Fielding Success: Blake French Combines Sports and Scholarship Towards Master’s at UVA

MBU senior and student athlete Blake French has been accepted to UVA’s prestigious engineering graduate program through a partnership program hosted by Mary Baldwin.

MBU senior Blake French has been accepted to the prestigious graduate program in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia (UVA). French came to MBU from Bedford and has been busy — studying applied mathematics and playing baseball for the Fighting Squirrels as a starting infielder, mostly positioned at shortstop. 

Blake is participating in the MBU-UVA cooperative program in engineering, which offers students the opportunity to accelerate their studies toward a graduate degree. Blake spent three years at Mary Baldwin studying applied mathematics, and is putting those skills to use to complete his training to be an engineer at UVA. Once he completes the program, he’ll have earned his bachelor of science in applied math from MBU, and a master’s degree in engineering from UVA.

 Blake’s acceptance to UVA’s graduate program points to his impressive academic performance, and is a major accomplishment to cap his senior year at MBU.: 

What is the MBU-UVA cooperative program in Engineering?

For years, Mary Baldwin has offered a dual degree program with UVA for students interested in studying mathematics and engineering. MBU’s academic catalog describes the program:

Mary Baldwin University students may elect to participate in a dual degree program in engineering offered by the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. Qualified students attend Mary Baldwin for three years and then, based on their academic performance, are accepted into the University of Virginia for two or more years of study, leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics from Mary Baldwin University and a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Virginia.

French didn’t anticipate ending up on the path to be an aerospace or mechanical engineer. In fact, he didn’t see himself going to college at all.

“Originally, I didn’t really want to go to college. I wanted to pursue a trade, do HVAC or something like that,” French explained during a break between classes and practice. “But the whole idea that I could keep up my passion for baseball and further my academics at the same time made me realize that Mary Baldwin would work for me.”

His passion for math stems from the challenge that it poses — when he first thought about college, French considered business and science majors, but ultimately decided that his natural interest in math and appetite for academic rigor made the major in applied mathematics a good fit.

On the baseball field, French bounces around the infield and bats at the bottom of the order — he’s fast and a good fit to get on base for the Fighting Squirrels’ sluggers at the top and middle of the order to bring him home. 

Balancing the intense coursework required by a three-year undergraduate program with the demands of life as a student-athlete has not always been easy, but Blake explains how he found his stride:

“I would say the key to learning that lesson was failure, to be honest. Early on, I failed at time management and struggled with some classes, turning in assignments late. But then, I realized that it required more effort on my part, so I placed myself in study groups and tried to surround myself with people who wanted to work as hard as me, both academically and in our sports.”

The community at Mary Baldwin is important for French. He is clearly popular among his fellow baseball players and in the Physical Activities Center as a whole. Altogether, it’s evidence of the effect that his quiet leadership has had on those around him.

“As a kid, I was always interested in working at NASA. I grew up in an area where we were able to take trips to science facilities, things like nuclear reactors, and I got to go to camps that taught me about subjects like that, and it always made me dream of working at NASA. Of course, I’ve already applied for their internships, but it’s so competitive,” he explains about his future plans.

“Hopefully with this program that MBU has offered me, and the graduate degree from UVA that will come from it, my chances of getting to NASA will be all the better.”

Interested in continuing your academic or athletic career at MBU? Explore Mary Baldwin’s offerings and apply today!