September 21, 2014

Nancy Brown Keynote Highlights Opening Day of SEC Symposium

Nancy Brown delivers her keynote address to open the 2014 SEC Symposium
Nancy Brown delivers her keynote address to open the 2014 SEC Symposium

By: Sean Cartell
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

The second-annual Southeastern Conference Symposium began on Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. The opening day featured two sessions and was highlighted by a keynote address from Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association.

Brown spoke on the idea of creating a “Culture of Health to Reverse the Trend of Childhood Obesity,” stating that the American Heart Association’s goal was to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 2020, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.

“I was so pleased to be asked to speak at the SEC Symposium,” Brown said. “This Symposium brings together leaders from 14 highly regarded universities across America who are committed to battling the trends of childhood and adult obesity. It’s an honor for me to be able to speak to a group that can have such influence in reversing these trends in America today.”

Much of Brown’s presentation focused on preventing childhood obesity. She detailed the AHA Kids’ Plan goals which include improving diet quality, increasing physical activity and eliminating tobacco use.

“In my presentation, I focused on children and youth because we know that if we don’t get ahead of these health problems when children are young, they’re going to have a life ahead of them that is filled with disease, disability and problems that will cause them not to fulfill their life’s dreams,” Brown said. “We have to reverse this trend of childhood obesity in America so that people can live longer, healthier lives.”

Brown feels the topic of obesity prevention was a particularly appropriate one for the universities of the SEC and believes that the students of SEC institutions can make a major impact in the field.

“SEC students can make a world of difference in shaping the national discussion on obesity,” Brown said. “We know that the thousands of students at these important universities play a major role in coming together around advocacy, implementation of programs, around scientific research and being the change in this world that we need to see to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The students owning this issue can make a world of difference to our outcomes now and in the future.”

Dr. David Gearhart, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas, is currently serving as the Vice President of the SEC and, in that role, is the Executive Committee’s liaison to SECU. He knows that the SEC Symposium is a valuable experience at which students of SEC institutions collaborate and network.

“We’re very pleased that we have a lot of students who are attending this Symposium both at the undergraduate and graduate level,” Gearhart said. “This gives them an opportunity to see first-hand the kind of researchers and teachers that comprise the SEC. This also gives them an opportunity to share in joint experiences that they might not have on their own campuses, coming together and hearing from top-flight researchers throughout the SEC. It’s a marvelous thing for students all across the SEC.”

While the SEC is well-known for its athletics success, Gearhart believes that the SEC Symposium is a great way to showcase the academic strength of the SEC’s 14 institutions.

“We all know of the SEC as a powerhouse in men’s and women’s athletics,” Gearhart said. “What this Symposium does is talk about our academic prowess. We have some of the best universities in the nation. They are powerhouse academic institutions that do amazing research. We are not just an athletic conference, we are absolutely an academic conference as well.”

Sunday evening concluded with a poster exhibition, which included a speech from the University of Mississippi’s Dr. John Hall, the 2014 SEC Professor of the Year.

The 2014 SEC Symposium continues on Monday, beginning at 8 a.m. ET. For more information on the SEC Symposium, please visit or