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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

Company man: Alumnus Mark Fox brings his Humphrey training to the corporate world

Mark FoxAs a business administration student at the University of Northern Iowa in the early 1980s, Mark Fox (MPlan ’84) began to consider a graduate degree in public administration because, as he puts it, “government could use more business sense.” A visiting professor from Minnesota steered Fox toward public affairs instead.

“He taught a course on corporate responsibility, which was a new term in those days, at least for me,” Fox recalls. “He [Earle Brooks] worked in government relations for Dayton Hudson and Pillsbury, and I learned how the business world and public policy intersected.”

Entering the Humphrey School in 1984, Fox says he took full advantage of the opportunity to “weave my own path” through internships and research assistantships, several in community development and city governance. “I really liked the training in economic development and strategic planning,” he says of his Humphrey School experience. The foundations are useful wherever you are.”

After graduating, Fox secured a regional economic development position in northern Iowa, where he worked for five years with local manufacturers on job training, access to state and federal grants, and other issues to help the area thrive economically.

In 1995, Fox moved to Chicago and began his 18-year career with the audit and professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young). Starting as a consultant on short-term projects, Fox used “intrapreneurship” to create his own job managing sales and business development. “I’ve gone from the regional, to the national, to the global level,” Fox says. “I’m happy with the corporate life.”

The company’s tag line is “building a better working world.” “It starts with our people, through coaching, community building, and other support,” Fox says. “There are several things I learned at the Humphrey School—participatory decision-making, involving stakeholders in the change process—that I bring to my work here.”

Fox has played a leadership role in advancing LGBTA issues within the corporation. “The informal company motto is ‘be yourself.’ About 10 years ago, EY realized that, to attract the best employees, they really had to make everyone welcome.”

Fox helped to found and was appointed to the firm’s national LGBTA steering committee in 2004; in 2005 he was appointed Midwest LGBTA People Resource Network leader, a position held for five years. Fox also initiated EY’s global sponsorship of the 2006 Gay Games Chicago and organized an LGBTA awareness program for 10th graders at EY’s partner charter school, which is in its seventh year.

Fox brings the same engagement with people that has made him so successful professionally to his volunteer role as a member of the Humphrey School Alumni Society board, which he joined in 2011. “It’s nice to be involved and see all of the good work that is still being done,” he says. Even before joining the board, Fox was active in connecting students with job opportunities in the Chicago area, hosting alumni events, and helping to launch a career exploration trip to Chicago for Humphrey students.

Fox recently moved a little farther away from the Humphrey School—he recently relocated to EY’s Denver office—but intends to stay active with the School. “I may not work in public service, per se, but I try to make up for that by being service-oriented in other ways.”