A diverse background. Familiarity with FHSU staff and faculty, as well as the campus and community of Hays. Experienced in presidential transitions.

Those are all reasons why Tisa Mason thinks she would be the right choice for serving as the next president at Fort Hays State University.

Mason, 53, is one of five finalists to succeed Edward Hammond, the longest tenured president at FHSU who announced during the fall semester he would be stepping down from his position this summer after 27 years at the helm.

"I am truly committed to Fort Hays State University," Mason began, in answer to the question from the audience "Why you?" at Tuesday morning's news conference.

"I am energized by the truly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of this college; indeed, it's what attracted me to the university and why I wanted to come and work here," said Mason, who has served in one of the top three administrative posts at FHSU -- vice president for student affairs -- for nearly six years.

A native of Massachusetts, Mason received her bachelor's degree from Transylvania University in Kentucky, her master's from Eastern Illinois University and her doctorate from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. She later taught or worked in student life at several four-year institutions in Indiana and Virginia.

Along the way, Mason became familiar with having to adjust to new leadership as there was a changing of the guard at all but one of the institutions at which she worked.

"I have worked under seven presidents," said Mason, adding that gave her the opportunity to "absorb their leadership styles and to shape my own philosophy and work style."

Mason said her "leadership will emphasize TLC -- transparency, listening and collaboration."

"My expectation would be that we come together and think of ourselves collectively as guardians of Fort Hays State University," she said. "For I believe it is our collective talents, not the talents of one person, but our collective talents that will propel us into an extraordinary future."

Mason said "key elements" under her leadership would be "continued effort to focus on retention and graduation, diversifying our international partnership portfolio and further enhancing our relationship with business and industry in new and meaningful ways."

Mason said she has learned a lot while working with Hammond, who has been instrumental in more than doubling the university's enrollment during his presidency, from 5,538 in 1987 to 13,000-plus this year. The Chronicle of Higher Education named FHSU the third-fastest growing university in the United States.

"I really appreciate ... one of the things I've learned from President Hammond is his training in debate," she said. "He's able to really hone in on looking at issues in multiple perspectives, and that helps (in making) informed decisions. He gives me different perspectives that I haven't thought of."

Mason came to FHSU in 2008 after working as dean of student life at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Before that, she had served as executive director of Sigma Kappa Sorority and Foundation in Indianapolis for 10 years.

Mason called serving as vice president for student affairs at FHSU "a life-changing opportunity."

"I believe it has prepared me well to serve as the next president," she told the group of FHSU faculty and staff at Tuesday's news conference. "As your president, I would gratefully and proudly accept the baton being passed from President Edward Hammond and build upon an incredible legacy and continue to nurture our many gifts and our many talents to fulfill our mission in extraordinary ways."

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Each of the five finalists for the next president at Fort Hays State University are being brought to Hays for a day-and-a-half visit that includes a tour of campus, a public reception and a news conference.

The next reception is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Stouffer Lounge of FHSU's Memorial Union. The name of the second finalist was to be released at noon today. Receptions for the final three finalists will be April 1, 7 and 10, all at 4:30 p.m. at a venue on campus to be named at the time of the announcement of the candidate's name.

The search committee will submit its candidate recommendations to the Kansas Board of Regents at the conclusion of the campus visits. The board anticipates naming the ninth president of FHSU by late April and to assume office by July 1.