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Student Profile: Orpah Schiebout leads Student Forum and prepares for life after graduation

By Andrew De Young

Orpah Schiebout

Orpah Schiebout

Orpah Schiebout is, if nothing else, a hard worker. Partway through her senior year, she’s juggling her roles as president of Student Forum and a student with a full class load. But as a senior, she’s doing more than just taking classes and doing extra-curriculars. Orpah’s also looking to the future—taking the LSAT and GRE, applying for graduate schools, and planning a wedding for the summer of 2005. And she’s not going to slow down any time soon.

“I spread myself thin,” she admits. “It’s a bit of a weakness.”

But she wouldn’t have it any other way. Orpah was driven to succeed from the very beginning of her life, raised in Pella, Iowa, by hard-working parents and growing up with an ambitious bunch of siblings. When she came to Dordt College as a freshman, in fact, she came with a specific goal in mind: she wanted to become a lawyer.

“I had always thought that law was a higher calling,” she says, shaking her head. “I saw so many possibilities with a law degree, so many things that I could do.” You can tell by the way she says it that she’s not quite as resolute now as she was then. Three years later, she’s still working with that goal in sight, but it isn’t quite as clear as it used to be.

Before coming to Dordt, she says, she asked the advice of friends and teachers about how best to proceed. Knowing she wanted to go to law school after she received her bachelor’s degree, they advised her to major in something that could loosely apply to law; knowing her grades would have to be impeccable, they advised her to major in something she was good at. Orpah picked English and began working toward her goal.

In her sophomore year, Orpah added another goal. At the first chapel of the year, she heard Amy Vroom, then president of Student Forum and a prelaw student, deliver a speech to the assembled students.

“I said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to be doing senior year.’”

After two years as a representative for her class on Student Forum, she has reached that goal.

English major, Student Forum president—some might suspect that Orpah merely uses these as a way to achieve her goals. But to her, literary study is more than a stepping stone to law school, and her title as president is more than something to put on a resume.

“When I do things, I do them one hundred percent,” she says. “I’ve never put a class on pass-fail, and I want everything I do in the future to be one hundred percent, too.”

As president of Student Forum, Orpah says that giving her all means doing more than just relishing the title. She doesn’t claim to have a specific agenda, but would prefer simply to talk to people and let them use her as a sounding board for things that should change on campus.

As an English major, she dedicates much time to studying, writing papers, and interacting with her professors. As a result and in spite of herself, she’s fallen in love with the major that was supposed to carry her into a law career. As law school edges closer, a future in literary study is looking more enticing.

“I’m debating between going to graduate school for English or going to law school like I planned,” she says. “It’s tough, because I want to use the gifts that God has given me and be able to give one hundred percent in whatever field I end up.”

Part of the change, she says, is her changing perception of the teaching profession, which she now acknowledges as a calling just as “high” as law. She had excellent high school teachers who equipped her to go to college. But at Dordt, it went even deeper.

“Every professor has taught me something about myself, something about how I can change the world,” she says. “They’re not just preparing me for academic study. They’re preparing me for life.”

She says the same about the literary texts that she studies in her English classes—reading them, analyzing them, and writing papers about them is more than an intellectual exercise. Influenced by the Reformed perspective of the Dordt College English department, she now recognizes the relevance of literature in her everyday life.

“One of the things that I have learned is that in every novel, every poem, the author captures some truth, even if he’s an atheist. The philosophies that challenge Christianity just make me stronger. That’s something I can carry with me, no matter what my situation may be.”

Orpah has a big decision ahead of her, complicated by her plans to marry fellow senior Nate Jensema in June. But whatever her decision, whatever roles God leads her into—wife, lawyer, mother, professor, or several at once—she’ll give them her all, spread herself thin.

She wouldn’t have it any other way.