Jonathan Feipel M.S. ’99 was faced with an unusual choice after finishing his bachelor’s degree at a liberal arts college in Wisconsin: Should he pursue a career in economics or theater?

It was a fork in the road of life that led Feipel to Illinois State and, later, the Illinois Commerce Commission, a key regulatory agency where he recently took over as executive director.

Yes, Feipel chose the path toward economics, earning a master’s degree in the Department of Economics’ Electricity, Natural Gas, and Telecommunications sequence. Today, he directs a staff of about 250 staffers around Illinois, working under the five commissioners. When you turn on a light switch, or a faucet, or your stove, it’s Feipel’s agency that regulates those utilities.

“There are so many different facets of everybody’s everyday life that the (Illinois) Commerce Commission touches in one way or the other,” Feipel told STATEside.

Feipel will discuss his education as the luncheon speaker for Thursday’s “Perspectives on the Future of Regulatory Policy” conference in Springfield, sponsored by Illinois State’s Institute for Regulatory Policy Studies.

Feipel’s undergraduate degree from Beloit College was in international relations, modern languages and theatre arts. Feipel chose Illinois State for his master’s because he was impressed with the course offerings in international trade and the intriguing Electricity, Natural Gas, and Telecommunications program. It prepared him for an internship at the ICC in summer 1999.

“The work they do is highly respected both inside the state and across the country,” Feipel said of Illinois State’s Institute for Regulatory Policy Studies, led by David Loomis, and related academic programs, including the renewable energy major that’s anchored by the University’s Center for Renewable Energy.

Feipel said his professors at Illinois State taught him a way of critical thinking and analysis that now allows him to “attack any situation and be able to verbally explain and write about it.”

“That was very, very important to the success I’ve had to date,” Feipel said. “I have used that technical writing class I took almost on a daily basis.”

His ICC internship led to a seven-year stint in the agency’s telecommunications division. It was an “incredibly fascinating” time to be regulating telecom, Feipel says, because the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 was just being implemented, creating new markets for services like landline phones, at the same time as new technologies were emerging at a rapid pace.

Feipel most recently oversaw the Illinois Energy Office within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity before being named executive director of the ICC in July. The 37-year-old, who lives in Springfield with his wife, Sheila, has built a career in public service and making a difference.

“I’ve always felt that as much as I could, I wanted to give back to society,” he said. “That seemed the way to go.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at