Teaching mathematics is a second career for Dr. Rajee Amarasinghe. After he was injured as an officer in the Sri Lankan Navy, he remembered the love he had for mathematics as a child and decided to pursue graduate studies in the subject.
“When I realized that I could transform the lives of others through mathematics and mathematics education, I truly began to appreciate the work I was doing as a mathematics educator,” Amarasinghe said. “Mathematics’ beauty lies in the precision, accuracy, and power of the process of inductive and deductive reasoning. We see mathematics all around us, in nature, and in our daily experiences.”
Amarasinghe, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics at Fresno State, has been named one of the five recipients of this year’s prestigious California State University Wang Family Excellence Award.
The Wang Family Excellence Award recognizes only four faculty members and one staff member from among the 23 California State University campuses for their outstanding commitment to student achievement and contributions in their respective fields.
Their actions advance the California State University’s goal, bring awareness and credit to CSU, contribute to student success, and exemplify CSU Excellence in teaching, scholarships and service. The awards highlight many of the ways in which CSU faculty and staff are helping students achieve their academic goals through Graduation Initiative 2025.
Each recipient receives a $20,000 award.
Honorees will be recognized on Tuesday, January 28, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees.
Amarasinghe’s award is for Outstanding Faculty Innovator in Student Success. His area of expertise includes using technology in mathematics teaching and learning; understanding students’ attitudes toward and beliefs about mathematics; and using interdisciplinary tools to teach math. He is the founder and director of Fresno State’s Summer Academy in STEM, which encourages curiosity in mathematics for children of the Central Valley. The program not only benefits students, but also provides teachers to learn by observing the instruction and analyzing the best teaching practices.
“Dr. Amarasinghe is proactive, extremely conscientious, and highly motivated to serve the college, university and community,” said Dr. Christopher Meyer, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Fresno State. “He leads by example with a collaborative approach that brings out the best in people.”
Since his arrival at Fresno State in 2000, he has procured more than $15 million in grant funding. His most recent award, a 2019 five-year grant from the National Science Foundation entitled “Growing Outstanding Teacher in Mathematics (GOTMath)” was for $1.4 million.
In 2018, he was awarded a 2018-19 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. That award recognizes faculty who are implementing innovative practices as part of Graduation Initiative 2025 and who’ve demonstrated leadership in improving student success.
His colleagues in the Department of Mathematics, the College of Science and Mathematics, and the university describe him as a superstar, whose teaching, scholarship, and service would stand out at any academic institution.
“His creative leadership of the outstanding Summer Academy that he envisioned and coordinates has resulted in a highly popular and important opportunity for teachers to learn more about effective teaching strategies,” said Dr. Carol Fry Bohlin, professor and chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Fresno State.
The other recipients of this year’s Wang Family Excellence Award are:
- Dr. Eric J. Bartelink, Chico State, Department of Anthropology, Outstanding Faculty Service
- Dr. Brian Levin, California State University, San Bernardino, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Outstanding Faculty Scholarship
- Laura Lupei, Sonoma State University, University Budget and Planning, Outstanding Staff Performance
- Dr. Brian P. Self, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, College of Engineering, Outstanding Faculty Teaching
It has been 13 years since a faculty member from Fresno State has received the award. Rajee is only the third faculty member recognized in the history of the awards, which were established in 1998. Previous Fresno State recipients were Dr. Timothy M. Stearns in 2007, and Dr. Edward EmanuEl in 2001.