Marvin Windows and Door Company is a manufacturer in Warroad, Minn. In the early 2000s, the company teamed up with the University of Minnesota Crookston to give their employees an opportunity to take online courses and get a degree from the university. Marvin Windows offered scholarships to employees who were interested in the opportunity and covered a majority of the expenses related to tuition, books, and other fees. There are a number of people at the company who have a degree from UMN Crookston because of this partnership, and one of them is Jerem Haack.
“Getting this degree has given me the opportunity to advance within the company and to better my life, my family’s life, and be successful in not only the community but within Marvin.”
Having earned an associate degree in industrial mechanical maintenance onsite through Marvin Windows, he planned to transition to another university for a bachelor's degree in applied engineering. Due to a number of issues, including many of his courses not transferring, those plans fell through. Haack decided to send his transcripts to UMN Crookston. All of his credits transferred, and he was able to save about three years of schooling. He received his bachelor's in manufacturing management (BMM) and bachelor's in manufacturing management quality management (BMM QM) in 2015.
Taking on an online degree while working full time was no easy feat. To complete assignments, Haack would normally stay at work and use his computer during the week and study at home on the weekends. He did not miss any of his children’s sporting events, something that was extremely important to him. He carved out as much time as he could to get things done promptly. He felt connected to his instructors, even before the age of video conferencing, because there was a lot of communication over email. If he had questions, Haack would email his instructors and they were always quick to reply with guidance. He fondly remembers Christo Robberts, his advisor who also taught many of the classes he took. Specifically, he recalls how Robberts looked at the courses he was taking and pointed out how with just a few more classes, he could earn a double-major. He’s grateful Robberts discovered that possibility and helped him implement it in his online degree.
The degree Haack received through UMN Crookston has given him multiple opportunities for job changes at Marvin Windows. Rather than taking on these jobs at multiple different companies, he notes how he was able to do it all under the same roof at Marvin Windows. He started out in engineering where he designed and acquired equipment for the company and later moved to reliability engineering, where he was responsible for the reliability of the equipment in the plant. While in that position, he continued going to school at UMN Crookston, which gave him the opportunity to go back to engineering as the supervisor for the equipment group. He supervised them for multiple years and later moved to be a supervisor in maintenance. At that point, he had earned his degree. “Getting this degree has given me the opportunity to advance within the company and to better my life, my family’s life, and be successful in not only the community but within Marvin,” he said. Recently, Haack has transitioned to maintenance manager of wood processing at Marvin Windows. One of his proudest moments at Marvin Windows was working with research and development in designing a process and the equipment for a new product line. He calls it quite the adventure, remembering there was a lot of moving parts and deadlines to meet during that project.
Looking back at his experience, Haack states it was a good journey and has helped him get to where he is today. Now, he lives in the country with his wife of 19 years and four children, who range in age from six to 18 years old. They live south of Graceton, Minn., and enjoy the privacy with their closest neighbor being half a mile away. He enjoys woodworking and has made desks, shelves, and other simple things that give him an opportunity to decompress and relieve stress. It’s something he can do and have a final product to be proud of. As a family, they enjoy camping and the outdoors. His children are in hockey, track, and basketball. Haack and his son recently toured the UMN Crookston campus in September of 2021, this being the first time on campus for both of them. He is interested in pursuing a career in sports medicine and is considering following the path of his father by attending UMN Crookston, but in person. His favorite part about visiting campus was seeing the layout, looking at the dorms, admiring the many green spaces, and learning more about the different activities offered to students throughout the year. “The thing that impressed me the most was that a professor took time to sit down with my son and actually talk him through what he was looking at for a degree,” he said. This instructor took him through expectations for the major, what his path would look like, and what he could actually do with the degree. Haack didn’t find that anywhere else they toured together.
Haack’s story gives some insight into what life was like for online alumni of UMN Crookston. He says his favorite part about being an online student was the flexibility. Similar to the freedom some may have felt working from home during the pandemic, he was able to take a number of courses that worked for his lifestyle. It is inspiring to see the way someone can have a full-time job, raise a family, never miss an important event, and advance in their career by pursuing an online degree from UMN Crookston.
Written for the Winter 2022 Torchlight e-Newsletter.