If April Mason were to become the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s next chancellor, she said she would enter the job with a clear understanding that Nebraska is not in need of a massive overhaul or a radical change of course.
“There is no repaving to be done, but building – and opportunities and possibilities,” the current provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University said during a Feb. 24 open forum at the Nebraska Union Auditorium.
Instead, Mason – the second of four finalists vying to follow Harvey Perlman as the university’s leader – said she would work to maintain Nebraska’s positive momentum, even as she leads a continuous conversation about what kind of institution it wants to be.
And while she emphasized that the next phase of growth will require visionary leadership, the key element to charting sustainable growth and progress is a collective effort from all corners of campus.
“Staff, students, faculty and administrators (can) take something … with a foundation of great strength to an even higher aspirational goal,” she said. “But it can only be done … by deciding what the goal is together; and then working together to make that happen.”
She pointed to three decades of experience at three land-grant universities – Purdue, Colorado State and now Kansas State – as evidence of her ability to gather consensus and move strategically while tending to the triple land-grant mission of teaching, research and engagement.
“One aspect of the land-grant university is being sure there is access to education, and I think that’s critically important,” she said.
Since her arrival at Kansas State in 2010, Mason has worked closely with the president as a key driver of the K-State 2025 strategic plan and is committed to helping KSU become a top 50 public research university by 2025.
She chairs the University Budget Advisory Committee, works closely with the university’s foundation and president on KSU’s comprehensive development campaign, is responsible for academic reporting to the Kansas Board of Regents, and is on several boards, including KSU Athletics and the Kansas State University Research Foundation.
Mason also is chair of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities Council on Academic Affairs and as president of the newly formed Association of Chief Academic Officers, an affiliate organization of the American Council on Education.
“I see wonderful opportunities at UNL that are very close to the skills and abilities I have in my tool chest,” she said, specifically citing strategic planning and setting aspirational goals.
She said it was clear that joining the Big Ten in 2011 was transformational, and one of its effects has been an ongoing comparison to Nebraska’s new conference peers. That’s familiar to what has also happened at KSU in the past five years. Mason has helped lead K-State in evaluating how it stands among its peers and in setting goals to improve.
Those initiatives must have very clear guidelines and measurements, so if course corrections are necessary they can be made quickly, Mason said.
In response to questions from faculty and staff, Mason shared her ideas and support for eliminating gaps for at-risk students, cross-campus collaboration, shared university governance and support for faculty and students. She also emphasized her experience in the area of athletics as a member of the K-State athletics board.
In addition to the back-to-back sessions with staff and faculty Feb. 24, Mason also met with students and the media. On Feb. 25, she will host sessions with research faculty at 9:45 a.m. and will welcome the public to an open forum at 10:30 a.m.
After Mason’s visit, the final two candidates – Daniel Reed of the University of Iowa and Ronnie Green of Nebraska – will host forums next week. For all four finalists’ campus visit schedules, click here.
Earlier this week, the first chancellor finalist, Oregon State Provost Sabah Randhawa, met with various university stakeholders during a similar set of campus forums.
University of Nebraska system officials are encouraging the campus community to attend the forums and share its feedback on the finalists. Click here to submit thoughts on Mason’s visit.
NU System President Hank Bounds will make the final selection of the next UNL chancellor, subject to approval by the NU Board of Regents. Detailed and updated information on the chancellor search is available here.