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Graduation day at MLC has always been special. On that day God’s faithfulness is celebrated because he supplies workers for the harvest. Traditionally, those gathered praise God for moving hearts to respond to his call into ministry. Beginning in 2008 with the first MS Ed graduates, the day is also a celebration of God’s ongoing blessings to his church through veteran teachers. Here are some of the reasons we praise God for MS Ed graduates.
Abdul Kalam, 11th President of India, once said, “To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.” Martin Luther College’s mission is to train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of the WELS. With single-minded devotion, the MLC master’s program carries out that mission.
The quality of an education hinges upon the strength of its faculty. In their first semester end-of-course surveys, graduate students revealed that they consider their instructors to be a strength of MLC’s graduate program. Graduate students overwhelmingly rated their instructors as knowledgeable, responsive, and able to provide valuable feedback and advice. One reason MLC graduate faculty can provide insight is that they know both their content and the context of Lutheran schools.
Quality is important to Martin Luther College graduate students. They are busy teachers who work hard for the Lord and for their students. They need their graduate studies to provide maximum ministry benefit. At MLC teachers find the quality they need in graduate studies. Read what our 2012 master’s graduates say about MLC's quality.
One word describes Martin Luther College master’s degree students – leaders. They embody the kind of servant-leadership that Jesus modeled and encouraged (see Matthew 20: 25-28). MLC graduate students serve as leaders by modeling professionalism, by serving their students through continual growth, and by inspiring others to do the same. As I talk with MLC graduate students, they describe how they model, serve, and inspire.
The road to a graduate degree can involve some unexpected detours. Some of our 2012 master’s graduates shared their detours. One graduate had twins while completing her degree; at least four accepted calls and moved; and another needed to manage a personal issue. Despite the challenges, they all finished their degrees! How did that happen?
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” (Psalm 136). The MLC master’s program has many reasons to give thanks. We are thankful for the 100-plus graduate students in the program. We are thankful that so many teachers are devoting their time and energy to grow and be leaders in their profession. But as we all realize, operating such a successful program only happens because God blesses the dedicated work of many who work tirelessly behind the scenes. I’d like you to meet some of them.
The teaching ministry is diverse, and so WELS teachers need more than a predetermined, one-size-fits-all program. Our master’s degree graduates are preschool, elementary, and high school teachers. They are early childhood ministry directors, guidance counselors, and principals.
WELS teachers today have opportunities for professional growth that previous WELS teachers did not. At one time, many WELS teachers longed for a degree program where everything they learned applied directly to what they did. They wanted to learn from and with other WELS teachers who understood their ministry. But until recently, the thought of such a learning community of WELS teachers seemed unattainable.
When MLC established its master’s program in 2004, teachers told us that one factor was imperative: flexibility. Because their time was limited, they needed a program that fit their schedule. Meaningful learning requires time and energy, and a high-quality accredited graduate program must meet certain expectations. So while we couldn’t reduce the time needed to earn a degree, what we could do was infuse our program with flexibility so that teachers could make it work with their busy schedules.
“You get what you pay for” can be good advice, but it’s not always true. Better advice is to seek maximum value for minimum cost. Many Lutheran schools are tremendous values. Parents who choose Lutheran schools get more than they pay for because their children receive a quality education together with the gospel of Jesus at a low cost. The tuition at most Lutheran schools reflects the goal to freely share the gospel, not turn a profit. Like Lutheran schools, the MLC graduate studies program is a tremendous value.
Martin Luther College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The commission accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states, including the state universities and colleges in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. MLC is approved to offer the Master of Science in Education degree. Why is this accreditation important?
Professional growth is one way many Christian teachers seek to serve their schools and students faithfully. While educators use advanced study to better meet their current duties, these learning experiences are also God’s way of preparing them for future opportunities to serve him, his church, and their neighbors.
People sometimes use the expression “thinking outside the box” to describe the importance of taking on a new or fresh perspective. When teachers seek graduate studies, they are looking for an outside perspective. MLC Graduate Studies makes it a priority to provide its graduate students with perspectives that represent the best and latest ideas in education.
At the end of each semester, graduate students are asked to complete a 46-item end-of-course survey. An impressive 87% of students enrolled in summer graduate courses completed their surveys. People often wonder whether their voice actually matters or whether what they say gets lost in some survey black hole. While individual identities remain anonymous, the data and comments from each MLC graduate course are carefully reviewed by both the instructor and the director, and recommendations are made as a result. Here are some things we learned:
Some teachers have been heard to say, “The best part of teaching is . . . June, July, and August.” While most teachers I know use their summer to prepare for a successful school year, the summer break also provides the chance for them to spend more time with their own children, visit relatives, explore the country, or pursue a hobby. What about teachers who take courses during the summer? Don’t they ever get a chance to rest? I had an interesting conversation about that with some teachers who were on the MLC campus taking a summer school course recently.
The title caught my attention: “Master’s Degree in English: Will Mow Lawns.” This article appeared in the November issue of Chronicle of Higher Education. It tells of the increasing number of graduate students earning degrees for which there is no market or use in the real world. It reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with undergraduate students and some existing teachers.
Why is the Martin Luther College graduation ceremony a special celebration? It is a worship service to praise the Lord for the gifts he has provided to his church. We celebrate the blessings that God gives us in people who have dedicated their lives in service to the church and are prepared for entry into ministry or seminary training. While we are used to recognizing the accomplishment of the bachelor’s degree recipients, it is equally important to publicly recognize those who earn their master’s degree.
MLC conducted a needs assessment before beginning its master's degree program to learn what kind of program WELS teachers wanted. After all, Martin Luther College is the WELS College of Ministry. Our teachers told us they want to become better at the things they do each day. Mostly they teach, but they also serve as leaders and help students with special needs. MLC listened.
For many of the MLC graduate students, the classroom is more than teaching. It’s about ministry. So while they are concerned with helping students learn to read, to make calculations, to write clearly, and to understand their place in the world, their passion is guiding children to trust in their Savior and to grow in God’s love. Their “job” is to help students understand God’s wisdom and love while providing instruction in the sciences and the humanities.
MLC’s 12 adjunct professors are valuable to our graduate students. Through their guidance, MLC graduate students can step outside the boundaries of Martin Luther College and expand the possibilities they see in ministry. While our nine on-campus graduate faculty members provide expertise and ministry experience, our adjuncts supply our students with a new perspective.
The movie "The Social Network" was one of the most popular films of 2010. Not long ago, technology was associated with increased isolation, but a recent Pew Research Center study found that using modern technology actually leads to greater socialization. The MLC master’s program uses technology to encourage peer interaction. This emphasis on social interaction helps teachers in our online master’s program learn.
December is one of those crazy months for teachers. Christmas service preparations, party planning, special worship services, extra choir rehearsals, faculty gatherings, and the start of the basketball season add to an already full schedule. Our students get wound up as the days near Christmas. For the graduate student, final semester projects come due. Is it Christmas break yet? Help!
I am frequently asked how I like my new position as director of MLC’s graduate program. My response is that I really enjoy it because I get to support teachers on the front lines of Gospel ministry. God uses faith-filled teachers in Lutheran schools to defeat the “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12) in a spiritual battle for the eternal souls of children. It is my privilege to help in holding up the teachers’ hands when they get tired.
October can be a difficult month in education. The school year begins with renewed zeal, fresh ideas, and inspired plans. But within a few months the stresses involved with decision-making and people management sap the energy stored from the summer. Students don’t succeed as we planned. Parents express concerns. Differing priorities between colleagues leads to friction and misunderstanding. For the graduate student, course deadlines and assignments loom. The optimism of a fresh start can give way to a grim reality. Are teaching and getting my master’s degree worth it?
Just think what could be done if only we had enough time and money! How often a congregation passes on a ministry opportunity because of a lack of time and money. Called workers, too, may use the boundaries of time and money as limits in their own ministry. For example, although 91.3%* of WELS teachers believe that continuing education is necessary for their ministries, 73.7%** list time and money as the key factors for not doing it.
What a joy! Nearly every day I get to meet a current or prospective MLC graduate student. As I listen to each person’s story, I thank God for providing educational leaders who are making a difference for the children, families and churches they serve. One student at a time, these teachers make real differences that impact real lives.