M. Brian Blake, a transformative leader and provost at Drexel University, has for 20 years strengthened top universities with excellence in teaching, research and administrative roles.
The George Washington University’s next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs is an accomplished researcher and 20-year leader in higher education administration who has strengthened academic and research enterprises, faculty hiring and retention, student success and diversity at top research universities across the country.
M. Brian Blake, currently provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Drexel University in Philadelphia, will join GW in early November.
An electrical and software engineer by training, Dr. Blake has held faculty, dean and vice provost roles during his career, focusing on interdisciplinary research and education at Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Miami before becoming provost at Drexel.
“Dr. Blake’s career is defined by transformative academic leadership—for undergraduate and graduate students, and for faculty and researchers across all disciplines. He has the vision and a collaborative approach that will help drive the development and implementation of our new strategic plan and our strategic initiatives to strengthen the research ecosystem and enhance the student experience,” GW President Thomas LeBlanc said. “I want to thank our faculty-led search committee for its recommendations and guidance in selecting Dr. Blake.”
The provost is the chief academic officer of the university and oversees all academic endeavors across GW’s 10 schools and colleges. GW’s Office of the Provost includes offices for academic and faculty affairs; research; libraries; enrollment; and diversity, equity and community engagement.
At Drexel, Dr. Blake leads all academic programs across 14 schools and colleges and the implementation of the university’s strategic plan, involving students and faculty through advisory groups and programs to focus on strategic areas that enhance Drexel’s academic mission. He also has overseen the development of a strategic vision and a five-year academic investment plan.
Under Dr. Blake’s oversight, Drexel enrolled its largest, most academically talented freshman class, the university’s highest retention rate and the highest overall research activity in history, which led to the university’s first “very high research activity” designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
“I am honored to be selected as GW’s provost,” Dr. Blake said. “This is an especially exciting time for the university, and I look forward to returning to D.C. and joining the many dedicated members of the university community to build on GW’s academic and research strengths and opportunities.”
Interdisciplinary research and graduate education have been particularly important to Dr. Blake throughout his career.
He has conceived innovative interdisciplinary programs, such as Drexel Areas of Research Excellence and Market-Driven Academic Program Ventures, which have helped enhance research and graduate education. The programs facilitated more than 65 interdisciplinary research team proposals and 25 new interdisciplinary degree program proposals.
Dr. Blake also oversaw the establishment of a new Graduate College at Drexel and an initiative to increase and reimagine its professional master’s programs to respond to students’ needs. The school experienced an increase in the enrollment of new professional master’s students.
At Drexel Dr. Blake oversaw the hiring of 11 deans and more than 100 faculty, while significantly increasing the diversity of administrative offices. He also has led academic space planning and brought online new research facilities, teaching and learning centers and experiential learning opportunities for students.
In addition to his provost role, Dr. Blake is a distinguished university professor of systems and software engineering and holds appointments in the departments of computer science, electrical and computer engineering and neuroengineering.
Before joining Drexel, at the University of Miami Dr. Blake was vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School. In addition to oversight of 155 programs in 12 schools and colleges, Dr. Blake was responsible for advocating for its wide variety of graduate programs and managed university-wide faculty enhancement and diversity efforts in recruitment, hiring, retention, leadership development, promotion and equity.
Dr. Blake also reinvented research-orientated professional development programs; supported efforts to jumpstart students’ research careers; led an initiative to promote and facilitate interdisciplinary research combining science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the arts and humanities; and focused resources on diversity, specifically increasing the population of black faculty and leading a task force addressing climate challenges associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Blake was associate dean of engineering, research and graduate studies. Under his leadership, the College of Engineering experienced a 100 percent increase in research awards and spending and 30 percent growth in its graduate program. At Georgetown, he developed STEM initiatives, including a professional master’s program in technology management.
An accomplished researcher, Dr. Blake has authored or coauthored more than 200 journal articles, books or book chapters and refereed conference or workshop papers. Dr. Blake is the former editor-in-chief of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Internet Computing, former associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Service Computing, and he is an Association for Computing Machinery distinguished scientist and senior member of the IEEE.
His scholarly activities have been funded by more than $12 million in sponsored research awards from organizations including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Education, Federal Aviation Administration, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, IBM and the MITRE Corporation.
Dr. Blake also has served on five National Academies’ studies or committees and on the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate.
A teacher and mentor, Dr. Blake has been adviser or co-adviser to 15 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students and more than 30 undergraduate researchers.
Outside of academia, Dr. Blake spent six years working as a software architect, technical lead and expert developer with General Electric, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and the MITRE Corporation.
Along with his academic appointments, Dr. Blake has continued as an expert consultant on information technology and software engineering supporting the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense and several legal firms.
The selection of Dr. Blake is the result of the work of an 18-member search committee, including 14 faculty members representing all 10 of GW’s schools and a range of disciplines, two trustees, a student leader and an administrator, assisted by the national executive placement firm AGB Search. Formed this past spring, the committee developed a position profile (PDF) and gathered input from the university community.
Christopher Cahill, professor of chemistry and international affairs, chaired the committee.
“Dr. Blake demonstrated a strong commitment to GW’s diversity of programs, faculty and students, and he will be a terrific leader and advocate for the university, especially as we work together to define our path forward,” Dr. Cahill said.
Dr. Blake will succeed Provost Forrest Maltzman, who announced in April that he would step down and return to the Department of Political Science after taking a sabbatical.
Dr. Blake received a Ph.D. in information and software engineering from George Mason University, M.S. in electrical engineering from Mercer University and B.E.E. from Georgia Institute of Technology.
His wife Bridget is also a Georgia Tech engineering graduate with an M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and they have two sons: Brendan, 14, and Bryce, 8.