Rachel Geilenfeld JD, MBA, Clear Lake native and Ames resident
Geilenfeld, a Clear Lake native, has an impressive collegiate history with experience in state healthcare and political campaigns under her belt. She completed her political science undergraduate at Iowa State University and her law degree and MBA in finance at the University of Iowa. After graduation, she lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Madison, Wisconsin. After spending four years out of the state, she returned as the external relations manager for family-owned Sukup Manufacturing. While Geilenfeld didn’t have experience in agriculture, Sukup’s prestigious reputation for employee satisfaction and innovation understandably attracted the young professional. This is her story, and this is why she chose to return to her home state of Iowa.
While in Raleigh, North Carolina, what were some aspects that you missed about Iowa? After finishing my degrees, I moved to Raleigh and worked for Duke University Law School. There are seven accredited law schools in North Carolina and two here in Iowa. The job market was oversaturated for my industry. Also, I realized everyone who was seeking employment after graduation in North Carolina, was a graduate of one of those local law schools. They had connections right away, and I didn’t since I attended law school elsewhere. I realized right away that the value of my education was diluted a little bit outside of the state just through lack of relationships and not through the quality of the education which was a wakeup call for me.
Why did you return home and start working for Sukup Manufacturing? I grew up in north central Iowa, and Sukup is one of the most highly regarded employers in the area. They were thinking of opening an office in the Research Park in Ames at the same time I was thinking about moving back to Iowa. Agriculture is such a significant industry here, and it’s a valuable professional path for anyone in this state. I’ve also learned – almost everyone who works in agriculture is incredibly nice, and I’ve loved it so far! Iowa just feels like home especially since most of my family and friends are here. Also, as I stated previously, I believed my educational value was diluted after moving, so I really needed to steer my career back to Iowa. I knew the work opportunities and social aspects were on par with other cities too, so it wasn’t a hard choice. I’m proud to work for a company that is deliberate about investing in the community and giving back. They were certainly a factor in my quick return to Iowa. I bought a place, sight unseen, and moved from Madison to Ames within three weeks after they offered me the job.
How do the social and recreational lives in Des Moines and Ames compare to Raleigh and Madison? Raleigh and Madison are interestingly very similar in size to Des Moines. I’d say the amenities are equal too in terms of professional opportunities, cultural experiences, entertainment and dining options. I’m a huge sports fan so watching volleyball, basketball and football is very easy with Iowa State University in my backyard. As an adult living in Ames, the Main Street district is very nice along with their farmer’s market. I’m excited to see the addition of walking and biking trails in the Research Park.
What do you think makes Iowa the “Best State in America” as U.S. News likes to call it? Because “you can have it all.” I like to think that you can always visit somewhere. Airplanes go everywhere. We can experience anything we want to, but you can always come home and have it all here in Iowa, and you don’t have to pay New York City rent or sit in traffic for two hours on your daily commute. Here, you have the opportunity to pursue a meaningful career, you can experience great education, dining scenes and cultural experiences. We have an affordable lifestyle. Since moving back, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on several different boards for civic organizations. You can have those opportunities to be civically engaged. I’m 34 years old and have had some great opportunities to be involved in state organizations, something you can’t do as easily in metropolitan areas.