Justin Drake has the distinction of being named by Gov. Greg Abbott as the second student regent from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the last three years.
It’s a position the fourth-year Ph.D. student, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, is not taking lightly. After all, he’ll be representing students from all University of Texas institutions on the UT System Board of Regents.
“I think the approach I’m going to take with the Board of Regents is more traditional, which is looking at the big picture and provide students’ perspective,” said Drake. “I don’t have a vote while I’m sitting on the board, but hopefully I can develop some initiatives that I can propose to the board for their consideration.”
Drake will serve on the board in a non-voting capacity until May 31, 2016. He recently completed orientation in Austin, a city he will visit twice a semester for board meetings that consist of lengthy agendas. This fall, Drake will visit all UT institutions to meet with school and student leaders to determine the greatest needs to be presented to the board.
He follows in the footsteps of Ashley Purgason, a graduate of UTMB doctoral program that now serves as an associate dean of undergraduate research at the University of Texas at Arlington. Purgason served as the UT student regent from 2012-2013 while attending school in Galveston.
Student leadership isn’t new to Drake, as he served UTMB for three-and-a-half years in various positions on campus government, starting as a senator, then moving up to senate chair, before serving as the executive vice-president of UTMB. He worked on the campus community affairs committee, academic advisory board and intramural sports and field house committee. When the call for student regent candidate went out, he didn’t hesitate to apply.
“I really wanted to take what I was doing at UTMB to a higher level that would have a lot more potential to make a positive impact,” Drake said.
Drake has some specific goals he’d like to tackle as he starts his term. The first is growing online learning opportunities, expand the outreach of educational resources to students across the UT System and have more classes to help students with professional and personal skills.
“There’s been a lot of excitement and talk about how technology is changing the way we are learning and it is important to understand how such technology will be integrated into degree programs,” Drake said. “The UT System is on the front lines of developing a program that leverages technology to customize a student’s learning experience and improve access and success. This will take online learning to a whole new level, and it’s critical that students and faculty understand the opportunity and are part of the process.”
Completing a course at the UT Austin McCombs School of Business also convinced Drake that resources could be shared across different institutions that specialize in specific areas. Utilizing these could lead to innovative job opportunities that incorporate various disciplines. Drake took a class on the commercialization of biotechnology, a joint collaboration between UTMB and the acclaimed business school, not regularly offered.
“You have leaders from the nationally ranked UT McCombs School of Business and that opportunity was incredible,” Drake said. “How can we leverage the strengths of individual institutions to complement each other?”
Following his tour this fall, Drake plans to take his ideas and concerns of UT institutions to the Board of Regents in hopes of getting them on a future agenda for discussion.
“I would like to put my finger on something, a tangible result, and say I was able to make a positive impact on UT students and the UT System as a whole,” Drake says. “I think my general approach I’ve taken at UTMB is to have a few goals I can reasonably reach in a year that can also set the stage for much larger projects.”
Hometown: Austin, TX
Career goals: Academia, industry or higher education
Hobbies: Intramural sports, basketball, softball, ultimate Frisbee, kayak fishing, volunteering with the Galveston Island Humane Society
Education: Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering from University of Texas at Austin, currently enrolled in Ph.D. program with the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Sealy Center
Click here for a landscape photo of Justin Drake in front of UTMB's Ashbel Smith Building.
Click here for a vertical photo of Justin Drake in front of UTMB's Ashbel Smith Building.