Atlanta – The 2014 Southeastern Conference Symposium, held Sept. 21-23 in Atlanta, included an SEC Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts Reception where all symposium participants had an opportunity to meet and visit with senior leaders from around the SEC.
Several SEC presidents and chancellors attended the event, including University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead, who was serving as the institution’s provost when the SEC Symposium was first contemplated in 2010.
“I thought at that time and think even more so today as the president of the University of Georgia that it is very important for the Southeastern Conference to showcase the outstanding work that is going on at each of our institutions, not only in athletics, but also in the academic life of our institutions,” Morehead said. “What you find at a symposium like this one is evidence that all of us clearly understand that the SEC has, among its members, some of the finest institutions in the country.”
The annual symposium is designed to address a significant scholarly issue by using the range of disciplinary strengths represented by the SEC’s 14 member universities. This year’s symposium focused on “Prevention of Obesity: Overcoming a 21st Century Public Health Challenge.”
University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart, the current vice president of the SEC and the liaison to SECU, provided opening comments for the symposium and was on hand at the reception. He said he believes the opportunity to bring together many of the top minds from SEC institutions will have a major impact on finding solutions for important challenges facing the Southeast.
“This symposium allows the universities to bring together some of the top researchers, some of the top minds, on the topic of obesity prevention to talk about these terrible problems facing the American public,” Gearhart said. “Our universities have some of the best researchers anywhere in the nation on this particular topic.”
In addition to the presidents and chancellors, several SEC provosts were also on hand, including Joe Glover from the University of Florida, who was a part of the original SEC Academic Consortium (precursor to SECU) board of directors. Glover said the cross-disciplinary approach employed by the SEC Symposium in addressing a big-picture issue is one of the keys to its success.
“If you look at any big problems that face us as a society, none of the big problems are going to be solved by an individual discipline,” Glover said. “They all require the contributions of faculty from many different disciplines. As a consequence, we all need to learn to work together and bring our individual talents to bear on different aspects of a problem.”
Susan Martin, provost of the University of Tennessee, has seen firsthand the benefits that attending the symposium has had on faculty members and students from SEC institutions.
“It’s been obvious to me through my interaction with our faculty and students—seeing them in action-that they have wonderful opportunities here for collaboration with other research practitioners,” Martin said. “There really is a wide range of people here. It’s a nice way to have a much richer discussion about the research that they are doing.”
While the SEC is well known for the success of the athletics programs of its institutions, the SEC Symposium is another way to emphasize the academic strength of each university and the commitment the SEC has made to the overall success of each institution and its students.
“I think everyone knows that the SEC leads the nation in the quality of its athletics programs, but we’ve also got an important story to tell about the quality of our academic programs,” Morehead said. “This symposium helps tell that story.”
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