CLC’s Charlier finds home in Minnesota

“There is something about small town living, it is the fiber of America,” Hara Charlier said.

Hara Charlier is finding everything she wants in a job and a lifestyle as President of Central Lakes College. “I grew up in rural areas and I love rural colleges,” she said, “There is something about small town living, it is the fiber of America,” she said.

In this rural setting, Charlier is finding the college also lines up with her educational mission, to connect with the community and business partners to provide student success. She loves CLC’s existing connections with area high schools and wants to continue with all of their partnerships.

She previously had been an administrator at a college in Virginia, so coming to Minnesota was a big move. “It feels terrific, I’m excited to be in Minnesota and it is great for our family,” she said. “The welcoming, the outreach of the faculty and staff, I can’t even describe it, it has been profound.”

Charlier first started learning about Minnesota years ago when a family member had a stay at Mayo Hospital in Rochester. “We talked to a lot of people and found them to be friendly and warm, proud and interested in the outdoors.”

That seed was planted and when the CLC position came up, she found it to be a very good fit.

When she came for her job, interview Charlier said her tour of the Lakewood Health System facility in Staples stood out, both as an impressive facility and as a resource for the college. She plans to learn more about workforce needs from all the industries where CLC students typically find jobs after earning a degree. “What more can we do to get the students ready, are the industries getting the talent they need?” she said.

Another thing that attracted Charlier to the job is the school’s stated mission, “To build futures.”

“That so well captures what we want to do, we will not waiver from that,” said Charlier.

She reiterated that Staples is an important part of the college. “We are very proud of renovation at Staples, now we have to find ways to get people onto the campus,” she said.

“Staples has been such a hub for technical programming,” said Charlier. “I expect it to remain that hub but I’m also identifying gaps and figuring how to fill them.”

For example, she said they’re looking at adding more general education classes in Staples. She also wants to get a permanent food service on campus.

She predicted there’ll be other changes, but she wants to listen to others before planning anything specific. In six months and beyond, we’ll hit the ground running with it,” she said.

“In the next 90 days I want to build relationships, get to know people within the college, our partners and people in the community,” said Charlier. “Together we can find opportunities we may not be capitalizing on, that’s the exciting part of the job.”

Charlier expects to spend a lot of time focusing on student success. While every college works on recruiting students, Charlier said retention is just as important.

“Whether they’re going right to the workforce or going to transfer and get a four year degree or higher, we must make sure students are getting the classes they need,” she said. 

She said the college is identifying clear pathways for students to take, from high school and beyond and make sure they’re taking the specific classes they need to make that pathway successful.

“This is a great college and we can make it an outstanding college by working together,” Charlier said. “The future is absolutely bright, I have found the right place here.”

Charlier said she will spend at least one day a week at the Staples campus, but other members of her administrative team will be on campus every day. “This campus is central to our mission, we need to have a presence here every day.” 

She said that Rebekah Kent will remain as interim dean for one year, when they will do a more formal search. “Rebekah has done a great job and we decided we want continuity for a year,” said Charlier.

Charlier and her family have moved to a home near Brainerd. Her husband Russ is a watchmaker and found a job with E.L. Menk in Brainerd. They have one daughter who will attend CLC and another will go to high school in Brainerd. 

Already one neighbor has invited Charlier over for coffee and another has brought homemade jam. “It feels special when they do things like that,” she said. 

That welcoming feeling is returned, as Charlier said she would like to hear from people with ideas for the college. “I’m eager to have those conversations,” she said.

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