Ilka Balk has held the position of Associate Director at the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits at the University of Kentucky (UK) since the fall of 2021. In her current role, she oversees coordination and event management for the institute, including the organization of the Annual Institute Industry conference and the institute’s day-to-day operations. Additionally, she is providing academic support for UK's Distillation, Wine, and Brewing Studies Certificate, as well as the institute's industry partnerships.
Established in 2019, the Beam Institute is located at UK’s Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and serves as the primary hub for research and education on distilled spirits at UK. Distinguishing itself from other institutions, the Beam Institute includes a pilot scale distillery and maturation house, making it the largest distillery situated on a university campus in the United States. Research activities at the institute encompass the entire process, from grain to glass. Furthermore, the institute is deeply committed to sustainability and social responsibility, engaging in extensive work in these areas. Presently, it boasts a roster of over 60 faculty fellows whose expertise spans a broad range of disciplines, including business, marketing, history, hospitality, engineering, and sciences.
Prior to her position at the Beam Institute, Ilka served in various capacities within the UK College of Engineering. In these roles, she played a crucial role in directing career development initiatives for the college's students and industry partners. Furthermore, she successfully managed a number of education abroad programs, enhancing students' global learning experiences.
Prior to her arrival in Lexington in 2004, Ilka worked as a political consultant, providing guidance to candidates and campaigns in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as contributing to the European Election Campaign in Stuttgart, Germany.
Originally from northern Germany, Ilka obtained her M.A. in political science, history, and communications from the Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany.