Waving the Cyclone Flag

While her home farm in Linn County, Iowa, flies the “house-divided” flag showcasing both sides of the University of Iowa – Iowa State University rivalry, there’s no doubt where Elizabeth Burns-Thompson’s loyalty lies.

The manager of corporate affairs for Renewable Energy Group (REG) has a knack for advocating for Iowa State wherever she goes.

Burns-Thompson (’11 agricultural business and international agriculture), of Altoona, Iowa, likes to say, “the busiest people get the most done.” And, she gets a lot done.

“Elizabeth is a leading member of our college’s young alumni program, the Curtiss League, and chair of the Iowa State University Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Council. From guest lecturing, to writing recommendation letters, to supporting the college’s student council, she positively impacts the college and our students in many ways,” says Daniel J. Robison, holder of the Endowed Dean’s Chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Her efforts earned her the 2019 Emerging Iowa Leader Award from the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presented by Robison at center court of Hilton Coliseum during the college’s sponsored Cyclone women’s basketball game Feb, 9.

Burns-Thompson graduated from Drake University Law School in 2014, is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association and active in the American Agricultural Law Association.

Goals of working in Washington D.C. led her to a degree in agricultural law.

“As the disconnect between producers and consumers grows, it is more important than ever that our legislators understand the agricultural issues they are asked to vote on,” she says. “I had a variety of internships, including one at the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, but one of my favorites was working for a member of the U.S. Senate. That experience was a turning point, and I left wanting to get involved in public policy.

Originally drawn to Iowa State to pursue a career as an agricultural educator, Burns-Thompson was encouraged to consider agricultural business by advisers Ron Deiter, professor, and senior lecturer Ebby Luvaga.

Burns-Thompson has served as president of the Young Professionals in Agriculture central Iowa chapter and remains on their board. Prior to her position at REG she worked for the Iowa Corn Growers Association in government relations and regulatory affairs.

She says she appreciates how her position has allowed her to combine her agricultural upbringing, professional education and public policy interests.

“As the largest biodiesel producer in the U.S., born out of a western Iowa cooperative, we are regularly lobbying on issues to ensure a greener energy future,” she says. “The best part of my job is knowing that each day I’m helping support an industry developed in the heartland by Iowa farmers.”

Burns-Thompson says the definition of her dream job keeps evolving, but she’ll keep waving her Cyclone flag as she charts the next course of her adventure.