KEARNEY – Tim Jares isn’t wasting any time in his new position with the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The dean of UNK’s College of Business and Technology packed his schedule with meetings with faculty and staff so he can learn more about each department, the people who work there and their visions for the future.
Needless to say, he likes what he’s heard so far.
“The college is in a great place to build to the next level,” said Jares, who was hired in March and took over as dean July 1. “I’m not coming into anything that’s broken. Tim Burkink and the faculty have done a terrific job here.”
Burkink, who served as the college’s dean for 11 years, is now the full-time director of UNK’s Office of International Education.
A former assistant/associate dean, department chair and professor of finance at the University of Northern Colorado’s Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business, Jares accepted the UNK position for a variety of reasons.
It’s closer to family for the Mitchell, South Dakota, native and his wife Jayne, who was raised on a farm near Schuyler in eastern Nebraska. And he’s excited about all the opportunities within the College of Business and Technology.
“This college has a lot of strengths,” Jares said. “No. 1 are the people, from faculty and staff, all the way around. I’ve been very impressed with the work ethic and just how comfortable people make you feel.”
Jares called the faculty an “unselfish” group focused on students.
“They help students get the experiences they need and they help students get placed,” he said. “And our placement records are pretty darn impressive. Our students get jobs and most of them stay in this region, which is important. Many of them grew up around here and they know it’s a great place to live.”
Jares, who spent 12 years as a software/systems engineer and technical consultant in the Omaha area before earning his doctoral degree in finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, believes his professional and academic experiences align well with the College of Business and Technology’s mission.
“The mix of programs in CBT is fairly diverse, but it actually fits better with my background than most people,” Jares said. “There aren’t too many business deans who have a technology background or too many technology-related deans who have a business background, and I have both.”
The college’s range of programs – from finance, marketing and accounting to family studies, interior and product design and supply chain management to aviation, agribusiness and cyber systems – is another strength, according to Jares.
He plans to promote interdisciplinary partnerships that foster research, instruction and experiential learning opportunities across multiple academic areas.
“We talk about breaking down silos and working across disciplines, so I want to do more and more to facilitate cross-disciplinary research and teaching and integrate these things across the college,” he said.
This includes creating new spaces within West Center where students can work on group projects and faculty can gather to discuss teaching techniques, brainstorm new program ideas or collaborate on research. He’s also planning a barbecue about a month from now that will bring more students and faculty to the west side of campus.
“We want people over here to show them what we’re doing,” Jares said.
One building that will certainly command attention is the new STEM facility under construction just north of West Center. The 90,000-square-foot building scheduled for completion next spring is part of a $30 million project that replaces the 64-year-old Otto Olsen industrial arts building. It will house seven academic departments and feature cutting-edge technology in science, technology, engineering and math.
“I’m pretty darn excited about that building and I think it’s going to be a nice shot in the arm for the college and the university,” Jares said.
Most of the programs currently housed in Otto Olsen will move to the STEM facility. Those include construction management, industrial distribution, interior and product design, aviation and cyber systems. Mathematics and statistics are relocating there from Warner Hall, and physics, astronomy and engineering are shifting from Bruner Hall of Science.
Jares expects the new research labs, simulated work areas and state-of-the-art equipment to wow current and prospective students.
“There are those kinds of things throughout the building that I think will be quite impressive,” he said.
The STEM building is paid for by renewal bonds and through state appropriation from LB858, the University of Nebraska Facilities Program of 2016. That appropriation directed deferred maintenance funding to facility replacement projects, including the Otto Olsen building.
Moving forward, Jares will be looking for additional community support for improvement projects within the college.
“One of the things that I think will be important for us to move to the next level is to get more buy-in from businesses and donors,” he said.
Jares, who was an assistant professor of finance at the University of North Florida before joining Northern Colorado in 2001, is also a member of the new strategic enrollment management committee formed to boost student recruitment and retention efforts at UNK.
Within the College of Business and Technology, Jares said a new hire will focus mainly on recruiting. He also has his sights set on Colorado, where he recently returned for an outreach trip with the UNK Alumni Association.
“UNK is an incredible value relative to any four-year university in the state of Colorado,” Jares said, referencing the Advantage Scholarship that offers in-state tuition rates for Colorado residents who enroll at UNK as undergraduate students.
“That’s a phenomenal opportunity and I don’t think we’ve started to really take advantage of that yet,” he added.