By Sherina Harris
Last week, Ryerson University appointed Janice Fukakusa as its fifth chancellor and the first woman to ever hold the position. Fukakusa’s Ryerson connection began in high school, when she and her sister held summer sewing classes for young girls using the university’s facilities. Later in her life, she returned to join the Board of Governors, serving as the chair since 2013.
Fukakusa worked at RBC for 31 years as Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer. The Eye sat down with Fukakusa to learn more about her new position and plans for Ryerson.
The Eye: What does the role of the chancellor involve?
Fukakusa: “The role that’s the most visible is conferring the degrees. It’s a ceremonial role. Myself, I think the role of the chancellor is to be the advocate and the liaison for the students that’s totally unfettered. It’s not through being part of the administration, or being faculty, or staff or on the board as you’re running the university, it’s a direct interface.”
How will you represent Ryerson at local, national and international levels?
“There’s plenty of opportunities. My diary could be full every day. There’s a lot of inbound requests. For me, it’s also about theming some of what you do and where you think you can have the most impact. I’m a diversity and inclusion champion. I think that that’s kind of core of Ryerson, and what it’s becoming. If you look at Ryerson, the university looks like Toronto. So I think that in that mix, we have to make sure that Ryerson does represent, continue to represent, the best of what we have in the environment that we’re in.”
What are some of the things you hope to implement or see happen at Ryerson?
“I would like to see a continued focus on senior representation in the ranks that reflects the diversity of the community. We have pretty good representation, I think, when you look at it, but you can’t take your eye off the ball. It’s all about the day-to-day, making sure that we continue. I think that we want our students to see that diversity so they can strive to be in more senior positions and be leaders in the communities at large.”
Speaking of diversity, what does it mean to you to be the first woman to hold this position?
“It is recognition of the rate of change of Ryerson, and how the community has to be reflected right across the board, and represent the diversity of Toronto and Canada. I always say this, that there’s only been five chancellors, so how fast can it be? But it’s pretty good progress for the age of the university.”
You’ve mentioned getting to know students and representing students. How does that fit into your role?
“I actually want to attend some of the classes. The other thing that I’m trying to figure out is, how do you make it open for students to have a dialogue? One of the things that I know that Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi does is he has roundtables for students, like breakfasts or something. And maybe we can do that too, to get a cross-section, because that would be valuable for the students too in meeting people from other faculties and having a dialogue about a topic like diversity, or whatever is current.”
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
A former version of this story incorrectly stated that Janice Fukakusa worked at the Bank of Canada. The Eye regrets this error.