Julie Schroeder-Biek has run the collegiate athletics gamut. An early beneficiary of Title IX, she competed in volleyball at Southwestern Michigan University, the University of Wisconsin, and Saint Mary's College. She went on to coach the Belles for 15 seasons, leading Saint Mary's to nearly 200 wins while holding the distinction of being the only volleyball coach in the history of the program to have multiple 20+ win seasons. More recently, she has been serving as the Director of Athletics at Saint Mary's since the fall of 2008.
During her coaching years, Schroeder-Biek was at the helm of a program that was searching for identity as a newly-established NCAA Division III independent.
"When you are an independent college, recognition opportunities for our student-athletes are scarce," said Schroeder-Biek. "You do not have 'all-conference' or 'player of the week'. The first level of recognition was All-Region. Your last game was your last game. You don't have that closure to the season when you’re not in a conference."
During her coaching tenure, she was involved in the College's application process for joining the MIAA. That process included the various conference coaching committees conducting interviews of the Saint Mary's coaching staff. It was a part of the process Schroeder-Biek enjoyed because the Belles had several MIAA members regularly on the schedule in volleyball and other sports alike.
Also during that process, Schroeder-Biek recalled Saint Mary's as a school understanding and seeing how they could fit into the MIAA.
"When we look at these league schools, they're so like us. Many of them have religious affiliation, they're private, academic standards were pretty similar. The biggest question was that we didn't know if the MIAA would take us since we were an Indiana school."
In 1997, Saint Mary's was invited to join the MIAA, marking the first time in the conference's history that the league added members outside of Michigan. From that point onward, the scope of Saint Mary's Athletics has changed.
"It was wonderful for me as a coach to see my players able to get conference recognition. Our season had a new purpose. It gave us a route (to the postseason). It gave us a better plan for our teams."
The transition for the College was an easy one according to Schroeder-Biek. "With the MIAA, our institutions are very like-minded. We do a very good job of keeping the student-athletes central to our purpose, and we know that this is why we are here - we care."
That notion of caring could not have been more evident in the fall of 2008 when Schroeder-Biek was the head coach of the Belles volleyball program and interim athletic director. "The other athletic directors in the MIAA are the most supportive group I could imagine. I could call them up and ask 'What am I doing?' The whole support group was fantastic. On the court, we're competing, we're opponents, but we are one league. We learn from each other, we bounce things off each other. It's very much working together and really taking our duties seriously and know that we're helping the conference, our coaches, and our kids."