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 (ICC), a key regulatory agency where he is now executive director. When you turn on a light switch, a faucet, or your stove, it’s Feipel’s agency that regulates those utilities.

Yes, he 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 team of about 250 staffers around Illinois who work under five commissioners.

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

He chose Illinois State for his graduate work because he was impressed with the course offerings in international trade and the intriguing electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications program.

“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 and related academic programs.

Feipel, 37, said his Illinois State professors 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. I have used that technical writing class I took almost on a daily basis,” he said.

An ICC internship in the summer of 2009 led to a seven-year stint in the agency’s telecommunications division. 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 2012.

Feipel lives in Springfield with his wife, Sheila, and has built a career in public service.

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

Read Feipel’s full story on STATEside, the Illinois State magazine daily blog.