“Everything We Do Is For Our Students”

Jayanth Banavar arrived at the University of Oregon as provost and senior vice president this summer. By the end of his first month, he had done something few provosts do over the course of their careers: he attracted a Nobel laureate to the faculty.

“I can’t wait to see what he does next month,” quipped Michael H. Schill, president and professor of law, at the time of the announcement of the Nobel hire.

A distinguished physicist himself, it is no surprise that Banavar, who served as dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, actively recruited David Wineland to serve as a Knight Distinguished Research Chair. Wineland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2012 for his work in quantum physics.

“The fact that we were able to attract a researcher like David to the university speaks volumes about the excellence we currently have,” says Banavar. “The University of Oregon is well-positioned to attract more and more amazing intellectuals to campus, and I cannot wait to help bring them here.”

The provost and senior vice president works with people across campus to set academic priorities and manage the human and capital resources to carry them out. 

In the coming years, Banavar will not only lead efforts to continue the institution’s recruitment of new faculty members and retain the talented faculty already here, he will also work on the UO’s student success goals and oversee the implementation of a new academic budget system.

“My philosophy is simple: everything we do is for our students,” says Banavar. “Teaching, research, program development, advising, faculty hiring—everything. They must all be done with our commitment to our students, front and center.”

Banavar knows a thing or two about student success. During his tenure at Maryland, his college enjoyed a 9 percent increase in its four-year graduation rate.

In addition, his personal life is proof-positive of his commitment to increasing participation by women in the sciences. His daughter, Samhita Banavar, is following in his footsteps as a graduate student in physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “My daughter has the same love for mathematics that brought me to this place in my life,” says Banavar. He adds that while science has greatly improved our quality of life, what makes life worth living are the arts, the humanities, and culture, significant strengths of the UO. 

A native of Bangalore, India, Banavar, whose research frequently involves collaboration with the life sciences, has applied the techniques of statistical physics to solve interdisciplinary problems. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Bangalore University and his PhD in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. 

His experience in Eugene thus far has the new provost envisioning the UO as a “destination university” for anyone interested in academic excellence.

“The people here have been wonderful,” says Banavar. “Their warmth and kindness have made us feel right at home. It has been the kind of welcome that inspires collaboration, and collaboration inspires excellence. That will be very attractive as we recruit students and faculty members to study and work across all disciplines in the coming years. I could not be more excited to be a part of it all.”

—By Tobin Klinger, University Communications