A Career in Education

Dean Haar to Retire End of June

June 06, 2024 |

After serving 14 years as the Dean of the College of Education, Jean Haar is retiring this June. She leaves a lasting impact on Minnesota State University, Mankato; its College of Education; the field of education; and individual students, teachers, administrators, faculty, and staff who have become long-time admirers and friends. Photo of Jean Haar

Haar began her career at Minnesota State Mankato in 2002 as faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership. In 2010, she became the dean of the College of Education.

There have been many challenges in education over the last 21 years: evolving licensing requirements for teachers in Minnesota, financial constraints, changing politics and expectations on preK-12 teachers, to name a few. It hasn’t all been easy, but Haar feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to make a difference.

Her impact can be seen across the college and university: adding 11 master's and two doctoral programs; increasing annual student scholarship support by more than $300,000 dollars; securing $9.2 million in total grant program funding; adopting and enacting a bold equity-focused mission and vision; saving and growing the Department of Aviation; significantly expanding student support services; achieving and maintaining six accreditations; and advancing partnerships with external organizations.

In 2019, the College updated its mission and vision statement to include a focus on racial consciousness and social justice. That change led to difficult and courageous conversations about how the new mission would be reflected in College policies. “Some of the conversations got a bit spicy,” said Natalie Rasmussen, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and graduate coordinator of the educational leadership doctoral program. “Dean Haar gave space for different viewpoints, but her commitment to the mission did not waiver.”

Rob McGregor, general manager of North Star Aviation, which provides flight training for aviation students, said that although aviation was out of Haar’s area of expertise, she was committed to the program’s success. “She is not afraid to admit she doesn’t know everything. She lets experts guide her. And when the time comes, she’s not afraid to make the hard call,” he said. “We knew early on she was in our corner.” Under Haar’s leadership, the Department of Aviation has grown from 23 to 700+ students, 8 to 95 flight instructors, and 4 to 40 planes.

University members cutting the ceremonial ribbon for the Aviation SimLab

In addition to her legacy at the university, Haar has made a significant impact in the field of education. “Jean has helped strengthen the education infrastructure in Minnesota. She is known for the work she has done and for the work her students have done throughout the state,” said University President Edward Inch.

Jeff Elstad, the superintendent of Owatonna Public Schools, says Haar has been a compassionate, solution-focused and collaborative leader. “Part of my job is making sure the [Owatonna’s] education system is running and we hire good people,” Elstad said. “Our partnership with Minnesota State Mankato has been a big part of us making strides toward that vision.”

Haar is uncomfortable taking sole credit for the progress. “I have been surrounded by people who genuinely want to be here for the right reasons,” she said. “It's fun when you Dean Haar at the microphone.can bring them together and start thinking about ways we can improve a program or an experience and figure out how to make it happen.

“Collaborative leadership requires everyone to have some ownership in the decisions. It requires creativity to find ways around obstacles, identify who to talk to, develop different approaches, identify outcomes, and outline a path to get there. My job is to get rid of all the garbage that is interrupting progress.”

Haar’s tenure has been marked by incredible progress. While the number of state teacher prep programs is dwindling, the University’s program is growing. Placement rates in every program exceed 90 percent. The college maintains six different accreditations. The Department of Aviation went from targeted for closure to being one of the largest programs on campus.

“This has been the best place. We try to focus on the student, and there is a certain collegiality and collaboration here that isn’t always present at other institutions,” said Haar. “Sometimes you get lucky.”

As Haar ends her tenure, Dr. Mwarumba Mwavita has been appointed to serve as the new dean of the College of Education.