Interim Provost Has Long View to Grow York

Dr. Derrick Brazill began his tenure as York’s Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs on August 17 (2020); and he couldn’t be more enthusiastic to be joining the York family.

“I'm incredibly excited to have the opportunity to serve as a provost at York,” says Dr. Brazill. “ York's diverse student population and location in this neighborhood has positively impacted the experiences of all members of this vibrant community. I look forward to contributing to this mission, and hopefully expanding it.”

Asked what he brings to the table to take York to the next level of excellence, Brazill looked at his past to discuss the future.

“I bring 21 years of experience as a faculty member in CUNY, increasing educational opportunities for our students,” he says. “I’ve helped develop interdisciplinary majors, which train students to work at the interface of different academic fields. This skill is becoming incredibly important in our ever more collaborative workplaces.”

The biological scientist also added that he had been the Director of the MARC program (at Hunter College), which has increased the number of students pursuing and attaining Ph.D. degree in the biomedical sciences. “These scholars are going to be the future scientific leaders and educators,” he predicts.

The interim provost says he plans to apply what he has learned from these projects to augment the successes that York “has already achieved.” To this end, Brazill’s inaugural strategy is as old as time itself.

“My main priority will be listening to the students, staff and faculty to better learn York's strengths, so that we can build upon them and apply them to those areas that aren't as robust,” says Brazill. “A more immediate goal, of course, will be to ensure that during this period of remote access to courses and services, the quality of the educational experience here at York remains high and responsive to student needs.”

Dr. Brazill, who earned his BS in Biology from Stanford University and the PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, says that as a faculty member in the PhD Program in Biology at the CUNY Graduate Center, he is “well aware of the excellent scholarship of my colleagues here at York, especially of those in the sciences.”

“As they will tell you,” he says, “Training and mentoring students not only expand the students' career opportunities, but also enhances the faculty's research program. Therefore, one of the projects I'd like pursue would be to increase the number of research opportunities for our students.”

The interim provost added that there are numerous federal grants designed “to improve the undergraduate research infrastructure that York is poised to apply for and win.”

He says that many of these grants provide stipends for students, allowing them to perform research while still meeting any financial obligations that may have prevented them from doing so, and supply funds for the faculty mentors.

“Such support will augment faculty productivity, allowing them to publish more and be awarded more grants, allowing more students to be trained,” says Brazill. “It's a reinforcing cycle that York is on the verge of entering.”

Like any new leader, Dr. Brazill is looking forward to meeting the community he is now charged with helping to lead.

“I look forward to getting to know everyone here and working with you to the increased benefit of the York community,” he noted.

In a message introducing the interim provost, Dr. Berenecea Johnson Eanes, indicated her confidence in this essential hire.

“ Dr. Brazill’s experience and skills will support the advancement of York’s mission and strategic plan,” said Dr. Eanes. “I am confident he will be a strong colleague for chairs, faculty, and staff and is deeply committed to the mission of CUNY, coming to us from Hunter College.”

Dr. Brazill’s scholarship in Molecular and Cell Biology should bode well for York too. After a post-doctoral position at Rice University, he became an Assistant Professor at Hunter College in 1999 and led a productive, federally-funded research program studying the regulation of cell adhesion and motility, “an important process that becoming dysregulated in diseases such as metastatic cancer and atherosclerosis.”

According to President Eanes, Dr. Brazill shepherded curricular initiatives including the creation of an interdisciplinary major in Human Biology at Hunter College, that will also serve York well. For the last 16 years, he was Director of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored program designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing PhDs in the biomedical sciences.

As Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences for the last six years, he oversaw the restructuring of the major “and a consequent doubling of the number of students pursuing it.”

Dr. Brazill has received several honors including being the inaugural speaker for the “Lecture in Mentoring Excellence” at the National Institutes of Health; and the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, “the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.”

York College welcomes this outstanding scholar to the Academic enterprise.