Mark Denzler, Class of 1993

Post-Graduation: 

I'm currently Vice President & COO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association (IMA), the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade association in the United States.  We represent nearly 4,000 companies that range from the Fortune 100 (Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere, ADM) to small, family-owned shops.   During my career, I spent a brief period of time working In Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill for Congressman Tom Ewing (R-IL) after which I returned to Illinois and worked as a legislative analyst in the Illinois General Assembly where I specialized in education and tax policy including staffing Governor Edgar's Ikenberry Commission on school funding.  My experience at the Capitol led me to work as Director of Government Affairs for the IMA followed by running the Illinois government affairs operation for State Farm Insurance for nearly five years.  I returned to the IMA in 2006 as Vice President.

Current Career: 

I am currently Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.

Some of the Rewards and Challenges of this position:

My job is different every single day and I like the challenges.  One day I may be speaking to the Governor or a legislator about a tax issue and the next day I am meeting with a company's CEO to discuss plan to add 100 jobs in the state.  Politics is a bloodsport and I love the strategy that comes with the job. It entails critical thinking, strategy, and collaboration.  I'm very proud to work for the IMA and support of mission of helping grow manufacturing in Illinois.  Our sector employs nearly 600,000 people and contributes the single largest share of the state's GDP.  It's very cool to visit factories and see the wonderful things that are Made in Illinois!

Your most exciting or worthwhile experience in this position?

Good or bad, we have seen some historical events in Illinois over the last few years.  I became good friends with then State Senator Barack Obama during his time in the state legislature and he often played in a weekly poker game in my office.  In similar fashion, I got to know former Governor Rod Blagojevich who ascended to the state's top post before being impeached and ultimately convicted of public corruption. So, I've had a first-hand account of some of the biggest political stories in our state's history.  For a political junkie, the chance to meet and talk to our nation's leaders (President George W. Bush and President Obama) is pretty special.

How did the education you received from Illinois Wesleyan's Political Science Department help prepare you for this position?

A liberal arts degree prepared me very well and helped me become a well-rounded person.  It gave me basic knowledge and insights that allow me to communicate with a wide variety of people.  I enjoyed the professors, staff, and students. I enjoyed serving in student government and the opportunity to serve as my senior class president where we brought in Donald Rumsfeld as our graduation speaker.  I continue to try and give back to IWU by serving as my class agent and as a member of the newly formed alumni board.

Advice you would like to give to Wesleyan's current Political Science majors?

I would tell young people, not just political science majors, to get involved. I don't care whether its volunteering for a presidential campaign or running for dog catcher. Opportunities abound and you can't sit and complain about government if you don't vote and get involved in the process.