(Photo: US PressWire/Daniel Shirey)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (SEC) - The Southeastern Conference is widely known for setting the standard of excellence when it comes to intercollegiate athletics. But even as the league was accomplishing a record-setting fall, which included Alabama claiming the SEC's seventh consecutive BCS Championship, it also has been busy preparing for the inaugural SEC Symposium.
This first-of-its-kind event will address a significant scholarly issue across the range of disciplines represented by the SEC's 14 member universities. The event showcases their academic excellence and underscores their educational and economic contributions to the vitality of the region, nation and world.
The 2013 edition of the SEC Symposium, entitled "Impact of the Southeast in the World's Renewable Energy Future," will take place Feb. 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
Just as the SEC provides its student-athletes the opportunity to compete on one of the biggest stages in college athletics, the Conference will also afford its faculty members and standout students a prestigious academic platform from which to present and discuss their research and scholarly accomplishments.
The SEC Symposium is the brainchild of Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, current Vice President of the SEC Executive Committee and liaison to SECU, the league's academic initiative.
"We are excited for the inaugural SEC Symposium," Zeppos said. "This will provide an outstanding way in which to showcase the academic accomplishments and research efforts of our SEC institutions."
This year's event, led by the University of Georgia, will feature a wide variety of presentations from faculty representing each SEC institution, an SEC university showcase, poster exhibitions and a reception with the SEC Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts.
Established in January 2011, the University of Georgia's Bioenergy Systems Research Institute (BSRI), headed by Dr. Robert Scott, provides a synergistic collaboration of the university's history of success in the areas of agriculture, forestry, environmental science and engineering to find a long-term solution to creating a sustainable and economically viable bioenergy future.
"Dr. Robert Scott has provided tremendous support of the SEC Symposium through BSRI," said Torie Johnson, Executive Director of SECU. "Following his example, everyone has been eager to help organize our inaugural event in a way that not only highlights UGA, but that highlights the entire SEC membership. I appreciate their work in the bioenergy area and their willingness to translate it into a substantive program for the SEC Symposium."
As synonymous as football is with the Southeastern United States when it comes to the sports world, so too is renewable energy a geographically natural fit for an academic conference that highlights the efforts of its region.
"To the leadership in our institute, it was obvious that this topic resonated with most of the SEC institutions," Scott said. "In the Southeast there is, in particular, a lot of biomass - plant material - such as pine trees and switch grass, all of which make the Southeast a place where bioenergy makes more sense as a renewable energy source than say wind energy or solar energy."
The SEC has always been at the forefront of recognizing and promoting the accomplishments of its students in the classroom. The Symposium affords the SEC just another opportunity to showcase the outstanding academic work of its students and faculty.
In 1992, the SEC became the first conference in the nation to assemble a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Since the implementation of the Graduation Success Rate, there has been a general trend of improvement in the GSR of student-athletes in the SEC. NCAA research indicates the student body graduates at a GSR comparable rate of 60 percent, which is exceeded by 90 percent of teams within the SEC. Since 2003, the SEC has had 170 student-athletes earn first-team Capital One Academic All-America recognition.
In 2005, the Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts from the then-12 SEC institutions created the Southeastern Conference Academic Consortium (SECAC) to coordinate efforts to bolster teaching, research, public service and other educational activities at the institutions.
The SECAC was the precursor to SECU, which in 2011 moved from the University of Arkansas and came under the direct auspices of the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Using its SECU academic initiative, the SEC sponsors, supports and promotes collaborative higher education programs and activities involving administrators, faculty and students at its member universities.