Presented by MarketBeat, SiouxFalls.Business 30 Under 30 recognizes young professionals in Sioux Falls who show clear early career achievements and promise for future leadership, strong engagement in the community beyond their workplace, and innovative passion projects.

Meet the accomplished USD alumni who were recognized for being rising leaders in their 20-somethings.

Clara MacIlravie Cañas '22 M.A.

A headshot of Clara MacIlravie Cañas."Being chosen for the SiouxFalls.Business 30 Under 30 list is a noteworthy achievement for me," said Cañas. "This recognition has encouraged me to look back on my journey so far, to recognize my hard work and dedication, and to feel proud of what I have accomplished. This recognition has also motivated me to continue striving for excellence and to make more positive impacts on my community."

Cañas currently serves as a grant writer II at the Avera Rural Health Institute. In this role, which she assumed just two weeks after graduating from USD, Cañas designs and develops proposals; collaborates with physicians, administrators, clinicians and organizations; and manages awards from private, state and federal organizations. Cañas is an active member of the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network and gives back to the community by volunteering, participating in community events, and supporting local businesses and restaurants.

"There is a continuous emphasis on learning and respect for the communities and cultures that surround us," said Cañas. "I'm proud that my work contributes to the sustainability of health care programs by securing necessary funding and support to keep them running and that I get to work with a team of exceptionally talented and dedicated individuals. I am honored to work toward improving the health outcomes and lives of communities in the rural upper Midwest."

Cañas's master's degree in English literature and her background in critical analysis and poetry has instilled in her both the ability to approach problems with a fact-oriented and data-driven mindset and a creative edge that allows her to write explicitly and concisely.

"As a grant writer, my role revolves around crafting proposals and grant applications for private, state and federal organizations," said Cañas. "My role synthesizes the education, mentorship and community I experienced while studying at USD."

Cañas's advice to current students: "Your college years are a unique period in your life, offering you access to a wealth of resources, knowledge and connections that may not be available later. Therefore, it’s imperative to take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, including academic opportunities like internships and research projects, extracurricular activities, networking events, and social opportunities. Also, don’t take Silk Road or The Bean for granted."

Rachel Ehlers '20 B.A., '21 M.A.

A headshot of Rachel Ehlers."It was truly an honor to be selected for the 2024 cohort of 30 Under 30 in Sioux Falls," said Ehlers. "I am immensely thankful for my team at The Bancorp for nominating me and for their unwavering support for both my personal and career growth."

Ehlers currently serves as the marketing communications coordinator at The Bancorp. In this role, she assists in managing all internal communications enterprise-wide, as well as researching, managing and executing all corporate sponsorships for The Bancorp in the Sioux Falls area.

"In Sioux Falls, we have some fantastic organizations that put on so many events that drive revenue, increase foot traffic, promote local nonprofits and so much more,” said Ehlers. “I am very fortunate to be able to work with a lot of the individuals putting in the long hours to make these events happen and help reach agreements that provide funding for many of these events to continue making a positive impact on the community overall."

With her bachelor’s degree in media and journalism and master’s degree in mass communications, Ehlers credits a large part of her professional success to USD and the support she received from professors during her time at the university.

"I was able to find not only a degree path and major that fulfilled me and my professional desires, but also amazing friends and support that made my college experience hard to beat," said Ehlers. "Throughout my undergraduate time, I was able to take full advantage of the wide selection of interesting classes, join multiple student media organizations, and make lasting connections with both my fellow students and my professors.

"These connections helped me land career-changing internships, gain admission and complete my Master of Arts in communications degree at USD, become a published author on a research paper, and eventually land my current role within the marketing department at the third largest bank in South Dakota," she continued.

Ehlers's advice to current students: "Get involved and make connections with as many people as you can. This includes student organizations, groups, clubs, part-time jobs, attending university events, etc. Not only are you going to enhance your college experience by partaking in the community, but you also never know how or which one of those groups or connections could help you further your personal and professional goals. Being able to connect and build relationships with a wide variety of people is a lifelong skill that will only improve your chance at future success."

Kade Rexwinkel '18 BBA

A headshot of Kade Rexwinkel."It is always special to be recognized at any capacity, but to be included with the group on this year's 30 Under 30 is truly a privilege," said Rexwinkel. "The list is full of individuals whose reputations as young leaders in the Sioux Falls community precedes them. To be recognized with these individuals – including some fellow Yotes and a few folks I am lucky enough to call friends – is an honor."

Rexwinkel currently serves as the director of corporate development at POET. In this role, he oversees investor relations and assists with evaluation of different business development projects. Outside of work, Rexwinkel volunteers at The Banquet and Habitat for Humanity and is involved in the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network and Leadership South Dakota.

"I'm proud of getting to come to work every day for a company making a difference in our state, community and world," said Rexwinkel. "POET's mission has resulted in positive opportunities for everyone, and knowing that makes me extremely proud of the work I do."

Rexwinkel graduated with his degree in marketing from the Beacom School of Business and said that his time at the university instilled a curiosity in him that has been greatly beneficial to his personal and professional pursuits.

"Being curious is a valuable attribute to have, and my professors at USD taught me to not just seek out an answer, but to understand why," said Rexwinkel. "I also met my fiancé Anna at USD, and since we met, she has always believed in me and pushed me to achieve more than I thought I could. Who knows where I would be without her support."

Rexwinkel's advice to current students: "Utilize the resources available to you. What I see now in the professional world that I didn’t appreciate in my time as student is that you have a large network of faculty and alumni who just want to see you succeed and are happy to help you. Use those opportunities and build relationships!"

Zachaeus Shaw '16 B.S.

A headshot of Zachaeus Shaw."It’s nice to be selected for SiouxFalls.Business 30 under 30 list; of course everybody likes to get recognition and it is a blessing to have this opportunity," said Shaw. "My goal is to make sure that each year that follows, there are more people that look like me. This is a great platform to create amazing growth within our community, and I believe that we are all better together."

Shaw currently serves as a mortgage loan advisor with Nexta Mortgage. Shaw also hosts various community events and has a podcast, "Overstepping Poverty."

"When it comes to buying homes, I have hosted mental health events, business planning events and homebuyer events," said Shaw. "My podcast, 'Overstepping Poverty,' focuses on connecting people through their story and showing that it does not matter where you come from, you have the opportunity to be successful."

With his bachelor's in criminal justice, Shaw said he built meaningful connections and had great experiences while at USD.

"Being at USD and the experience I was able to receive is something I would never trade," said Shaw. "It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and meet people in an environment that allowed me to find the people I wanted to be around and make the most out of my experience."

Shaw's advice to current students: "Use your time to meet as many people as possible. Sometimes it's not about what you know – it's about who you know. It sounds cliché, but there's truth to it."

Sadie Swier '18 B.A.

Sadie Swier wears a cobalt blue blazer while sitting on a couch and smiling. “I’m humbled by the recognition of this honor,” said Swier. “It’s affirming to know others see the progress we’re making at SD CEO East Women’s Business Center and share in the future vision.”

Swier currently serves as the director of SD CEO East Women’s Business Center, where the mission is to empower women and propel economic development across the state. The organization’s two main functions are to provide free, confidential business advising and host training, workshops and events to help women who want to start or grow a small business.

“The Small Business Administration reports over 43% of South Dakota small business owners are women, and I’m honored to contribute by better connecting women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in our state,” said Swier. “My goal is to help South Dakota women feel empowered in the decision-making process of opening a business through business planning, financials, marketing strategy, community connections and overall confidence in themselves.”

Swier, who earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies with minors in psychology and social media marketing, said her time at the state’s flagship university set her up for success through support from faculty and the ability to build her education around her professional goals.

“USD provided me with multiple faculty mentors who were eager to support and believe in me,” said Swier. “From that support, I was able to craft an education that included classes, internships, studying abroad and professional development opportunities that ultimately led me to where I am today.”

Swier's advice to current students: “People always tell you to believe in yourself but never how to do that. As a young professional, I was told about positive affirmations. Write down three to four ‘I am’ statements on a sticky note and read it every morning. This will be transformative for you!”

Erika Tordsen '16 B.A.

A headshot of Erika Tordsen."I feel so proud to be selected not only as a Sioux Falls community member and parent but also an Indigenous woman with a small business," said Tordsen. "I don’t see many like me in these spaces often, so I’m glad to be here to represent. The connections we’ve made and the growth happening in Sioux Falls solidifies my family’s decision to make this community our home forever."

Tordsen, an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, currently serves as the associate director of alumni engagement at the USD Foundation & Alumni Association. In this role, she helps promote alumni engagement through events, volunteer opportunities, digital communications and more. Tordsen is also the owner of a small business, Erika’s House of Cakes.

"I’m most proud of creating opportunities for passionate USD alumni to be involved through panels, mentorship, speaking to classes and more,” said Tordsen. “We have so many great alumni willing to share their stories with students to help them succeed, and I’m glad we get to help set that up."

Tordsen is an active member in the Sioux Falls community through the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network, Lost&Found and other volunteer opportunities. In 2023, she was appointed by Gov. Kristi Noem to the South Dakota Board of Educational Telecommunications. With a degree in media and journalism, Tordsen has found serving on this board of directors to be a great fit for her background and interests.

"USD provided me with so many opportunities to succeed in any media-related career after graduation," said Tordsen. "Whether it was broadcast journalism or strategic communications, the professors and advisors I had at USD were there every step of the way. Even after graduation, I called on advisors for help, references, letters of recommendation and advice. Without the guidance and knowledge I got at USD, I wouldn’t be where I am today."

Tordsen's advice to current students: "Find your USD community. Whether it’s a student organization, Greek life, intramurals or something else, there’s something for everyone. Those four years go by so fast and after it’s done, you’ll move on, but you’ll still have your USD community. Also, if there’s a chance to attend an event where alumni are going, go! Our alumni want to help you succeed and would love to connect. You never know, there could be an internship or career opportunity waiting for you."

Graham Westra '21 B.S.

A headshot of Graham Westra."It’s an incredible honor to be selected for the SiouxFalls.Business 30 Under 30 list," said Westra. "This award reflects the support and encouragement I’ve received from my mentors, colleagues and others who have had an impact on my life."

Westra currently serves as the director of real estate for Midwest Fidelity Partners (MFP). In this role, he identifies markets and locations that are ideal for MFP development and is developing in Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Quad Cities; and Utah.

"As the director of real estate, I’m proudest of the opportunity to develop businesses that provide great jobs and serve a need in the community,” said Westra. “I would love to develop more housing in the areas of downtown Sioux Falls and central Sioux Falls neighborhoods."

Westra earned his bachelor’s in finance from the Beacom School of Business and said the time and attention spent by the faculty at USD had a direct impact on his life.

"I feel fortunate to be a USD graduate and wouldn’t trade it for anything else," he said. "The importance of USD and college in general is being able to say you started something good but finished with something great."

Westra's advice to current students: "My father (also a USD grad) always reminds me to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It took me awhile to accept this and understand what exactly he meant. To those that want to make a difference for themselves and their future, you need to understand this concept."

Press Contact
Hanna DeLange
Contact Email
Contact Website website