After an extensive review of more than 50 video applications, the Dragon’24 initiative is now underway. Dragon’24 — the provost’s advisory student circle — will consist of 24 full-time undergraduate students coming from different backgrounds, schools, majors and cultures. The founding group of students will serve for an 18-month term, during which they will conduct brainstorming sessions with the Office of the Provost, collaborate with the student body, host events, represent Drexel and travel to promote the University.
The Dragon’24 initiative was created by the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost M. Brian Blake. “As Provost, I’m kind of like the Graduate Dean of faculty, so I don’t interact much with students. I wanted to find a way for us, as an Office of the Provost, to interact with students more and I felt that this would be great because this group would be ambassadors, they would be advisors, they would have all of these different perspectives,” he said.
Blake explained that the choice of which videos were the best was a very challenging one to make, and applauded the submissions on their creativity. “There was one video that had a Rocky theme, there was a video that showed some visual arts, there was one I thought was really cool that had clips from students in the dormitory,” he explained.
Blake hopes that by the year 2024, which is also the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon, the group’s efforts will change Drexel for the better. To prepare for this decade of innovation, members of the Dragon’24 will meet with the Office of Provost on a quarterly basis to work on their goals.
One of the goals of the initiative is to raise spirit among students at Drexel. “I think there’s great spirit at Drexel. But I’d like to add more sporadic insertion of spirit. I think this group can be a group that creates its own identity, and does events around campus that actually attempts to pull students out even more than they are now,” Blake stated.
However, the main focus of the group is to get the word about Drexel out to those who don’t know much about the University. “I think Drexel’s reputation hasn’t caught up yet with just how significantly impactful the university is,” Blake said. He coined this concept as “The Drexel Advantage.”
The Drexel Advantage includes all the opportunities and resources Drexel has to offer. He believes this is something that only matriculated and engaged students can articulate to prospective students. “Being in the Provost’s office, we do have resources to help. I’d love for the student group to say ‘We should have this on campus’ or ‘We should have this on campus’ or ‘Let’s run this event’. I want this group to think about things that will make the climate and community even more actively engaged than it is today,” Blake said.
Blake has had a diverse career filled with teaching and interacting with students. He started at Georgia Institute of Technology studying computer science, and has been a professor for 16 years. His undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering, and his doctorate is from George Mason University in Computer Science. He was a professor at Georgetown for ten years, then at Notre Dame for three years, and the University of Miami for three years. Blake has been at Drexel for about six months. “[I] became a department chair for the last three years [at Georgetown], and then Associate Dean at Notre Dame, Dean at Miami, I’m serving as the Executive Vice President role here at Drexel,” Blake explained.
One goal the group will work toward is expanding the trajectory of Drexel by helping plan the new University buildings that are going to come up in the near future through private and public partnerships. New buildings may start popping up all the way up to the 30th Street Station because Drexel owns all of the land surrounding the train station and the air above the rails.
“When you come out of that station, you’ll see all of the Drexel buildings, the signage, maybe actually a square, but they’re trying to envision what that’s going to look like just across the street from the train station,” Blake said. As the grounds of the university evolve, Blake said that student input on these expansion plans will be crucial. “If you think about it, that’s going to make Philadelphia look different, not just Drexel, because that’s a major hub for those who are traveling into the city,” he said.
Blake says the process to go through all the applicant submissions was difficult because he wanted to obtain a diverse group, and he even hinted at a possibility for a Dragon’30 initiative.