FHSU President Tisa Mason updates city commission on enrollment and future projects


Tiger Media Network

Fort Hays State University President Tisa Mason presented at the City Commission meeting on Thursday. 

Mason started out by giving an update on enrollment demographics. Fort Hays currently serves close to 17,000 students.

“As a long-term strategy, we continue to diversify our educational programs,” Mason said. 

Fort Hays has international partnerships with campuses in Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cambodia and Senegal. 

Additionally, students this year represent every county in Kansas, all 50 states, 47 countries and every branch of the military.  

Mason said the 20th-day enrollment totals were better than expected and enrollment is up in Kansas residents, first-year students, Hispanic students, on-campus housing and freshman retention. 

Assistant Professor of Informatics Jason Zeller then provided more information on Fort Hays’ Cybersecurity Institute and Technology Incubator (CITI).

CITI is a program funded by the State of Kansas to offer cybersecurity services to small and medium-sized businesses. 

Through CITI, students complete “micro-internships” which are small cybersecurity projects free to the participating businesses. Zeller said four projects in the Hays area are currently being worked on, but he hopes to expand that across the state in future years. These projects can span anything from web development to security audits. 

“Not only do we get to do this service for the businesses, but then Jason will get feedback on the soft skills of the students to help them be better as they go out into the field which is also important,” Mason said. 

Mason then discussed the affiliation between Fort Hays, North Central Kansas Technical College and Northwestern Technical College. Mason says the goal is to be able to admit students under the new structure by the fall of 2024.

“We have been strategic about the implementation process, ensuring that it is incremental, driven at the grassroots level by subject matter experts, and focused on crucial workforce priorities,” Mason said. 

As part of the affiliation, athletic teams at all three institutions will be under one brand. Both technical boards unanimously approved the rebranding, 

“There’s a lot of excitement, there’s a lot of concern, it’s hard to change your identity,” Mason said. 

Mason wrapped up the presentation looking ahead at FHSU’s four main legislation priorities for the year.

First, Fort Hays will ask the legislature for $15 million to add a second story to Stroup Hall as well as $400,000 to hire three more nursing faculty and a simulation lab coordinator. These improvements will help accommodate the growing nursing program.

Next, Fort Hays is working toward expanding workforce development and continuing education programs. 

“We want to drive technical education, specialized certifications, and respond to the rapidly growing need for re-skilling and up-skilling, especially as AI and other trends significantly disrupt the work environment as we know it today,” Mason said. 

To jumpstart these programs, Fort Hays is asking for $750,00 for five years ‘till the programs generate enough revenue to sustain itself. 

The third ask is to supplement mental health education with tele-certification. The final ask is for assistantship money for the growing Graduate Computer Science program. Unlike normal graduate assistants, though, these students will be placed in schools, nonprofits and small businesses to help them with their computer and IT needs. 

“I can’t wait, in five years, to see where this has gone,” Mayor Shaun Musil said.  

Other items covered at the meeting: 

  • The commission heard an update from the Youth Advisory Board
  • Signage has been placed indicating the Common Consumption Area. Letters were sent to business owners notifying them that the Common Consumption Area is live. 
  • Approved a rezoning request for land north of Interstate 70.
  • Approved amendments to the Unified Development Code.