NEW ULM - Martin Luther College is starting the new academic year with a strong focus on "professors walking the walk" - concerted efforts by faculty to stay abreast of the current needs of the students, reports Public Relations Director Bill Pekrul.
Pekrul also noted the new Master's of Education program that is gaining in popularity, with an enrollment of 86 graduate students.
Faculty engaged in
Paul Anderson, Ph.D., professor of English at the University of Miami, Ohio, and director of the Joyce Howe Center for Writing Excellence, speaks to Prof. James Pope and other MLC faculty during the 2011 fall faculty conference focusing on Writing Across the Curriculum.
All faculty members are encouraged to continue their professional development. This may occur in various ways: reading professional literature, participation in study groups, attendance at conferences, taking appropriate courses, and pursuing a terminal degree in a field of study.
A terminal degree in one's area of study is strongly encouraged and is an expectation for all new faculty members.
Among current faculty, 43 percent hold master's degrees, 25 percent double master's degrees and 25 percent have doctoral degrees.
Books recently read and discussed by faculty groups include "Our Underachieving Colleges" and "Academically Adrift."
Reviving Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) efforts is a strong focus of the upcoming year, adds Pekrul.
Goals include defining writing intensive courses, incorporating workshops in writing for students, ongoing faculty training and development, a WAC newsletter, a WAC resource web site, exploring incorporating an oral communication rubric into the program, and the continued expansion and development of the writing center.
In addition, representatives from churches and schools in the southeastern U.S. have presented some innovative efforts to advance the mission of their schools and offered suggestions for training students to be prepared for new and emerging ministries, adds Pekrul.
MLC will be sending student teachers to one of these schools in Florida for a first-hand look at some of these initiatives, said Pekrul.
Master's program grows
The new Masters of Education program is gaining in popularity, said Pekrul.
The students pursuing their master's degree at MLC are enrolled in the following emphases: Instruction (30 grad students), Leadership (32), Special Education (18), and Educational Technology (6).
The MLC master's program is the only one of its kind specifically designed to meet the ministry needs of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) teachers. It directly applies to what WELS teachers do. The instructors have real ministry experience and an understanding of WELS schools.
But the program also takes students beyond WELS boundaries, said officials. Graduate students learn from 15 adjunct professors who bring their unique perspective to their lessons. Most of the nine on-campus professors have received the highest degrees possible in their fields from recognized universities.
The program is flexible. While most programs dictate a prescribed program and schedule, MLC graduate students design their own program as they match it to fit their unique ministry. It allows practicing teachers to fit their learning around busy schedules.
WELS teachers from around the world get their degrees without leaving their ministry or families. The current graduate students come from 15 U.S. states and one foreign country.
The MLC master's degree is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission. It has the same accreditation as the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, Marquette, and Notre Dame.
The program is affordable. It is considered a service, rather than a money-maker. Tuition is about half of what most other reputable institutions charge.
New twists to student teaching
Student teaching in a Lutheran school is the "capstone" field experience in the training of elementary teachers at MLC, said MLC officials. For 2011-2012, MLC plans on partnering with 100 supervising teachers and more than 60 host schools as they help prepare future colleagues.
Two of the settings for student teaching are distinctive this year.
First, in Rapid City, S.D., student teachers will be "visited" by a college supervisor via web-cam technology. This effort is a pilot project that will study the feasibility of real-time observation of and conferencing with student teachers through the use of two-way video conferencing tools. The training of the classroom teachers in student teaching supervision will occur via video conferencing as well.
The impetus for the project stems from two reasons. One is the desire to find ways to reduce travel costs associated with student teaching supervision. The other is the hope to offer schools outside the "normal" student teaching areas an opportunity to serve as host sites.
Secondly, the Clinical Experiences Office has received a Thrivent grant that will enable four student teachers the opportunity to experience urban student teaching in Doral, Fla.
The goals of this experience are: to inform and engage student teachers in the unique challenges and opportunities of urban settings; to prepare future urban teachers by early training and practice in a mentored experience; and to strengthen ties between MLC and members of a school/congregation in an outlying district.
The MLC library has partnered with the Traverse de Sioux library system to offer digital download materials through Overdrive. These materials may be downloaded to a computer, cell phone and some e-book readers. The library purchased 209 items (161 books, 41 audiobooks, 7 videos). In addition, the TdS system has purchased 945 titles, all of which are available for check-out. Access to e-books is also available through other e-book sources.
Earlier this summer the library purchased an iPad, and three e-book readers, a Kobo, an Amazon Kindle and a Barnes & Noble Nook.