Donna E. Young appointed dean of Ryerson University Faculty of Law

By Lincoln DePradine

Donna E. Young

Ryerson University, which has embarked on several innovative changes over its history, is about to break new ground.

It’s opening a law school later this year with Donna E. Young, a Canadian of Caribbean ancestry, as the founding dean.

“I am very confident that Donna and her team will challenge the status quo and present opportunities for young people, who are seeking education in the law profession,’’ Dr Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson’s President and Vice-Chancellor, said Monday at an event at the university attended by Young.

The law school will be the latest addition to the Toronto-based institution that has changed from being called Ryerson Institute of Technology, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Ryerson Polytechnic University and in June 2001,  assumed its name as Ryerson University. 

Since 1971, Ryerson has been adding more and more degree programs to its course offerings.

The launch of the law school “is part of what we do at Ryerson – encourage people to take risks, encourage people to push boundaries’’, said Lachemi. “We are pushing boundaries in an area where I think there is a need to push boundaries; and that is the legal profession’’.

Young, whose mother is Jamaican and father, Belizian, has more than 25 years of experience in the legal profession, including an employment stint at the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

She also has worked in Italy, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Mexico and the United States.

Young joined Ryerson University in January after giving up her position in the U.S. as Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at the Albany Law School, the oldest independent law school in the United States. She also held a joint appointment at the university at Albany’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

As dean of Ryerson’s Faculty of Law, Young will be responsible for academic, administrative and external activities of the school, the law library and associated clinics.

“As the inaugural dean of the Ryerson Faculty of Law, Donna will provide dynamic, thoughtful leadership, vision and strategic acumen to shape the new school’s mission of being a model for the future of legal education,’’ said Michael Benarroch, Ryerson’s Provost and Vice-President.

Canada’s legal fraternity, Lachemi said Monday, is in need not only of “more social justice but also more diversity’’.

“We are starting a new law school in September 2020 with those fundamental values – access to justice, diversity and opening the door for everyone to be at the table,’’ he said.