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College recruiters adjust to changes at MLC

Martin Luther College admissions team member Ted Klug (right) is video conferencing with a high school student recently

While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered everyone’s way of life in 2020, recruiters at Martin Luther College have remained positive in the toughest of times in their careers at the college.

Currently students are off campus, but there’s hope that they will be able to return in January, and if they’re not, the school will resume online classes instead of in person.

Dave Biedenbender

Biedenbender was a former teacher at Minnesota Valley Lutheran and he was the girls’ basketball coach there for a number of years. After moving to Texas for a while, he came back to Minnesota and took a job at MLC.

He’s now in his fourth year at MLC and he started out as an adjunct Physical Education teacher and he was also an assistant women’s basketball coach, assistant baseball coach and he was a part-time admissions counselor.

Some of the members of the Martin Luther College admissions team are (l-r): Joel Thomford, Dave Biedenbender, Lori Unke, Martin Santos, Ted Klug.

In his current role, he focuses his attention on co-curricular recruiting (athletics and fine arts), public school and homeschool recruits, transfer students, and grade schools.

“The biggest change in the last year is that we have not been able to have the same amount of face to face contact with high school students that we did in previous years,” Biedenbender said. “Our big on-campus recruitment events have been cancelled beginning last spring and going through this first semester. We normally would have large groups of high school students on campus at different times throughout the school year, but we haven’t been able to do that this year. We also had to pause our individual student visits last spring, but we were able to resume those in the summer and are still offering individual visits right now. We have been able to make visits to our Lutheran high schools, but those have been a little different, too. We have been forced to do many of our visits and contacts via Zoom and Google meetings instead of doing them in person.”

He said that he was able to adjust to the changes and the changes have helped him.

“The changes have definitely been challenging, but I think we would all agree that we have all stretched ourselves in positive ways because of COVID,” Biedenbender said. “Most of us have learned some new things about technology that we wouldn’t have without the situation we are in.”

The wearing of masks has also been challenge for Biedenbender in his role.

MLC admissions department member Lori Unke is leaves for her road trip to see students in Wisconsin.

“The biggest challenge for me during the pandemic has been having to wear masks during our campus and high school visits,” he said. “It’s so hard to see what someone’s expressions are when they are wearing a mask. Likewise, it’s hard for them to see our true personalities when we are wearing a mask, but we are making it work.

“I think eventually things will get back to normal, but I also think we will keep using some of the new things we have been doing when we can,” Biedenbender said.

Lori Unke

Lori Unke, who has been at MLC for 14 years, has remained positive in the tough times. The former volleyball coach was approached by the admissions department to travel and recruit for the college full time, instead of just for volleyball. She is currently in her 12th year in admissions.

Unke said via email that the biggest change in her job is now doing everything through social media instead of meeting with potential recruits in person.

Martin Luther College admissions team member Ted Klug meeting with a student at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School in Jackson, Wisc. It’s another demonstration of the social distancing that needed to be done this year on MLC’s visits.

“It hasn’t changed all that much really,” she said. “We do everything we normally do, except that it is via social media, texting, emails or phone calls, and zoom or google meet person-to-person visits.”

A big part of Unke’s job used to be traveling the country often. Now it’s a lot different with COVID-19 precautions everywhere.

“Right now the travel season is not fun,” Unke said. “Hotels aren’t fun, neither is dining. I really used to look forward to traveling, but not right now. So we travel with our sanitary wipes, order out and try to be as safe as possible.”

Despite the challenges, Unke and the recruiting department have stayed positive.

“We have noticed so many positives coming out of the pandemic,” Unke said. “New ways of doing things have made us realize that change is good. So there will be some things we did this year that we will continue to do in the future. That is a good thing.”

Mark Stein

Mark Stein has been at MLC for 10 years and he’s also MLC’s head football coach. While at MLC, he’s helped lead the Knights to a pair of conference titles and two NCAA tournament appearances.

While football is one of his many loves at the college, he enjoys his recruiting job the most. He said that his focus for recruiting is to find those interested in becoming ministers.

“Football is a game,” he said. “I love the game, but football is a tool for ministry recruitment. Do not get me wrong, we will be great at football because that is what is right and what we do, it is what we do to develop a work ethic, strength, fortitude, perseverance, teamwork, service, trust and the willingness to do what it takes to win every day. This is what we are blessed to be able to work on during the pandemic.”

He said it’s been tough for him to not be around his football players, but he has adjusted.

“I am a people person,” Stein said. “If you tell me I cannot be around people, it will be a struggle. I really miss my team. They motivate me and inspire me, but I know they trust their God and know we will be back better and stronger than ever.

“I do not believe in a new normal,” Stein said. “I think we constantly adjust as a society, and if we do not overreact, and trust our God, we will overcome and get right back to living. That is what everyone misses, living, being apart of worship, society, culture, sport.”

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