Wu telling MLC’s story through the video lens
“One of the advantages of being a student photographer is my job is to capture what’s going on,” Wu said. “The motion, the atmosphere and everything that’s happening. Whether it’s parents, alumni or supporters of the school, you’re bringing people together in a sense.”
Wu, an inherent visual storyteller, said he’s been handling cameras since he was seven years old. He remembers he would often ask his parents to borrow a camera to shoot stop motion videos, and from there, he began to question the editing process and what it takes to create something through a visual medium.
Being an avid film and television enthusiast, Wu said motion pictures have had a big impact on his life.
“From there it just kind of grew,” he said. “The video aspect of it has always kind of been just a hobby of mine growing up when I was younger. And also, just being fascinated with being able to tell a story with images and being able to convey so much with so little has always been fascinating to me as well.”
Wu grew up in San Diego, Calif., where he attended a Lutheran high school and was introduced to MLC through his high school’s program.
While videography and photography are one of his passions, Wu said he’s always valued education and technology as some of his priorities.
He said he’s pursuing a career in teaching as an educational technology teacher where he can teach younger generations to responsibly navigate an increasingly digital-reliant world.
Citing video-based platforms like YouTube and TikTok, the social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos, Wu said he wants to someday educate younger generations on digital responsibility.
“If they have similar dreams and similar motivations, how do we get them into a world that’s so involved in technology and encapsulated within the internet?” Wu said. “Entertainment is moving towards short form content.”
However, Wu wasn’t always confident in his abilities as a visual storyteller. He said he was reluctant to pursue photography and videography when he first came to MLC.
“When I first got on campus, I knew there was a photography team and I had seen videos they had put out,” he said. “I was reluctant to apply at first because you’re always like ‘am I good enough and do I have the skills that it takes to do this?'”
Wu said he eventually broke through the mental funk when he was taking photos of happenings on campus and a student from the campus’ student photography team approached him suggested he should apply for a position.
“It’s been so much fun ever since,” he said. “Just getting over that initial fear of the unknown or the fear of ‘am I good enough thing,’ and just going out and doing it, has really helped me.”
Wu said he’s been assigned to cover events on campus that may be like each other or the content he’s capturing is akin to what he has done in the past. However, he said he looks at it as a creative challenge that he can use to hone his skills.
“It’s cool to be able to do almost the same thing over and over again,” he said. “It’s interesting in the sense that you’re always challenged creatively to try to get a different angle or a different perspective, but also trying to capture the overall feel of what’s going on.”
Wu said he’s completed his third year at MLC but is taking the current semester off to focus on capturing images in support of the college’s silver anniversary campaign, “Equipping Christian Witnesses,” a two-year capital campaign that celebrates the 2020 anniversary of MLC.
“What MLC is trying to do with that campaign, and this traces back to what we’re trying to do as photographers and videographers, is we’re trying to connect people with the college that might not be aware of what’s going on,” Vu said.
Bill Pekrul, MLC Director of Public Relations, said the campaign is a three-pronged initiative that strives to increase enrollment at the college, create better financial assistance programs for students and revamp student facilities.
“There’s three parts to it and the one they always lead with first, the most important one, is recruitment,” Pekrul said. “We supply the teachers and pastors for our churches and schools, and right now, we have close to 80 vacancies for teachers.”
Pekrul said graduates are willing to accept teaching positions anywhere and there’s no shortage of volunteers, but since enrollment at the college is down, MLC is looking at how it can recruit more potential students to mitigate that shortage.
“Back in the early 2000s we had over a thousand students here,” he said. “We’re trying to rebuild that.”
Pekrul said the second pillar of the campaign is to make scholarships more affordable and available to students at MLC. Called the “Congregational Partner Grant Matching Fund,” it has MLC match the scholarships given to students by congregations when they send students to attend MLC.
“So, a congregation can give up to $1,000 per student if they had students going here and then we’ll match it,” he said. “Other congregations that don’t have students here can give to that and that will help us with that match.”
He said roughly 600 students receive the scholarship money and the cost ends up at about $500,000.
“And that’s not the only local scholarship money we give out,” he said. “So, we’re trying to get three to five million [dollars] and that can allow us to keep that program going.”
The campaign is also aiming to raise $10 million to build a new residence hall for students. Called Luther Heights Residence Hall, the plan is to not only add additional housing for students, but to rotate students through Luther Heights as renovations are done on the older dormitories.
Pekrul said Wu’s position as a videographer and visual storyteller is important for the campaign and for MLC’s public reputation.
“I think this whole program, photography and video, it tells our college here in New Ulm is not in a hub of everything that’s going on with our churches and schools,” Pekrul said. “For some it’s a bit remote. We have churches and schools all over the United States, so being able to tell the story of our students, and what our ministry is here through [Michael’s] work, I think has been an important thing. He’s a very skilled young man.”