Des Moines is a growing with professional opportunities for young graduates; it just doesn’t have what these two Drake University seniors are seeking:

“I just want to kind of try out a different area,” said Karly O’Connor, a design major and Des Moines native. “I want to spread out my wings a little bit.”

Des Moines is Iowa’s largest city but not big enough to keep some 2015 Drake University graduates from wanting to leave for jobs outside of Iowa. Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch
Des Moines is Iowa’s largest city but not big enough to keep some 2015 Drake University graduates from wanting to leave for jobs outside of Iowa. Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

Joey Wolfe, from Kansas City, Missouri, never considered staying in Iowa after graduating a year early with degrees in political science and English.

“I always saw Drake as more of a transitional place, or like all of Iowa as a more transitional place.”

O’Connor and Wolfe are members of Drake’s May 2015 graduating class. O’Connor said she hopes to start her career in museum curating by moving either to Chicago or the west coast. Wolfe said he plans to move to Seattle and then apply to the University of Washington School of Law next year.

O’Connor, 22, who also holds minors in English and drawing, said she believes better opportunities exist for her in cities larger than Des Moines although she hasn’t completely ruled out Iowa.

“Des Moines is a really great city and it does have a lot opportunities and it’s growing. It is certainly tempting,” she said about staying.

But she also said she most likely would use the city a starting point for a career with aspirations of moving to bigger opportunities later if she thought Des Moines had great opportunities for her.

Joey Wolfe, Drake University Class of 2015 Credit: Susan Nourse/IowaWatch

Wolfe already has made up his mind. He said he isn’t tempted to stay in Iowa and is ready to put the Midwest behind him.

“I’d particularly like to branch out of the Midwest since I’ve lived here so long,” he said.

Wolfe, 21, had to make a decision on what to do after graduation sooner than expected. During an adviser meeting in fall Wolfe, in his third year at Drake, learned he could graduate this year.

“Part of me wanted to wait on that decision, or even if I graduated to stay here until I decided. But then I decided to take more of a chance and spend a year trying out a new area,” he said.


Wolfe said he liked Drake because of its proximity to Kansas City. It was close enough for him to visit home, but still experience a new city similar in size. He said he never considered staying in Iowa or Des Moines after graduation because the area is too small.

Downtown Des Moines, November 2014 Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

“Over the last few years, I feel like I’ve seen the gist of it,” Wolfe said. He also said only two places in Iowa offer opportunities to attend law school: the University of Iowa and Drake.

If he were to return to the Midwest, Wolfe said he would most likely return to Kansas City.

Although he’s leaving Wolfe said people in the Midwest have helped him prepare for his future career.

“For me it’s really about the people in the place,” he said. “The type of people you find in the Midwest are … they’re just more friendly, they’re down to earth. They’re helpful more on a human level than an institutional one.”

MAIN STORY: Plenty Of 2015 College Grads Will Continue Exodus Trend From Iowa

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