electricity markets in the US. RTOs promulgate technical policy and have a very different policymaking process from federal, state, and local governments. It was a challenge developing our research program from scratch, but we now provide full coverage for Stateside’s clients. I also worked closely with a renewable energy developer in support of their efforts to develop wind, solar, and battery storage projects across the country by preparing a series of reports on the changing policy landscape in over a dozen states.

Are there any experiences you remember from the U of C that have followed you through your career?

Absolutely. Much of what I learned in my coursework and extracurriculars at U of C have directly translated into my current role. My senior year thesis focused on how state level and regional policy have contributed to disparities in wind energy development across the US. For the UChicago Climate Action Network, I campaigned for the Illinois Future Energy Job Act, a state law passed in 2016 that bolstered Illinois’ clean energy standard. Professor Sabina Shaikh’s classes Practicum on Campus Athletics and the Environment, and Economics and Environmental Policy equipped with a framework for analyzing policy and a better understanding of the role different actors play in shaping environmental policy. All these experiences provided an excellent foundation for my role at Stateside and have made me a more effective policy analyst, especially the policy research I provide for Stateside’s energy and environmental clients. 

What advice would you give to undergrads who may be interested in your field?

Always keep your eyes out for opportunities and do not be afraid to take the initiative when those opportunities present themselves. Do not be passive, whether it’s in a class, internship or a full-time job. Try to actively shape your experience to the best of your ability. When I first started in my current role, I was not writing the more in-depth research reports I currently write for our environmental clients. Six months into my job, my company began onboarding several of our current environmental clients. I volunteered to take a leading role on the research projects and regulatory monitoring Stateside provides for these clients. As a result, my job has become much more focused on the area I am interested in and has allowed me to work more closely with clients.

In addition, take advantage of the resources you have at U of C. There are a ton of career opportunities available through PGE and other programs. Meet with your professors and career counselors to take advantage of these opportunities.

Outside of your career, what are your hobbies? What else are you interested in?

I have always enjoyed spending time in nature, especially hiking and birdwatching. DC is only a couple hours drive from Shenandoah National Park and I try to go hiking in the park as much as I can. There are also a bunch of birdwatching hotspots in the DC area, including several bald eagles’ nests, I enjoy visiting during migration and breeding season. I am lucky to live in a city that has so many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Anything you would like to add?

Feel free to reach out to me!