Provost Rafael L. Bras: Thank You for Your Decade of Dedication

Following a decade of service as Georgia Tech's chief academic officer, Provost Rafael L. Bras will step down from his Institute-level leadership position to serve the Institute full-time as a professor.

By Susie Ivy | Published September 24, 2020

This fall marks the end of Rafael L. Bras’ 10-year tenure as Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs and the K. Harrison Brown Family Chair — a decade of service defined by some of the largest and boldest innovations in the Institute’s history.

Under his leadership, Tech increased enrollment by 74% and, now, Georgia Tech has as many graduate students as undergraduates; created new degree programs; expanded cocurricular and extracurricular programs; launched Georgia Tech Arts; transformed the campus; increased international collaborations and started a new campus in Shenzhen, China; and devised new, accessible pathways to graduate education, as well as alternate educational options for learners around the world.

With access and affordability at the core of his beliefs, Bras shepherded a new institutional philosophy, driving the Institute to always seek excellence and answers to questions about future learner and employer needs. This philosophy provided the impetus for him and other Tech leaders to bring new programs and pedagogies to life.

In one of his last speaking engagements to new faculty as Georgia Tech's provost, Rafael L. Bras reflects on his 10 years at the Institute. 

Since 2011, Georgia Tech has reached more than 4 million learners across six continents through massive open online courses (MOOCs). In 2013, Tech pioneered a new path to graduate education with the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program, and followed it with online master's programs in analytics and cybersecurity, enrolling thousands of learners. Then, in 2015, Bras also launched the visionary Commission on Creating the Next in Education, an Institute-wide effort that envisions and provides the pathway to the university of the future.

Additionally, Bras’ time at Tech saw the transformation of the Georgia Tech Library. The Library Next initiative is a technology-focused re-imagining of the intellectual center of campus, fostering collaborative learning and research — and, ultimately, designed to create an entirely new scholarly environment at Tech for the communion of faculty, researchers, students, and staff.

Students and Buzz lifting fabric off the Einstein sculpture

The sculpture memorializing physicist Albert Einstein was installed on the Georgia Tech campus in October 2015.

A drone with a box underneath flying about ten feet off the ground with people observing

Provost Bras receives an order of books via drone delivery as part of a test of potential new services to be offered through the Library Next initiative.

Provost Bras and students standing in a circle talking

Provost Bras mingles with students at a reception for Stamps President's Scholars.

Bras also passionately promoted the power of the arts to teach, challenge, and embolden the Yellow Jacket community. Because of the arts initiative, Georgia Tech is now home to a public sculpture collection that includes tributes to civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and physicist and humanitarian Albert Einstein. And in 2019, Bras worked closely with the sculptor and generous donors to design and bring to life sculptures of the Institute's first African American matriculants and first African American graduate.

Bras served with a fervent belief in leadership development, mentoring, and the power of excellent teaching. He created the Emerging Leaders Program and the Mid-Level Administrators Leadership Program, and developed a new faculty promotion and tenure process.

Group photo of people with the Continuing the Conversation sculpture

Members of the Parks family and donors Rod and Michelle Adkins (seated) with Provost Bras and other Tech leaders at the Harrison Square unveiling of the Rosa Parks sculpture, Continuing the Conversation, in April 2018.

Candid photo of people standing around Trailblazers sculptures talking

Provost Bras chats with Tech's first African American students at the 2019 unveiling of the Trailblazers sculpture crafted in their honor.

Provost Bras presenting award to faculty member on stage

Provost Bras presents a faculty award to Sathyamurthy Gourisankar at the April 2016 award ceremony.

The results of his tireless efforts, expansive vision, and highest aspirations will be felt at Georgia Tech for years to come. Even more than that, his legacy of caring deeply about people — about our history and our future, and about our shared humanity — will never be forgotten.

Provost Bras with his arm around a student on stage at an event

Provost Bras and Benjamin Joon-min Ahn share a sentimental moment, following the biology student's delivery of the Student Welcome address at the 2019 New Student Convocation.

In His Own Words

As one of the many ways he connected with the Georgia Tech community, Provost Bras maintained an active blog, sharing his reflections on topics such as leadership, diversity and inclusion, and the future of higher education.

"I hate goodbyes. There are so many good memories. There is such a sense of satisfaction, but at the same time, such a sense of emptiness at the prospect of leaving."

"My Grandfather's Pen," Sept. 23, 2020

"Georgia Tech is the type of place where you want to belong, and I can say without reservation, it is now a part of me. Once at Georgia Tech, you are part of this community forever."

"Georgia Tech Forever," Aug. 12, 2020

"My biggest disappointments in life have been the result of failing to dream or failing to live a dream. We want all our Georgia Tech students to live as many of their dreams as possible, and we will do everything possible to help them become reality."

"Dreaming," May 12, 2020

"Let me be blunt, policies of inclusion are not a gift, and they are not a way to redress past wrongs. They are a way to create a level playing field. They are designed to make sure that opportunities are available to talented and qualified individuals."

"Believe and Achieve: A message to underrepresented minorities, women, and all of us who are different," Aug. 23, 2017

Kudos for Provost Bras

Visit our Kudoboard creation to add your well wishes to this online greeting card.


In Celebration of Provost Bras

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends gathered on Monday, Sept. 28 to share stories and memories to honor Provost Bras, as he steps down after 10 years as the Institute’s chief academic officer.


Copy Editor: Brigitte Espinet
Design: Erica Endicott
Photography: Allison Carter, Rob Felt