Shanell Nieuwendorp
Law School Student, University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law, Vermillion, South Dakota
Shanell Nieuwendorp

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Interested in both law and the military as career options, Shanell majored in criminal justice and political science. Her internship with the U.S. Department of State led to a full-time job after graduation, providing Shanell with valuable hands-on experience to support her law school studies. After she graduates with her law degree, Shanell hopes to return to the public service sector, practicing law at the local, state or federal level.


Why did you double major in criminal justice and political science?

I’ve always had a passion for truth and justice, and I strive to bring more of it into the world. It’s incredibly challenging and rewarding. Discovering the relationship between pledging allegiance to both God’s kingdom and earthly kingdoms—that’s why I wanted to study political science and criminal justice.

What do you appreciate about your academic experience at Northwestern?

Professors set the bar high and encourage students to wrestle with tough questions. Both the criminal justice and political science departments offer a great deal of personal connections and real-world experience. In addition, the professors do a great job maintaining neutrality on various topics we discuss in class, while also stressing principles in keeping with the kingdom of God. They purposefully keep their own political opinions private and challenge students to think for themselves.

Describe your semester in Washington, D.C.

I participated in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ American Studies Program, so I took classes while also interning at the Department of State. In addition to learning the functions of my office and exploring other bureaus, I also attended Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s congressional testimony and saw Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she visited the State Department.

What lessons from your time in the State Department have been most applicable to your law school studies?

Conducting extensive research and analysis—as well as preparing reports and presenting briefs to senior leadership—refined my skills and made me a better student. Learning to manage a full workload in a professional setting has also allowed me to manage my law school studies more effectively. 

What are your plans after law school?

I greatly enjoyed working for the federal government and could see myself continuing in the public service sector at the local, state or federal level. At this point in my studies, my interests are vast, and I want to learn as much as I can to be the best lawyer I can be—fighting for truth and justice wherever I end up. 

Beyond your education, what else did you value about your Northwestern experience?

I will forever cherish the people I met while at Northwestern—in the dorms, in classes, on Spring Service Partnerships mission trips, and through intramurals and tutoring. Attending a Christian college alongside friends who follow the same God is quite remarkable.

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