Where is your favourite place on campus?
In the time that I have been at the U of A, one of my favourite places on campus is the HUB mall. To me it has been a very unique experience – to be in a place that is a residence, but also has these retail stores. … I go there quite often for meetings or lunch or just to see the people moving in and out.
But more than anything else, I really do enjoy the quad. The quad is a really unique place because it reminds me a lot of my alma mater. I went to the University of Guelph in Ontario and we have an open space called the Johnston Green. The quad reminds me of the Johnston Green. . . . Yeah, so those are some of my favourite places.
Tablet or paper?
Paper, lots of paper. I love paper – I don’t know if you’ve seen my sticky note bucket. I actually told my boss that the one thing you’ll find me expensing out on is sticky notes.
My little figurines – League of Legends. I am a big League of Legends fan. This is a computer game, so I have a shrine of little figurines.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Internet, if you want me to be realistic. I feel like if I’m not plugged in somehow, I will completely lose the meaning of what it is to be alive, which is really sad, because I do enjoy nature and the outdoors.
If you won airfare to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I really want to go to Africa, I do. I am fascinated with that continent and everything about nature. My degree is in zoology. I was a huge fan of nature, and still am. And that’s one place every zoologist needs to go.
You can invite anyone—alive or dead, real or fictional—to dinner. Who would it be?
David Attenborough. He has been an idol and figure of inspiration to me and everything I have done with nature and zoology. So simply put – that man. I’m really glad he’s still alive. I’ll be very sad when he’s not there anymore.
If you could switch jobs with someone else on campus for a week, what would you do?
That’s a very good question. Whose job do I really want? I would like to be the provost. I think it would be a very challenging, yet interesting job.
What does “uplifting the whole people” mean to you?
It really means to me that you are able to dedicate the work and time you spend so that everything you do has an impact on the people around you. And I think for me, working with students has always been extremely meaningful. I actually made a career change when I took this role. … When I’m helping … students, all their successes, achievements and accomplishments means that they have gone out into the real world to make a difference. To me that is “uplifting the whole people” because that is my impact on the world. So I really love it because I was trained to think like that at the University of Guelph. Our motto at Guelph was “Changing lives and improving life”, and that’s the reason why I ended up at the U of A, because there were a lot of values I believed in that aligned when I started working here.
If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?
I would solve the hate that we have in the world if I could. This is not a realistic goal or a realistic thing I don’t think. I came from Sri Lanka where I lived for 18 years of my life under a civil war. I’ve seen all the destruction that it has caused, the sadness, and the tragic scenario that it put the country in. Now, I see the world engaged in a pseudo …war. It’s not like we’re in the middle of a nuclear blow out. I still feel like we’re at war and that makes me very sad. And I want to fix that if I can. When people come through my office, I try to give them as much inspiration as possible so they will go out into the real world and have a positive impact.
What 3 words best describe your U of A experience?
I’d say it’s collaborative, it’s supportive and it’s an accepting place. I’d say for now these three words embody my experience here.
I have had the opportunity to be collaborative and to work very closely with people that have skill sets that I don’t, but working together I have been able to do some really good things.
Supportive—because making this move to Edmonton from Ontario was a very challenging one. And having a staff team that was so amazingly supportive of my move and allowing me to adjust and engage was really important and amazing.
Accepting—in the sense that I had to have accommodation in place to perform to the best of my ability and people have been accepting of that. So it’s really amazing to work in an environment like that.
About Dinuka Gunaratne
Dinuka joined the U of A in May 2016, coming from his alma mater, the University of Guelph. A zoologist by training, he spent the early part of his career studying the migration of song birds between North and Central America. He has worked at various universities in International Student Services, Alumni Relations and Advancement, and is now engaged in career education. Dinuka advises graduate students the career transition from academia to industry and vice versa. A self-proclaimed gamer, he enjoys playing League of Legends during his free time.