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Dr. Kumara Jayasuriya is 10th SMSU President

Published Sunday, June 30, 2019

Dr. Kumara Jayasuriya, SMSU's 10th permanent president
Dr. Kumara Jayasuriya, SMSU's 10th permanent president

Southwest Minnesota State University’s 10th permanent president, Dr. Kumara Jayasuriya, comes to the institution with a steadfast commitment to public education.

“I’ve worked in the systems in Indiana, Purdue and West Virginia. One of the things that attracted me to this position is the fact it is part of a larger system (Minnesota State). I have a lifelong commitment to public education,” he said.

President Jayasuriya started his duties on July 1.

It is 8,815 miles from Marshall, Minnesota to Sri Lanka, which is where President Jayasuriya’s story originated. He began his academic journey there, earning a degree in Mathematics from the University of Colombo. He came to the U.S. and earned a master’s degree in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University and a doctorate in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He’s familiar with the Midwest, and its potential for harsh winters.

Prior to being appointed SMSU’s president, he spent five years at West Virginia State University in Institute, West Virginia, where he was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and a Professor of Mathematics. Prior to that he was Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana. And before that, he was Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana.

His short-term goals include bolstering the University’s enrollment, and increasing retention and fundraising. “We can’t cut our way out of an enrollment problem,” he said in discussing a nation-wide dip in the actual number of students attending college.

Long-term goals include the short-term goals, as well as increasing federal grants to the University and spreading the word about SMSU through strategic marketing.

He said he will begin his tenure by looking, listening and determining where resources should be allocated to make the biggest impact immediately. He also said that he’ll look at possible restructuring in the administrative area.

President Jayasuriya said he’s been preparing for this opportunity for a long time, and credits many colleagues for urging him to move from the classroom into administration. His mother was his inspiration, and his champion, as a youngster. It was she who encouraged him to return to school on a couple of occasions after he had quit, telling him the family would sacrifice. “She pushed me in (the right) direction,” he said.

SMSU is an institution “with great potential,” he said. “I’m happy to be at SMSU,” he continued. “I’m excited about working with the faculty and staff to help our students succeed. My heart is filled with gratitude for so many things.”

President Jayasuriya and his wife, Salmini (Sal), are the parents of three children: Daniel, who is attending medical school at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia; Dylan, who will graduate from West Virginia State University in December 2019 and attend medical school; and Devon, who will be an eighth-grader at Marshall Middle School.





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