CLEMSON — Cynthia Y. Young, vice provost for Faculty Excellence and UCF Global at the University of Central Florida, has been chosen to lead the College of Science at Clemson University as its founding dean. A professor of mathematics, Young will begin on Aug. 15.

Cynthia Young

Cynthia Young
Image Credit: University of Central Florida

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Young developed mathematical models governing atmospheric effects in laser communication channels. In 2001, she was selected by the Office of Naval Research for the Young Investigator Award and, in 2007, she was selected as a fellow of the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The author of more than 70 books and publications, Young has secured continuous federal funding exceeding $5 million since 1999.

“Attracting dynamic deans to lead our colleges is critically important as we continue our effort to be one of the very best public universities in the country,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements. “Cynthia has an exceptional track record of innovation, strategic thinking and success in leading high-performing teams. I am confident that she will build on the great work already being done in our College of Science.”

Clements also thanked Mark Leising, who has served as interim dean of the college since its inception last year. Leising, who has been a faculty member in the Clemson department of physics and astronomy since 1991 and department chair since 2011, will return to a full-time faculty role.

“Mark did an exceptional job helping launch the new College of Science when it was created last year. It was a challenging task and we appreciate all he accomplished to help lay a solid foundation for the College.”

Young joined UCF as an assistant professor of mathematics in 1997 and is a co-founder of UCF’s EXCEL program, created to increase students’ success in their first two years in STEM disciplines. Since its inception 10 years ago, the program has helped improve STEM majors’ graduation rates by 40 percent. Young has served in several leadership roles at UCF, including the NCAA faculty athletics representative, associate dean for research in the College of Sciences and vice provost for faculty excellence and UCF Global, where she led university-wide initiatives to strengthen, recruit and retain exceptional and diverse faculty and internationalize the university.

In her two years as vice provost, she has:

  • Helped grow the university’s faculty by 200 tenured and tenure-track positions across all colleges;
  • Created a Targeted Opportunity Program to support faculty recruitment initiatives in inclusive excellence, academic partner hires and preeminent scholars;
  • Launched strategic initiatives and partnerships focused on comprehensive internationalization that have increased UCF students studying abroad by 30 percent; and
  • Recruited five National Academy of Engineering members to UCF in partnership with the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Dr. Young has an impressive record of enhancing student success, building a culture of research and expanding global engagement at UCF – one of the largest and fastest-growing public universities in the U.S.,” said Robert H. Jones, Clemson’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I am also impressed by her strong scholarly roots in STEM disciplines and education, and by her enthusiastic approach to leadership.”

At Clemson, Young will be responsible for providing leadership, vision and strategic planning for the College of Science. The college’s five departments are biological sciences, chemistry, genetics and biochemistry, mathematical sciences and physics and astronomy. Additionally, the college houses the Center for Excellence in Math and Science Education, the Center for Human Genetics, the Clemson Light Imaging Facility, the Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center, the Laboratory for Emerging Materials and Technology, Life Sciences Outreach Center and Statistical and Math Consulting Center.

“I am honored to lead the new college in its ascension to a world class College of Science that is both locally relevant and globally impactful in its quest to expand our knowledge of the natural world,” Young said. “To do that within the context of a 21st century land-grant university focused on improving lives and livelihoods of the citizens of South Carolina and beyond is a spectacular challenge.

“After engaging with the Clemson faculty, staff, students, senior leadership and community members I am confident that we will harness all of our experiences, talents and energy to collectively advance Clemson forward,” she said.

Young earned a Bachelor of Arts in education (secondary mathematics) from the University of North Carolina (1990), a Master of Science in mathematical science from the University of Central Florida (1993), a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington (1997) and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Washington (1996).

Joining her will be her husband, Christopher L. Parkinson, a professor of biology and founding director of UCF’s interdisciplinary Faculty Cluster Initiative. He holds bachelor’s degrees in zoology and botany from Ohio University (1990) and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Louisville (1996).

Parkinson joined UCF faculty in 2001 and is an internationally known evolutionary and genome biologist who works on venomous snakes and is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. He and his team will join Clemson’s biological sciences department this fall. Parkinson will be a professor of biological sciences with a joint appointment in the department of forestry and environmental conservation in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

Together with their daughter, Caroline, 8, two Labrador retrievers, Wiley and Angel, and hunter/jumper pony, Roony, Young and Parkinson will be joining the Clemson family in August.