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EU alumni perspective: Joe Schmitz

Name: Joe Schmitz

Graduation Year: 2001

Major: Government/Pre-Law

Current Position: Attorney

City and State: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tell us about your career and what you do now.

I’ve been practicing law as a litigation attorney in Winston-Salem, North Carolina since 2006. I began handling a wide variety of cases – everything from auto-accident cases to criminal defense cases. My real passion from the start of my career has been in family law, where I represent folks facing divorce and the issues that come with it. I’ve found that these cases present an opportunity for me to minister to many who are facing some of the darkest days of their lives. My practice has evolved over the years, and now I am focused on only representing clients in family law matters.

In 2016, my wife and I felt a calling to become missionaries to orphans in Belize, Central America. We are still receiving the vision for what our roles in Belize will look like, but we have started RAMM Missions International, and we believe we are in the preparation stages for God has called us to.

What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

Just one? Besides the root beer keggers we had on W1N (seriously – it was just root beer), my favorite memory from Evangel would have to be meeting my wife, Tiffany, and the hours we spent talking on the phone, eating lunch at the Joust (the old one), and studying at the Mudhouse. I also have fond memories of the open-mic “coffeehouse” nights, afternoon spontaneous acoustic jam sessions on the lawn, late-night hustles back to campus to beat the curfew, and printing papers on dot-matrix printers after spending all-nighters finishing (okay, starting and finishing) term papers.

How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?

I went to Evangel knowing that I was called to be an attorney, but my time at Evangel helped crystalize my worldview as a Christ-follower. I recall my beliefs in all facets of life being challenged many times, and each time I had to dig deep and figure out what I believed and why (this is an ongoing process – you’ll never “arrive”). Perhaps, most importantly, I was developed as a leader. Serving as student body president for two years, I believe I learned more from my failures in leadership (there were many) than I did from any successes.

How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

First off, I learned how to live with and relate to others – knowing how to effectively manage and resolve conflict is a critical skill (unless you plan on living under a rock). I met people from all walks of life and from all parts of the US as well as abroad, and it expanded my perception of the world we live in. Many wonderful professors who took tremendous interest in each of their students, often sharing their own experiences from which I learned a great deal, mentored me. Dr. Spence was particularly influential; I recall one particular moment when he provided me with an unforgettable and invaluable lesson in personal integrity. 

What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

Keep an open mind and obtain a broad range of experiences. Pursue internships and consider a part-time job. I worked for a law firm while at Evangel, and even though I was handling the most menial of chores for the firm, many of the lessons I learned while working there I still recall today while operating my own law firm. Write as much as you can and hone your writing skills. Take a summer and learn a trade – painting, construction, plumbing – again, breadth of experience is important, and you never know how you’re going to use your degree. Finally, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you’re a college graduate you’re going to get your dream job right after graduation. Be prepared to take whatever job you must in order to get your foot in the door and then be the best employee in that position the company has ever had – my first job after graduating was painting houses. 

What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

  1. Writing skills
  2. Ability to manage time and work ethic
  3. Sense of team and willingness to do whatever it takes
  4. Broad range of life experiences

If I had to choose between a student who has an excellent GPA but no other practical experiences and a student who has a more average GPA but has been actively involved in leadership, who perhaps worked while attending school, and who has traveled – chances are I hire the latter. I’m not suggesting that you not strive to get the best grades possible, but there’s a lot more to life than grades.