Story updated on Oct. 17.
Janice Fukakusa begins her term as the new chancellor of Ryerson University today.
Fukakusa is the school’s fifth chancellor, and the first woman to occupy this role. During her three-year term, she will act as the ceremonial head of the university and its ambassador to local, national and international events.
Fukakusa said her appointment comes at the right time for Ryerson, a university she said has been on an accelerated trajectory for change.
“When you saw the physical changing at Ryerson, in terms of becoming prominent as part of downtown Toronto, that really spurred on another acceleration in terms of being the change agent for a number of things, so this is part of it,” she said.
In a press release from June, Ryerson revealed that its board of governors had recommended Fukakusa for the role. Fukakusa has been chair of the board of governors since 2013, and started as a board member in 2002.
In that same press release, she was quoted as saying that she looks forward to continue driving more change at Ryerson and maintaining its leadership in innovation and diversity.
As a champion for diversity and inclusion, Fukakusa said she has hopes to move Ryerson’s commitment to change forward.
“I think that it’s about having the dialogue on a day–to–day basis and also to put in all the students’ line of sight that (diversity) is a day–to–day thing, it’s not something you can tick the box on, you have to live it,” she said.
Fukakusa has an executive background in finance and banking and spent over 30 years at RBC bank. She has served as chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
In 2016, she was named one of American Banker magazine’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking. She held this position for four consecutive years.
Fukakusa said her appointment as Ryerson’s chancellor is a way to inspire women to aspire to senior positions. She notes the lack of females in senior positions in the business and education sectors.
“In order to get women and diverse individuals to strive for senior positions, they have to see it,” she said. “Because you can’t strive for something if you don’t see it.”
She also notes that her role as chancellor is a step towards representing the school’s population.
“Ryerson has recognized that, in order to represent the students and the community, we have to actually recognize the fact that 50 per cent of our population base is female,” said Fukakusa.
Fukakusa obtained a bachelor’s degree from U of T, a master’s from York and an honorary doctorate of laws from York’s Osgoode Hall. She is replacing Lawrence Bloomberg as chancellor.