About President Harder

President HarderPresident James M. Harder became the ninth president of Bluffton University in August 2006 after serving Bluffton as vice president for institutional planning for three years and before that as special assistant to the president and professor of economics. Prior to his positions at Bluffton, he was a professor of economics and business at Bethel College in Kansas for 11 years.

As Bluffton's vice president for institutional planning, Harder led strategic planning and integrated marketing processes, assisted the president in representing the university to external constituencies and planned and implemented special projects. He also served as chair of multiple committees including the University Implementation Committee (2003-04), Integrated Marketing Team (2001-05), Council on Strategic Planning (2001-present) and Strategic Planning Steering Committee (2005-06).


  • Bethel College, bachelor's degrees in history and economics/business administration, 1978

  • University of Notre Dame, master's and Ph.D. in economics, 1990

Through his subsequent academic research and as a teaching economist, Harder has achieved recognition. His academic specialization is global economic and social change, especially as it relates to developing countries and to environmental issues. His writing has been published in numerous periodicals and as chapters in edited volumes. Speaking engagements have regularly taken him to locations in both the U.S. and Canada.

General Conference Mennonite Church administration:

    • Board of trustees president within the Division of General Services Board of Directors (1989-98)
    • Church Extension Services Board secretary (1995-2004)

During the merging of Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, Harder was a member of the Transformation Team, Mennonite Church USA (1999-2001), working with nine individuals to design a new organizational strategy and structure for the merger. He has also participated on multiple search committees to secure denominational leaders for Mennonite Mutual Aid, Mennonite Publishing Network and Mennonite Church USA.

International service:

    • Volunteering with Mennonite Central Committee as a high school economics teacher in Kenya
    • Working with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Canadian International Development Agency on a $3.5 million agricultural technology project in Tanzania
    • Serving as a research consultant for MEDA in Togo and the Cameroons in West Africa.

These experiences have given Harder an understanding of the economic, religious and cultural forces that shape higher education and an understanding of the challenges present in keeping an institution on strong financial footing. His passion for academics and scholarship coupled with strong faith fuel his desire to make an impact on the world of Christian higher education and to make Bluffton a larger part of that world.


Jim and Karen Harder live in Bluffton with their daughter and son.