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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Q&A with ESUP’s new program director

Dennis Wenzel joined ESUP as the new program director on Monday, September 16, 2013. He hit the ground running, keeping busy with status meetings and team introductions. Despite his packed schedule, we grabbed a minute to sit with Dennis to learn more about who he is and his background.

Tricia Conway (TC): Okay, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Tell us something about yourself outside of your role as program director.

Dennis Wenzel (DW): I live in Minnetonka with my wife of 13 years, Janelle, and my three kids ages 11, 8, and 6. I grew up in central Minnesota and enjoy the standard Minnesota things like hunting, fishing, hiking, and Minnesota sports teams--especially the Twins (win or lose!). I spend a lot of time with my boys' baseball activities and my daughter's soccer. My wife and I enjoy traveling for fun and are making plans for another trip to Asia.

TC: Can you tell us a bit about your work experience with programs like ESUP?

DW: I have worked in multiple projects similar in size to ESUP--primarily in the public sector. I have served in many capacities from business lead, testing coordinator, communications lead, quality manager, and engagement management. All of my projects have been highly visible, complex projects where the taxpayer's dollars were being spent--and watched.

TC: What excites you about this project?

DW: I enjoy watching all the disparate and complex pieces of large projects come together. I love working on big diverse teams, getting to know new people, and working in a rapid paced environment. I think ESUP has the potential to be transformative for the University; as a member of the broader Minnesota community I am excited to be a part of something so important.

TC: You’ve been a consultant in your previous roles--what was that experience like? Where did you go?

DW: I enjoy consulting. Consulting has allowed me the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting projects in the market--and with some of the smartest people. I have always enjoyed the challenge of learning something quickly, drawing from different experiences, and making a project come together. I spent my early consulting years here in Minnesota. Over the last 8 years, I spent time traveling all over the country meeting with new clients and serving on project teams. I spent a lot of time in Boston, a few months in Harrisburg, and nearly three years in New Mexico. I loved the variety and food of New Mexico; it’s a place I would have never picked to go, but I can't wait to go back.

TC: What drew you to this project and the University?

DW: After spending nearly 14 years in 'Big 4' consulting, I joined North Highland team in Minneapolis where I serve as a Principal for the public sector. We are a management consulting, strategy, and executive management firm. When this opportunity was presented to us, I felt it was a project where I could provide some value and experience. I also felt the challenge would be great.

TC: How do you balance your work and personal life?

DW: I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. After being on the road 100% for the last several years, I am starting to enjoy the simple 'normal' things of life (all those things that are impossible on the road). I have enjoyed training our yellow lab, coaching fall baseball, doing a little fishing, and taking care of some gardening and landscaping.

TC: Thanks for your time, Dennis! 

We hope to do a second Q&A with Dennis after his first week to learn more about his thoughts in ESUP and his perceived challenges. If you have any questions you’d like us to ask, please send them to esup@umn.edu. All questions will remain anonymous in the blog unless you request otherwise. In the meantime, stay tuned for information on ESUP-wide “meet n’ greets” with Dennis and Dean Elde. This will be a great opportunity for Dennis to meet the ESUP community! 

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