Faculty of Science Dean Ray Jayawardhana to leave York University for a new position at Cornell

The following message to the University community is from York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton and Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps:

It is with extremely mixed feelings that we are announcing that Dean Ray Jayawardhana of the Faculty of Science will be leaving York University to undertake an exciting new leadership role as the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, effective Sept. 1, 2018.

Ray Jayawardhana

Professor Jayawardhana joined York University as Dean of the Faculty of Science in July of 2014 from the University of Toronto, where he had served as Senior Advisor to the President on Science Engagement and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics. He came to the Faculty of Science at a pivotal time in its evolution and has provided transformational leadership, enhancing the Faculty’s core strengths in research and teaching, raising broader engagement and visibility, attracting significant external funding including philanthropic support, and bolstering its reputation locally, nationally and internationally.

He has advanced the Faculty’s research intensity, supports and profile through, for example, a partnership with Fermilab, the leading U.S. particle physics and accelerator laboratory; involvement in the pan-University VISTA project; launch of the York Science Fellowship program for outstanding postdoctoral scholars; creation of the NSERC/Sanofi Industrial Research Chair; and establishment of the York Science Core Facility. Under his leadership, science has recruited more than 30 new faculty members, including a number of Canada Research Chairs and the Rogers Chair, and appointed nine York Research Chairs.

He has also put in place strong supports for student success, including a Science Scholars Award for entering undergraduates and the Carswell Scholarships for PhD students, as well as the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards promoting undergraduate student engagement in research. An innovative Integrated Science first-year program has been developed and successfully launched, and a neuroscience undergraduate program is in development, in collaboration with the Faculty of Health. On his watch, the Faculty’s domestic undergraduate enrolments have grown substantially and international enrolments have risen dramatically. Dean Jayawardhana has also been closely involved in planning for innovative programming to be offered on the Markham campus. Significant improvements to Science facilities and laboratories, notably major renovations to Farquharson, help to provide an environment conducive to research and discovery for both faculty members and students. In order to promote the Faculty’s community engagement, under Dean Jayawardhana’s leadership, initiatives such as the Science Communicator in Residence program, the high-profile York Science Forum, and public lecture series in libraries across the city have been introduced; and the upgraded Carswell Observatory, soon to house the largest telescope on a Canadian university campus, will provide a hub for students and community outreach. Events celebrating the Faculty’s 50th anniversary a few years ago also attracted significant public engagement.

Importantly, throughout his term as Dean, Professor Jayawardhana has maintained and extended his own research program and profile to the great benefit of the Faculty of Science and York University. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on planetary origins and diversity; he has written for the likes of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic; and he is a frequent commentator in a range of media.

As the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, Professor Jayawardhana will lead that Ivy League University’s largest college. The college is home to nearly 4400 undergraduate students, more than 1300 graduate students, and 545 full-time faculty members, and counts numerous Nobel laureates, MacArthur Fellows and Pulitzer Prize winners among its faculty and alumni. The college is the nexus of Cornell, and offers a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Students can choose from the college’s 39 majors and 60 areas of study, ranging from Comparative Literature to Performing and Media Arts to Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and it also provides students with opportunities to design their own programs and make interdisciplinary connections by taking a majority of their curriculum from outside their major.

We will have opportunities in the coming months to publicly celebrate Ray’s contributions to York University. In the meantime, please join us in thanking him for his outstanding leadership and in congratulating him and wishing him the very greatest success in his new role at Cornell University.

We will be undertaking a search for the next Dean of the Faculty of Science in the coming year, and will be consulting with Science Faculty Council in the near future with regard to the process.