April Mason is a veteran of navigating tricky political and budgetary waters for higher education funding in Kansas.

Mason is the provost at Kansas State University, which took a hit a year ago when the governor cut the general fund allotment to higher education by 2 percent. The cuts came on top of state tax cuts in previous years.

“We have been creative in good ways,’’ Mason said Tuesday. “Although the budget has not been large ... we’ve not sat and cried. We’ve worked very diligently with a strong plan we put in place.’’

For example, the university leveraged special, non-general- fund allocations and grants to address needs in the veterinary college and other places.

Dave Rintoul, a biologist and past president of the KSU Faculty Senate, said that it’s been hard to accomplish much during Kansas’ state budget crunch but that Mason instituted monthly, off-the-record meetings with faculty to work through funding concerns.

“That’s been very helpful,’’ he said. “Getting some transparency to the budget process has been a welcome change.’’

Mason, 59, joined Kansas State as provost in 2010. She is KSU’s chief academic officer and is paid $367,532 annually.

[Read also: UNL administrator among 4 finalists for chancellor job]

She grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Rome, Italy, where her father worked with Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, a master’s degree in plant physiology and a doctorate in foods and nutrition from Purdue University. Her primary research areas have been food security and nutrient availability from plant food products.

She previously held a dean’s post at Colorado State University — from where she embarked on a motorcycle tour of western Nebraska with her husband — and was an associate dean at Purdue.

KSU President Kirk Schulz said Mason has hired an “extraordinary’’ set of deans.

“She’s been very successful in attracting people from all over the country to move to Manhattan, Kansas,’’ he said.

Schulz said Mason knows how to work with rural and urban Midwesterners, given her background at three land-grant universities. She also leads the K-State 2025 strategic plan, targeted at helping the school become a top 50 public research university by 2025.

Mason will visit the Lincoln campus Feb. 23 through 25, with an open forum Feb. 25 at 10:30 a.m. at the Nebraska Union. A search firm nominated her for the UNL position, just as it did for the chancellorship at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville last fall. She was a finalist.

“I am very happy where I am, but I am always looking for the next leadership opportunity and challenge,’’ she said. “The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a heckuva reputation.’’

Contact the writer: 402-444-1127, david.hendee@owh.com

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