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Acclaimed biomedical scientist, former Emory professor Ravi Bellamkonda named provost

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Biomedical scientist Ravi Bellamkonda will return to Emory on July 1 as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. He previously held a joint appointment as a faculty member at Emory and Georgia Tech. 

Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves today announced the appointment of biomedical scientist Ravi Bellamkonda as the university’s next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, effective July 1, 2021.

Bellamkonda returns to Emory after serving as dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University for five years. He previously held a joint appointment as a faculty member at Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology beginning in 2003, serving as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering from 2013 to 2016.

“Dr. Bellamkonda has an incredible enthusiasm for Emory, and he understands what sets our mission apart in delivering a life-changing undergraduate liberal arts education and dynamic graduate and professional programs at our world-class research university,” says Fenves. “He is that rare academic leader whose eminence in his discipline is complemented by a strong dedication to elevating the undergraduate student experience and collaborating in research across many disciplines and fields of study.”

At Duke, Bellamkonda oversaw vast improvements in the academic and research enterprise. He led a reimagining of the engineering curriculum to introduce experiential learning, design thinking and team-based projects in the first year, and emphasize authentic, society-oriented problem-solving throughout the undergraduate experience. He also helped recruit and retain many preeminent faculty members, realizing a greater than 10 percent increase in the school’s tenure-track faculty and 30 percent growth in faculty research expenditures. At the same time, the number of female and other underrepresented faculty members in the school of engineering nearly doubled.

Bellamkonda also helped significantly enhance alumni and parent engagement; gifts to the Engineering Annual Fund rose to all-time highs during his tenure. In addition, he oversaw successful fundraising efforts that helped support construction of Duke’s new Wilkinson Building, a $115 million, 150,000-square-foot facility designed to advance engineering education, research and entrepreneurship.     

“I believe that Emory has a very special opportunity to define itself at a historic moment — as a socially just university that embraces innovation and leads pathbreaking research across disciplines,” says Bellamkonda. “We have the potential to lead in so many areas: from the creative arts and medicine to undergraduate and graduate education and beyond. We are also poised to make great strides in advocating for racial and social justice, building on the legacy of activism and engagement that has defined our home city of Atlanta for generations. I know that the most significant challenges of today are humanistic in nature, and I am committed to the power of great liberal arts institutions like Emory to address them through scholarship that serves communities around the world.”

At Duke, Bellamkonda also led many efforts related to diversity and inclusion. In addition to notably expanding faculty diversity, he championed the establishment of a school-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community initiative that involves faculty, staff and students, and the recruitment of a new director of diversity and inclusion in engineering. He also serves on the steering committee for Duke’s Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. Under his leadership, Duke’s school of engineering was recognized with a Bronze Award and Exemplar status by the American Society for Engineering Education’s Diversity Recognition Program.

"As provost, Ravi will be able to draw on his experiences in both promoting student success and cultivating interdisciplinary research — as well as his deep passion for Emory and the city of Atlanta,” says Michael Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences. “I’m excited to work with an academic leader of his caliber to advance Emory as a leading liberal arts university.”

As dean, Bellamkonda worked closely with leaders across Duke, particularly in the liberal arts, supporting multiple joint faculty hires between engineering and other schools, and cross-campus collaborations such as the Duke Materials Initiative and Duke Quantum Center. He also championed programs that incorporate ethics, meaning and purpose into student curricular and extracurricular experiences in collaboration with Duke’s Divinity School and Kenan Institute for Ethics. 

“Ravi’s passion for excellence in education and research is matched by his commitment to the success of all students and faculty,” says Valerie S. Ashby, dean of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. “He made the Pratt School of Engineering a hub of innovation with a spirit of collaboration that stretched across Duke. Emory is fortunate to have such a passionate and wise leader as provost.”

Bellamkonda received his PhD in medical science from Brown University, writing his dissertation on nerve regeneration; he subsequently did a postdoctoral fellowship as a Markey Fellow in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Before serving as dean of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, he spent decades as a prolific scholar, first at Case Western Reserve University and then at Emory, with a joint appointment at Georgia Tech and Emory School of Medicine.

Bellamkonda’s lab has contributed to advances in peripheral nerve repair, brain-machine interfaces and spinal cord injury repair. In recent years, his lab has focused on developing creative and innovative approaches for the treatment of adult and pediatric brain tumors. Bellamkonda is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed articles with more than 15,000 citations to his work, and he holds 10 patents. 

“Ravi Bellamkonda is a gifted leader who is known for stimulating and inspiring diverse groups of people to work together to create and achieve ambitious collective goals,” says A. Eugene Washington, MD, chancellor for health affairs, Duke University, and president and CEO, Duke University Health System. “For us in Duke Health, Ravi has been a close, invaluable partner as we fostered innovative interdisciplinary programs to advance science, education and health care. He is an original thinker who deftly asks those critical questions that push the boundaries of possibilities and promotes new ideas. And for me, he has been a go-to colleague at Duke. He will be an exceptional leader for Emory.”

Bellamkonda will join Emory as provost and as a faculty member of Emory College of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Biology with a joint appointment in biomedical engineering at Emory School of Medicine. As chief academic officer, Bellamkonda will collaborate with other university leaders, and with the deans from each of Emory’s nine schools and colleges, to formulate strategy and academic priorities and ensure appropriate allocation of budget and resources. In addition to managing the faculty promotion and tenure process, the provost generates cross-cutting opportunities and initiatives in undergraduate, graduate and professional education and student life.

Emory’s search consultant was Education Executives, LLC, which led a broad national search that included the consideration of more than 70 individuals and in-depth interviews with more than 15 diverse individuals, including women and underrepresented minorities, all of whom had distinguished careers as outstanding academic scholars and leaders at preeminent research universities. The search included extensive review by the Provost Search Advisory Committee, listening sessions with Emory constituencies and consultation with Emory’s senior leaders.

Bellamkonda will be moving to Atlanta with his wife and partner of 27 years, Lalita Kaligotla, who currently serves as associate director of the Hart Leadership Program (HLP) in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. HLP is the first endowed leadership program for undergraduates in the country, focused on students engaging in experiential projects with local communities. Bellamkonda and Kaligotla have two children, Mihir Bellamkonda, a Duke senior, and Ameya Bellamkonda, who will be joining the 2025 class at Wake Forest University in the fall, as well as a three-year-old goldendoodle, CJ.

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