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MLC pioneers Chinese language classes

September 3, 2012
By Kremena Spengler - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - Martin Luther College reports that four new faculty members have joined the campus this year. The college is also pioneering Chinese language and culture courses and focusing on continuing education and experiential learning programs. Enrollment is reported as stable.

Two major construction efforts associated with the college are expected to happen near the campus: the construction of an early childhood education center and a senior living complex.


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Submitted photo
Resident assistants move in some items for freshmen at the MLC campus. RAs live in the dorms and are assigned a floor of students to help them as needed and to encourage them to lead mature lives among their peers. 

Four new faculty members join the campus family this year, said Public Relations Director Bill Pekrul.

Greg Diersen has been assigned to is assigned to the Math and Science Division. He is a 1996 MLC graduate and earned his master's degree in 2000 at South Dakota State University. He comes from Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown, S.D.

Jason Enderle will serve as tutor in Summit dormitory and will teach religion. He is a 2008 MLC graduate and a 2012 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), in Mequon, Wis. Though born in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, most of his childhood was in Clear Lake, S.D.

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Michael Koepke will serve as an Admissions Counselor. He is a 2008 MLC graduate and a 2012 WLS graduate. He was born in Lansing, Mich. and grew up in various cities in that state.

Tingting Zhang will teach Introduction to Chinese Language and Culture and Elementary Chinese I. She holds a B.A. in Chinese Language Literature Education and a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature and World Literature. She is from Hangzhou, China, where she taught Chinese as a foreign language. She also has research experience, has published and presented her work and has earned several awards and honors. She will teach Introduction to Chinese Language and Culture and Elementary Chinese I.

Early Childhood Center/senior housing

The early childhood education program is very important to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church body because of the tremendous growth that ministry is experiencing, said Pekrul. The demand for more early childhood teachers and directors remains high. MLC is responding to that demand through its new Early Childhood Learning Center. As of August planning meetings, the construction timeline sets building to start in spring of 2013.

Currently, early childhood student teaching is carried out in several schools, and MLC is very appreciative of their valuable work with these future teachers, said Pekrul. Student teaching includes three experiences during an 18-week professional semester, he further explains. A nine-week, preprimary (ages 3-5) experience generally is completed at the MLC Early Childhood Center. The current total capacity at the center is 16 student teachers. Two preschools located in the New Ulm area (St. John, Sleepy Eye and Trinity, Nicollet) also provide training for preprimary teaching. The six-week primary grade experience occurs in a Lutheran elementary school. Infant and toddler centers in the New Ulm area serve as placement sites for the three-week experience with children ages birth through two. A new ECE center will allow closer coordination of these learning experiences.

Another building project in process on the same plot of land will provide 50-plus units for senior housing. More than 40 individuals have already expressed an interest in this housing opportunity. Many plans have been finalized and construction will coincide fairly closely with the new Early Childhood Learning Center, though the senior living facility is a larger project and will take about five months longer to complete.


Opening enrollments at MLC have stayed fairly constant over the last five years. Current unofficial figures put enrollment at 712.

Appreciation for local community, schools

"We at MLC are blessed to live in such a supportive community," comments Pekrul. "We receive many reports about the warm welcome our families experience in our fair city. Thank you. We are also blessed with conscientious students and a dedicated faculty."

"We continue to appreciate a strong, cooperative relationship with District 88 and other area public school systems," he also comments. "Our students receive valuable experiences in many public school classrooms as a part of their student teaching and state licensure requirements."

Experiential learning

MLC students serve in a variety of communities, said Pekrul. A major effort to provide more opportunities for experiential learning involves the Center for Urban Teaching in Milwaukee. This summer, 16 MLC students helped to run summer schools (as lead teachers or assistants) in Milwaukee schools. Another 70-plus students served this summer in schools and congregations from California to Connecticut. International opportunities continue to expand for our graduates. Last May's graduating class had 19 graduates going to six different countries for various teaching assignments.

Continuing education

MLC's continuing education program served almost 800 students last year, said Pekrul. Webinars are a new, growing method of instruction, but MLC's extensive online course offerings and on-site instruction options are very popular because of their convenience and flexibility.

Facility upgrades

Summer is an opportunity for campus projects, adds Pekrul. Some of the campus improvements include dorm, classroom and locker room renovations.

"We appreciate the reliable, professional service we receive from many local contractors," said Pekrul.



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