Ray Jayawardhana, one of three candidates being considered for the position of dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, spoke Wednesday to about 50 students and staff members about his professional background and future goals for the school if he were to be selected for the job. In addition to being a writer, Jayawardhana is currently the dean of science and a professor of physics and astronomy at York University in Canada.“I understand your president very much likes to say that Dornsife is ‘the beating heart’ of the University,” Jayawardhana said. “As such, I think there is a huge opportunity for Dornsife to really build on and engage the strength that it already has and truly become a premier institution globally for a wide range of disciplines.”Jayawardhana mentioned how the Dornsife school’s substantial size could be seen as divided.“That also makes it a little hard to have a brand, to have a unifying vision and a unifying way of being seen by the outside world as well as internally,” Jayawardhana said.But Jayawardhana also affirmed the unity of Dornsife.“While it’s challenging, I firmly believe that the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, are all just really different ways of exploring what it is to be human, to learn about the human condition in all its diverse and fascinating forms,” Jayawardhana said. “So they are really all part of the intellectual enterprise, and therefore there is a unifying, very deep basis for a college like this, and there is no reason to not acknowledge that very openly, repeatedly and clearly.”His ideas for improving Dornsife include increasing educational quality, promoting diversity and enhancing access to faculty and staff. Additionally, he hopes to have broader engagement across local, national and international bounds and create a fellowship program.“If it’s possible, [I would want] to develop a cross-disciplinary, postdoctoral fellowship program that’s a named, prestigious fellowship,” Jayawardhana said. “The thing that really appeals to me is what these people — emerging top scholars from around the world — who come spend two or three years here, do afterwards.”Also, Jayawardhana plans to engage with local, national and global communities.“I have a longstanding interest in broader engagement,” Jayawardhana said. “That’s engagement with the local community. That’s engagement globally. I’ve found really interesting that public outreach, media engagement and impact actually comes back in many different ways.”This sense of community is also promoted from the school’s diversity.“The excellence and the diversity go together,” Jayawardhana said.Ultimately, Jayawardhana hopes to have a lasting impact if he is chosen to be dean of Dornsife.“Frankly at Dornsife I think, partly because of the scale and diversity of the structures, of the 30-some research institutes and 30-some departments, I don’t think the dean can have an impact in a very short time,” Jayawardhana said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to come here unless I felt I could stay long enough to have an impact that actually makes a difference because that’s the appeal of the job.”Richard Fliegal, associate dean for undergraduate programs, commented on the candidate.“He seems like a very decent guy with a good sense of humor,” Fliegal said. “He has a very nice humanistic perspective. He’s a scientist. He values the humanities. This is somebody who seems to know well how to work with colleagues. He seems like a great candidate.”Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Quick has not released the names of the two other candidates.“One of these three people may well be the next dean of the college,” Fliegal said. “This is a real opportunity to get some insight into all of them, so we’ll see which way the Provost goes.”Fliegal was already very impressed with Jayawardhana.“He seems like he would be a wonderful choice if the provost chose to go this way,” Fliegal said.