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Chat with new Provost April Mason

This is the official chat transcript from March 08, 2010. It reads top-to-bottom.

Dalton Henry asks:What have you enjoyed most about your move to K-State?

April Mason Hello fellow Wildcats! I am just finishing my second month as Provost and Senior Vice President here at K-State. In two months I have learned so much about the University and about Kansas, and I am still learning. I am very happy to be on this chat this evening. I will answer questions as best I can. Being new, there may be things I do not know. I commit that I will find answers to any question I do not know and will post answers to this site. So let's begin. What have I enjoyed most about my move? Meeting new people--lots of them. The K-State community has been very welcoming to me from students to faculty, staff and administration. I enjoy meeting new people, interacting with those who have different ideas and experiences from me.

Dena Bunnel asks:What made you want to get into higher education?

April Mason What made me want to get into higher education? That is a hard question to answer because I have really wanted to be in higher education forever. I was an undergraduate in Biology and knew that I would go on to graduate school. In graduate school I saw what a career in higher education would afford me in terms of opportunity and I never looked back. I enjoy the higher education environment very much.

Amy Schultz asks:Provost Mason - Can you talk about any improvements you have in mind for academic advising, particulary in the College of Arts and Sciences?

April Mason Advising is an important issue. I am unfamiliar as yet with how advising is done in the College of Arts and Sciences, but I will talk with Interim Dean Spooner about this. Every student, irregardless of their college or major, is responsible for knowing the degree requirements of their major(s). The best advising sessions are those that the student is prepared for and works with the advising person to plan.

Dena Bunnel asks:What makes K-State students different from students at CSU? and how have you transitioned?

April Mason I am not sure that students at K-State are so very different than students at Colorado State. I have been very fortunate to work with wonderfully commited students at both institutions. I have been very impressed with the degree of engagement of student leaders here at K-State. Your student leaders represent the student body in so many ways and so professionally. You make us proud!

Ashley Joerger asks:Many students who are double majoring have problems with their advisors being on the same page when it comes to making sure they are taking classes that fulfill both requirements or that are necessary for their majors. What would you suggest doing to help make sure that both the students and their advisors are consistently on the same page?

April Mason I may have answered this in the previous question regarding advising in the College of Arts and Sciences. Being on the same page as one's advisor is critical. Preparing for an advising session is important, asking questions and keeping a record of the discussions you have with the advisor is important. Double majors are particularly challenging to the student wanting to stay in line for completing multiple requirements. Talk with advisors. Keep them informed on your plans. No surprises is a good motto! Advisors in one area cannot know requirements for all other areas.

Annarose Hart asks:Why doesn't K-state require all students to take one 3 hour course on agriculture since we are a land grant institution?

April Mason You bring up an interesting point. I would suggest modifying your idea to propose that students be made aware of what the foundation of the land Grant University is--what legislation started the Land Grants, what the country was like when Land Grants were proposed, and how this innovative legislation helped shape the country we are now. The history is exciting. Instead of an agriculture class I might suggest a specific history session!

Katlyn Niederee asks:Because many students do not know, what is your main role as Provost? What goals do you have for this semester and in the future?

April Mason I think the most common question I have fielded since I was named Provost of K-State has been, "what does a provost do?" First off, lots of things is a start to the answer. the Provost is the chief academic officer of the university. I work directly with deans on curriculum, undergraduate and graduate offereings. I work with the provosts of the other Regents universities of the state to address higher education in the state. My office is charged to report to the Board of Regents of performance of the University. I serve on the President's Cabinet and a number of boards representing the University. My office has individuals who work in the area of diveristy, the Honors program, Leadership Studies, IT, engagement, library, continuing education, international programs, teaching and learning, --I am going to miss something here, but you see the scope and breadth of the responsibilities all focused in the area of academics.

Paul Mintner asks:Dr. Mason--How do you see Academia and Student Life working together as a team? Sometimes I feel like these two areas are treated mutually exclusive of one another.

April Mason You should have seen my week last week. Vice President Bosco had a three day tour and introduction to all the Student Life offices on our campus for both Vice President Jeff Morris and myself. It was wonderful and I want to thank all the Student Life staff who made it possible. I hope that we can work hard to integrate the academic and student life aspects of our campus. One would not exist without the other. After my tour and meeting times, I feel I have a much deeper appreciation and understanding of student life and I will strive to keep us talking and coordinating together. Thanks for your question!

Kyle Merklein asks:You've had experience with being around a great college town at Fort Collins. That being said, what is your impression of Manhattan?

April Mason Now this answer may well surprise you. First impresson of Manhattan--a lot more hills than I every imagined! Fort Collins is at 5000 ft elevation, but is flat as a pancake. The foothills and then the Rocky mountains are right next to Fort Collins, but the town itself has virtually no elevation changes in town. I run up Manhattan Ave. most mornings and it is a bit of a climb from Anderson to Kimball!!

Paul Mintner asks:Dr. Mason--I'll graduate in a little over 2 months (sad!) and the one thing that I've felt like I've missed out on is studying abroad...but sometimes I've felt that's largely because the OIP and Study Abroad Office hasn't lent itself to being available, or my faculty haven't necessarily marketed the idea to me. Do you see the role of international engagement increasing for our campus as we potentially open recruitment offices in India, and start to see a more global network on our campus? In other words--will opportunities to grow through cultural experiences for American Students increase as we increase opportunities for other global citizens to come join us in the Little Apple?

April Mason What a great question. I grew up outside of the Unitied States. I also worked in China, Indonesia and Costa Rica. Each of these international opportunties affected me. I leanred from them, learned from the people I met and interacted with, became more open to different ideas and ways of doing things. I encourage all who can to consider studying abroad. This doesn't have to mean a whole semester. I will be sure to touch base with our Office of International Programs to share your concern and see if there are ways we can strengthen our outreach to students who want an international experience. Our world is truly global. All of us need an appreciation and understanding of different cultures. Study abroad is a great way to boraden our horizons.

Amy Schultz asks:I think many students have noticed an increase in their class sizes this semester as classes are being offered at fewer times, most likely due to budget cuts. Can you discuss any plans to remedy this situation, especially for math, science, and business classes that really need to have small student to faculty ratios for students to be successful?

April Mason Your observations are indeed real. As our state funding is decreased class sizes have increased to be sure classes are offered for the students who need them, but at a lower cost. Is this the best educational format? No. There is good research available to support smaller section sizes and lower student to faculty ratios to enhance learning. Our biggest problem right now is the amount of funding coming to the Univesity from the State. Our current economic situation is making staffing classes of appropriate sizes truly challenging. I wish I had a remedy.

Annarose Hart asks:Would it be possible to add an Elementary Education 'area of concentration' of Agriculture amongst ELED Curriculum possibilities?

April Mason I don't know the answer to this question, but I would be very happy to contact Dean Holen and find out. Stay tuned.

Phillip Harner asks:Dr. Mason-- as an engineer, I have a very structured curriculum, with limited flexibility in choosing electives. Yet when I interview with firms, they are increasingly looking for students with not only technical expertise, but a wide range of experience both in and out of their field. How can K-State's general education requirements help people like me that want a broader background, without delaying graduation?

April Mason You bring up a very important topic. Most employers are looking for students with a wide array of experiences and courses. We see this in many disciplines, not just engineering. I know you have few electives (if any) and general education requirements that must be fulfilled in advance of graduation. Courses are one way of diversifying your portfolio. Other ways ae to get involved in extracurricular activities. Use your summer employment to gather additional experience. We talked about studey abroad earlier in this chat. Use that opportunity if you can. there is only so much time and credit hour capacity in undergraduate careers. Use the time wisely!

Phillip Harner asks:Dr. Mason-- as someone who has been involved with the K-State Proud campaign for several years, helping raise money for students who have exhausted all other forms of financial aid, I've gotten just a glimpse of how students are struggling to stay in school giving the current economic climate. And yet, partially due to the economy, tuition continues to rise every year. How can K-State help bridge the gap between rising tuition and increasing need for financial aid among students?

April Mason I commend you for your work with K-State proud. As more pressure is put on tuition to assist us in this economy, we must build into our tuition modeling additional funds for financial aid. Vice Presidents Bosco and Schubert and I were just talking about this.

Paul Mintner asks:Dr. Mason: K-State has been my home for four years, and the faculty here are excellent. Just wanted to let you know that you've got a great place to be, and I'm excited to see what you'll do to help improve my alma mater for both those who work for K-State, and those who take classes here. Will you be doing anything similar to President Schulz' letters to campus? Students would love to know how they can help your vision, and how they fit in the upcoming exciting changes in the future!

April Mason What a great suggestion. I don't want to clutter anyone's in box, but communicating the academic vision of our University is important and could help us move forward together. I might add some sections to the President's messages. I think about it, and thank you for the suggestion.

Paul Mintner asks:Last semester, Governor Parkinson spoke to the KS Board of Regents about improving Universities in KS by increasing their retention rates, increasing rankings for our state's universities, and tracking graduates performances in their field. We've heard a bit from Dr. Schulz about his plan to make us a top-50 University, but where does retention come into this plan? In a time when budget cuts could really hurt higher education, and faculty suggest larger class sizes to help alleviate some of these issues, what is being done to balance a push for rankings, but also to keep the personal touch K-State offers students?

April Mason The balance of the personal touch and the push for higher rankings is a delicate one, but one I think we can accomplish. K-State has a culture, a hands on caring environment. We cannot give that up and I don't see us giving that us for national rankings. It is my belief that a top 50 university will still have a personal touch and attract the very best students, faculty, and staff to be a part of it.

Annarose Hart asks:How close do we measure up as a land grant university compared to the mission and standards of a land grant university when it was first established?

April Mason I think K-State measures up very well as a Land Grant University. We provide education to students, we conduct cutting edge resarch and discovery, and we reach out to individuals and communities to engage in collaborative projects. We listen to the residents of our state regarding their needs. The discovery of our campus community is shared throughout Kansas and the country...and yes, the world. K-State belongs to the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. The President and I are very committed to staying involved with that organization and representing K-State nationally as the Kansas Land Grant University.

John Porter asks:Provost Mason - Have you had any exposure to K-State's Engineering Department? If so, what did you think?

April Mason In my first month on campus I was invited to address the faculty of the College of Engineering by Dean English. I have also asked each Dean to set up tours of their college so I can see their facilities and meet faculty and staff in their areas. I am very much looking forward to that!

Matt Marchesini asks:What is your favorite memory of K-State so far in your short time here?

April Mason I have had some funny experiences brought on by my newness to K-State. Here is one I will share: I went to visit Athletics Director John Currie and got a bit turned around. I was late to my meeting as I was trying--unsuccessfully--to find it. John's staff called my office and they sent out a "lost Provost" alert. Pretty embarrassing! My favorite memory is how welcoming all of K-State has been to both my husband and me as we relocate here. Thank you!