Jenna Stephens

Hometown

Hills, Minnesota

The Story

VALUABLE EXPERIENCES AT DORDT

I think being on the track team has been one of the biggest parts of my life at Dordt. We spend two hours every day with those teammates. I grew very close to my teammates. They were people that I wouldn’t necessarily interact with in classes. You get to know people who are in different friend groups, which is fun. Being with those people every day when you’re doing killer workouts and you’re giving everything has been enjoyable and pushes us to work hard at whatever we’re doing on and off the track. I’ve really enjoyed that—the team aspect.

Whatever part of my life I’m working in, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But I guess track has shaped me to work until I get to the final result I want, and I approach painting in the same way. I don’t stop in the middle of a painting; I keep tweaking things and adding more layers of paint until I'm happy with what I see. It’s striving for results that I can be proud of.

ARTISTIC EXPERIENCE

Coming into Dordt, I had zero art experience. I would sketch a little bit in the summer time. The only art course I took before coming to Dordt was an eighth grade art course that was required. I had no idea what I was doing when I came to Dordt, but my parents said, “Well, nothing else seems to interest you, so maybe you should just give it a go.” I started off with Drawing 1, which was my first art course, and Graphic Design 1. Gradually, I took Painting 1 for my major, and I used oil paint for the first time and thought it was really neat. It was challenging but also forgiving because oil paint doesn’t dry very fast, so it’s a good medium to learn with since you can always go back and retweak things. In Painting 1, we learned all the basics and tried all different styles throughout the semester. It was fun but I wasn’t able to focus on my style yet, because I was just learning the basics—to get that foundation. I took Painting 3 as an individual study course. I could completely decide what I was going to do as long as I had some products at the end of the semester. I spent hours painting in our apartment, standing by my easel, just trying to get enough work for my senior show. That was the most valuable course for me because I was forced to figure out what my style is. There was no one telling me how to paint or things I should do. I experimented and figured out what I was happy with.

SENIOR ART SHOW

My senior art show was probably one of the highlights of my time at Dordt. All those hours of painting and classes like drawing and printmaking fed into my art. Art history—stuff that you don’t consciously think of, it all shaped how I paint. So, to finally see all the paintings on the walls felt like the culmination of four years of study. To be able to show my loved ones what I’d been working on was super exciting, and it gave me a boost of energy to keep pursuing art after Dordt. It made me excited to try some new things after I saw it on the wall.

JOURNALISM EXPERIENCE

My journalism classes were really valuable because, as a designer, art is important, but if I can tie in writing skills, that makes me more valuable to a company. So that was why I decided to pursue some sort of writing at Dordt. With journalism, I was able to tell someone’s story and to interview them—I enjoyed all that. The journalism classes pushed my writing, but they also pushed me to try to find the story in everyone’s lives. To see how we can make a difference by telling other people’s stories because I think giving a voice to people is a lot stronger than just telling people what they should believe. If they hear it coming from someone who’s experienced something, it’s a little more meaningful. And working for the Diamond, Dordt's student newspaper, was great experience. I was able to do a lot of writing for the Diamond, and I was co-copy editor for a semester too. So that was helpful—checking grammar and reorganizing stories so that the stories were more powerful or understandable. All of that was really fun too.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME

I’m starting to grasp the fact that it’s not where I want to go, it’s where God wants me to go. I'm trying to lean into that, no matter how hard it is. I don’t have a specific career path in mind right now, but I know that I’ve gained a bunch of skills in different areas that I could pursue a career in multiple areas and hopefully be successful at it. It’s not my life that I’m in charge of; it’s a life that I’m living for God. It’s easier said than done, but just remembering that and being willing to go to a place that’s uncomfortable, if that’s where he’s calling my husband and me.

ENGAGEMENT AT DORDT

My experience has been different than a lot of seniors because I got married during the summer of my sophomore year, so I live off-campus. Sometimes that makes me feel a little more disconnected, since I’m on campus for classes, work, and track and then I go home. But when I am on campus, I feel engaged through my interaction with my professors and their investment in students' lives. They push us as students, ask us questions, and give us suggestions for future careers. Being on the track team has been great to keep me involved with people on campus, too.

Another important event is chapel every week. It’s a way to reorient what I’m focused on—it’s something for me to look forward to in the middle of the week where much of campus comes together in worship and to remember that we need to keep God as the focus. Sometimes during the week it’s hard to remember that when you’re stressed by work and classes, but chapel has been helpful for reminding me of that.