Meet Elizabeth Underwood, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Elizabeth Underwood comes to the New River Conservancy with two decades of experience in government relations, fundraising and non-profit management.  Her career launched in North Carolina at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, where she worked with the public and private business sectors and managed the volunteer program.  Subsequently, she spent 9 years in Advancement within the University of Arkansas system, fundraising for two comprehensive campaigns.  She was recruited by the University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) to establish the alumni association and served as the Executive Director of Alumni Relations. In 2012 she was asked to work for the Chancellor at UAFS,  served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Government and Community relations, and carried a portfolio that included federal, state and community accomplishments.  In 2017, Elizabeth returned to North Carolina to oversee alumni engagement and annual giving at her alma mater, UNC Asheville.

For the Council for Advancement in Support of Education (CASE), the international and premier fundraising organization for higher education,  Elizabeth has been a frequently invited conference presenter, chaired the Newcomer’s conference, and for several years served on a conference leadership team.. She has also received several professional awards from CASE. In 2016 she was among the 10 who were named Most Powerful Women statewide by the Arkansas magazine, About You.

Elizabeth earned a BA in Literature from UNC Asheville, a M.Ed in Higher Education and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Arkansas. In 2013 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study higher education in Germany.

An avid paddler of both whitewater kayaking and flatwater canoeing, Elizabeth enjoys being on any river.  She and her husband enjoy multi-day camping expeditions in their tandem canoe.  Among their favorite adventures, they have paddled all 153 miles of America’s first National River: the Buffalo River.  In her kayaks, she also enjoys surfing on waves and navigating through creeks.    Next up? All 320 of the New River, North America’s oldest river.


Quote “Whitewater kayaking has provided me with many life skills:  navigating through challenges, being prepared with a combat roll, … and finding play waves to simply have fun!”

B.A. in Literature, UNC Asheville
MEd in Higher Education & Ph.D. in Public Policy, University of Arkansas
2013 Fulbright Scholarship Recipient