Dr. Tisa Mason, president of Valley City State University and former vice president for Student Affairs at Fort Hays State University, was named the 10th president of Fort Hays State University during a Board of Regents meeting at FHSU today.
The board voted unanimously to appoint Mason.
“As the board thought about what type of leadership would be best to carry Fort Hays State University forward, we looked for a candidate with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that would be able to carry forward the goals of our Foresight 2020, which is our strategic plan for higher education in Kansas,” Board of Regents Chairman David Murfin said. “Equally important was identifying someone who was capable of advancing Fort Hays State’s tradition of providing accessible, high quality education to our state and the community.”
Mason said trying to hold back tears, “As Dorothy said, ‘There is no place like home.’ It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to work with you again — people I know to be valued colleagues who care about students and serve with a spirit of restlessness always evolving and innovating in ways that matter.”
Mason thanked the Board of Regents and the search committee.
“I was lucky to call myself a member of the Fort Hays State University community for several years, and I have many fond memories of the students, faculty and staff, so toady I am absolutely thrilled to rejoin this great institution to rekindle old friendships and many new ones as we work together to carry this university into the future.
“I am excited to lead an institution that has a leadership team with synergy and vision, with a faculty that thrive on excellence and engagement with students and staff who are committed to removing barriers to student success and celebrating their personal transformation. And to the students, I am eager to get to know you and your hopes and dreams and how you want to make a difference in this world.”
Students, faculty, staff and community members nearly filled the lower level of the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center for the announcement.
“I know starting this journey that I am warmed by a fire that others have built,” she said. “I look forward to honoring the past as we build our future together. Thank you for this magnificent homecoming. It is fabulous to be back in Hays, America.”
In a short interview before the announcement, Mason said she hoped to build relationships during her transition and create goals together. She spoke about her first actions as president.
“Obviously, relationship building, getting out and talking to people, hopefully hosting some listening sessions and, again, getting to know people,” she said. “Even though I have been here for six and half years, there are some new players and I want to come back with some new eyes, relearn the institution and fall in love with it all over again. And then really focusing on the leadership team and make sure we are moving together with some clarity with our next step forward.”
Mason said she will continue to work on enrollment growth. She worked on enrollment projects while VP of student affairs at FHSU, and Valley City State recorded record enrollment growth and retention under her direction. Mason said she had some ideas should would bring from Valley City State, but would listen to and learn from the FHSU faculty and staff on what may be best for the FHSU campus. Valley City State had a strong virtual presence, with 46 percent of its students taking online courses.
“I think the best ideas come from listening and listening to other people’s voices,” she said. “I’ve got lots of thoughts, but I want to spend the next few months getting to know everyone and the institution once again on a very deep level.”
Mason said she hopes to build on what she learned at Valley City State.
Valley City State University was able to set up a three-year undergraduate program under Mason’s guidance and was able to pursue new revenue opportunities as it was getting ready to add an activated carbon plant to its heat plant. Mason also had the opportunity to work closely with the community on workforce development, something she hopes to carry over into her new job at FHSU.
Mason said she thought she was coming into a university that has kept tuition low and has a strong financial outlook.
“When you invest your money personally, they tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket, and that what this institution has done. It has diversified its revenue sources with … the China program to understanding and being a leader in distance education. With the disruption of technology and everything changing so fast, this institution is so poised to build on a strong history for an amazing future.”
Mason said her decision to leave FHSU to take the job at Valley City State was difficult. She thought she would stay at Valley City, but the call came for the job here and she decided this was going to be part of journey.
“I think that I am uniquely qualified because I have been a successful president. I have been at a lot of different institutions, so I bring a lot of best practices from different institutions, and I spent six and half years here. I know this institution very well. I am an external candidate, and an internal candidate and successful president.”
Joey Linn, FHSU vice president for student affairs, worked under Mason when she was VP of student affairs.
“I am excited to have her back on campus and taking leadership of the university,” he said. “I am absolutely confident that she will propel Fort Hays into the future and do great things while she is our new president.”
Linn continued, “I think Fort Hays should feel confident that it was able to attract a candidate as good as her. I am sure she had a lot of options for her future. For her to be interested in coming back and being president of the Fort, I think says a lot for what we have done as a university. With her as our leader and president, there is no level to what we can do into 2020 and 2025. I am excited to get her here and begin working with her again.”
Mason applied for the FHSU president’s job in 2014, but Mirta Martin was selected instead. Martin resigned Nov. 23 2016 and was replaced by interim president Andy Tompkins.
A native of Massachusetts, Mason also served as dean of student life at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater in Whitewater, Wis.; executive director of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and Foundation in Indianapolis, Ind.; director of student life and assistant professor at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va.; and assistant dean of students, Hanover College, Hanover, Ind.
In 2013, Mason received the Robert H. Shaffer Award from the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors for her long-term commitment to fostering positive change in fraternities and sororities. She received the Excellence in Service to Students Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success in the same year.
Her academic credentials include a Doctor of Education degree in higher education from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.; a Master of Science degree in education from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology/anthropology from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.
“The Presidential Search Committee did an outstanding job in identifying such an excellent candidate for us,” said Regent Joe Bain, an FHSU alumnus. “The members of the Board are also grateful to Dr. Andy Tompkins for his leadership of FHSU as Interim President.”