Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Retired)
Jackie Spears, Ph.D., is the former associate dean for academic affairs. She has served in this role from September 2018 to June 2019, restarting it in June 2022. She retired in January 2023.
As the associate dean for academic affairs, Spears oversees and guides the various degree programs, enrollment and recruitment efforts at the Olathe campus. Her priorities are on strengthening the campus' existing academic programs in animal health, food safety and security; working closely with the Manhattan campus to provide access to students and industry in Greater Kansas City; and establishing partnerships with community, private and public colleges in the region as a way to further develop a pipeline to Kansas State University's degrees for students living and working in the metro region.
Spears also is a collaborator on a U.S. Department of Agriculture-backed project that helps high school teachers in Kansas and Missouri develop robust curricula and educational materials around biotechnology and animal health. The goal is to inspire and educate the next generation of talent who will work at the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, in Manhattan and at other federal facilities and companies throughout the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.
Prior to restarting her role as associate dean for academic affairs, Spears served as interim dean and CEO of the campus from June 2019 until June 2022. Under her leadership, K-State Olathe experienced an increase in student credit hours; navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and had no outbreaks related to campus activities; and saw a number of programs grow, including professional development programming and clientele numbers at the Food Innovation Accelerator.
Spears has served in various roles at Kansas State University since 1985 and has been a part of the university's Olathe campus for most of its operations.
Spears first joined the Olathe campus in 2012, serving as interim associate dean for academic and research programs. In July 2013, she also was named acting CEO of the campus and served in both capacities until December 2013. Following these interim leadership roles in Olathe, Spears resumed her full-time roles at the Manhattan campus as a professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the Center for Science Education in the College of Education.
In January 2016, she once again joined the Olathe campus in a part-time role that focused on helping regional school districts and higher education strategically reform and improve STEM education so that students' knowledge and skills better translate to industry needs. She also worked with higher education on putting more emphasis on STEM-based bachelor's and master's degrees so that the universities can better meet the industry needs for an increasingly qualified workforce.
Throughout her tenure at Kansas State University, Spears has been a long serving member of the faculty senate.
Spears earned a bachelor's and master's degrees in physics, a doctorate in curriculum and instruction — all from Kansas State University.