Raider Nation in the Real World

2018 grads talk about first jobs and the stops and starts en route to adulthood

College is fun. Hard. Busy. Full of friends and relationship drama and the angst and excitement of wondering, “What will I do? Who will I be?” Then, college ends. And “real life” begins. And it’s fun, hard, busy and full of a lot of the same things—yet completely different.

The Classic checked in with nine new graduates to find out what life after Northwestern is like.

Ali Achterhof, art/graphic design

Social media coordinator, Lutheran Church of Hope | West Des Moines


Ali Achterhof’s senior-year internship in Chicago was the first time the Orange City native lived away from her hometown. One of the things she learned, she says, is the importance of finding a church home. She found one quickly in Chicago, and now, as a new college grad living in West Des Moines, she’s found one again. And bonus: It also happens to be her new employer.

Achterhof is the social media coordinator for Lutheran Church of Hope’s West Des Moines campus, brainstorming, creating and posting content aimed at connecting the Hope family to their church’s ministries and mission. “I need to express my creativity,” she says, “and this position taps just about every form! I love figuring out new ways to ‘stop the scroll,’ as we social media nerds say.”

Achterhof credits Northwestern’s Career Development Center with helping her discover her design passion. Then, her art professors helped her craft her passion into expressive excellence, encouraging her toward job openings they knew of as she neared graduation.

Now she has big digital dreams. “The generation I’m a part of might start something new in the church,” she says, “and it can be partially through social media. It gives us a bigger voice than we realize.”

Sarah Allen, nursing

Oncology/hematology nurse, University of Iowa Hospital | Iowa City


Walking dimmed hospital halls during 12-hour shifts that go through the night, Sarah Allen moves quietly in and out of patient rooms. She checks surgical sites and morphine drips and gives sips of water and fluffs pillows. Sometimes she takes a moment for a whispered chat about things both insignificant and weighty.

Several months into her first job as an oncology/hematology nurse at the University of Iowa Hospital, Allen says Northwestern gave her a healthy start toward a career in nursing. “My preceptors both agreed I was very well prepared for the fast pace of the unit and the complicated nursing care we provide.

“I’m also well equipped to have tough conversations about life, death and salvation,” she says of the conversations that sometimes happen between a nurse and her patients on an oncology unit. Working with cancer patients has affirmed what Allen learned in Northwestern’s shalom-oriented nursing program—“how important it is to care for the whole patient, physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

Allen learned what holistic care feels like when she was a student. “Looking back, I appreciate how much support I always had. My professors were so caring. [They] were constantly praying for me and wanted me to excel in and out of the classroom.”

Steven Clark, religion

Graduate student, Princeton Seminary | New Jersey


A Christian and a scholar.

That’s the label Steven Clark is aiming for, so he’s building on the faithful start he got at Northwestern as a divinity student at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Living in one of Princeton’s on-campus dorms for seminarians, Clark says he can tell he felt more comfortable and capable in his first semester of graduate classes than many of his peers. “A large amount of the course material was either review or easily integrated with existing knowledge gained from Northwestern’s excellent religion faculty, some of whom also studied at Princeton.”

Clark says he values his Northwestern experience more than ever. “I’ve come to appreciate the ease at which genuine friendships came at NWC,” he says. In addition, “I appreciate how Northwestern emphasizes both faithful and courageous learning. The professors truly believe in Christ and yet are not afraid to examine claims that could be seen as a challenge to that belief.

“I appreciate just how much that kind of anchored, safe space for questions has shaped my approach. Christians are not always characterized in popular thought as being very intellectually informed or consistent, and I want to join Northwestern in the mission of overturning that stereotype.”

A Christian and a scholar—and a shining light in both.

Raphael DeHoyos, agricultural business

Cowboy, S Ranch | Custer, Montana


When bareback bronc rider Raphael DeHoyos moved from Texas to Orange City to study and pitch for the Red Raider baseball team, it was a bit of a culture shock. But the challenges involved with learning to adjust have come in handy in his new home in Montana.

DeHoyos is a cowboy on the S Ranch, a spread of more than 225,000 acres that includes a cow-calf operation and breeds prize-winning American Quarter Horses. He spends most of each day in the saddle, herding cattle, monitoring range forage, and breaking and training horses.

Through the summer and fall, DeHoyos and his wife, Naomi (Schimmel ’18), lived near ranch headquarters, 50 miles from the nearest town and out of reach of cell phone service. Now that the weather is colder, the newlyweds have moved to their winter home, a cabin closer to Naomi’s job as a veterinarian technician in Billings.

Although DeHoyos rarely rode the range during his time at Northwestern, he says his classes and off-campus job experiences were good preparation for the long hours and teamwork required of ranch hands. Even more important is what he learned about meaningful work: “If you know how you truly want to live and serve as an individual in a Christ-starved world, then any job is the right job.”

Josh Hornstra, business + sport management

Inside sales rep., Colorado Rapids | Denver


Former Red Raider tight end Josh Hornstra has become a fan of the other kind of fútbol. After an internship with the Sioux Falls Skyforce basketball team and the thrill of being assigned a job at last year’s Super Bowl, Hornstra headed for a job fair sponsored by NWC’s Career Development Center. He interviewed with the only company that interested him: Major League Soccer’s National Sales Center.

He was hired and spent the summer training in Minnesota before receiving several job offers from professional sports organizations. He chose to go to work as an inside sales rep for the Colorado Rapids, one of Major League Soccer’s charter clubs.

Hornstra’s sales coaches have praised his work ethic and predicted he may become one of the MLS’s top sellers. Hornstra’s goal is to become manager of a sales department so he can be the role model others have been for him.

“It seemed as though every Northwestern professor or staff member I came into contact with wanted me to succeed and be my very best. I’ve noticed that doesn’t happen everywhere. Now I realize just how much of a blessing that was.”

The Rapids’ 2019 season begins in February. Tickets are now on sale.

Jeff Jeltema, biology-health professions

Gap year before medical school | Orange City


Focused on becoming a doctor since sixth grade, Jeff Jeltema held off applying to medical school last year in order to score as well as possible on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). His planning paid off with a score in the 100th percentile—the best score at Northwestern and among the best in the world.

It’s a score that’s opening doors to medical schools Jeltema hadn’t dared consider. This year, as he’s saving the money he makes working construction with his dad, Jeltema has applied to 16 medical schools and has interviews at seven, including his top choice: Columbia University in New York City.

“I was ecstatic with my score—and quite shocked,” he says. “But my professors did an amazing job not only teaching me the material, but also helping me become a better critical thinker, which is an incredibly important skill on an exam like the MCAT.”

While giving his brain a bit of a break, Jeltema is pushing his body, training for the Boston Marathon in April. He’s aiming to run 100 miles per week in the beginning of 2019—that is, if he gets the OK from his trainer, Carrie (Carlson ’95) Krohn, who coached Jeltema as a member of the Red Raider track team.

Shanell Nieuwendorp, criminal justice + political science

Security administrator, U.S. State Department | Washington, D.C.


“What do you do?”

“That’s confidential,” answers Shanell Nieuwendorp, flashing a badge that identifies her as an employee of the U.S. State Department. Specifically she’s a security administrator in the Office of Personal Security and Suitability in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. That’s both a mouthful and all she can say about what she does day-to-day.

Nieuwendorp was introduced to government work during a senior-year internship at the State Department while participating in the American Studies Program. Supervisors noticed she was a quick study who paid attention to detail and encouraged her to apply for a permanent position.

Capitol Hill is an ideal environment for Nieuwendorp, who says she chose her double major in criminal justice and political science to “discover the relationship between pledging allegiance to both God’s kingdom and an earthly kingdom.

“I have always had a passion for truth and justice,” she says, “and I strive to bring more of it into the world.”

It’s been thrilling for her to be in the same room as Washington bigshots like Secretary Mike Pompeo and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But Nieuwendorp still misses the Northwestern community. “You’re surrounded by a body of believers who care about your relationship to God, you as a person and your academics—usually in that order. That’s extremely rare.”

Evan Schuler, accounting + finance

Accountant, Gronewold, Bell, Kyhnn & Co. | Atlantic, Iowa


Need a job? It doesn’t hurt to hit the links for a little career networking. Former Red Raider Evan Schuler regularly played a few rounds with other golfers in his hometown of Atlantic, Iowa—including partners at the town’s public accounting firm, Gronewold, Bell, Kyhnn & Co. So when they had a job opening, they went with a sure bet: a hometown favorite who’d just graduated from a high-scoring accounting program.

Schuler already knew relationships were a key to success. “The education I received challenged me and forced me to think critically, but the real-life people skills were just as—if not more—valuable.

“Observing my professors, I saw people who genuinely loved their job and desired to make a difference. Northwestern prepared me to be an employee who does more than just show up every day; it showed me how to be somebody who sees each day as an opportunity for difference-making.”

Currently Schuler is a new homeowner and planning a wedding with Mikayla Christensen ’18, who teaches first grade in Essex, Iowa. He’s also studying for his CPA exams. “Shout-out to [professors] Gibler and Post,” he says. “Word has it Northwestern prepares grads pretty well for that exam.”

Courtney Van Beek, elementary education

First-grade teacher, Richard Jacobson Elementary | Belmond, Iowa


This fall, when Courtney Van Beek stood in front of her very own class of first-graders, she was already quite a confident, experienced teacher.

Four years earlier, she’d been less confident. She’d started at Northwestern thinking about majoring in elementary education, but wasn’t 100 percent decided. “The Northwestern education department does an excellent job getting students into classrooms right away,” she says. “So before the end of my first semester freshman year, I’d been in a number of classroom settings and knew teaching really was what I wanted to do.”

Over the next three years, Van Beek had many more classroom experiences, which helped her identify a love for teaching little kids and the ability to multitask not only as a classroom’s teacher, but also as counselor, nurse, and something between a mom and a big sister.

In addition to teaching math, phonics, reading, writing, social studies and science (and coaching junior high volleyball), Van Beek says, “I’m also teaching my students to believe in themselves and become lifelong learners.”

Van Beek doesn’t miss all the tests she had to pass to become a teacher. But she still likes being graded, especially when the feedback is what she got recently from a classroom observer: “You’re a rock star!”

Learning Curves on the Journey to Adulthood

“In college, I had the luxury of a set schedule filled with classes, practices and the occasional trip to the coffee shop. Now I’m in the real world and have to figure out how to fit being with friends, working out and other activities around my 9-to-5 job.” – Ali Achterhof

“Finances are my biggest learning curve. Thankfully my dad is patient and answers all the money questions I constantly bother him with.” – Sarah Allen

“My biggest learning curve so far has been navigating the professional services an adult is expected to be able to make use of—doctors, dentists, financial consultants/accountants, public transportation. The feelings of intellectual inadequacy that come with not knowing how to use all these services is compounded when you move halfway across the country.” – Steven Clark

“I thought I would have more time to get things done, but working a full-time job takes a lot more out of the day than I imagined.” – Josh Hornstra

“My biggest learning curve has been finding a support system in a new place so far from family and friends. It takes time and effort (and vulnerability) to meet people and establish friendships.” – Shanell Nieuwendorp

“I’m bad at fixing things, so I hope nothing breaks in my new house. I can’t cook, so I eat a lot of Jack’s pizzas. I’m terrible at ironing, so I sometimes wear what looks like crumpled-up newspapers to work.” – Evan Schuler

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