January 28, 2021

SEC Provosts Add Flexibility in Faculty Travel Program Amid Pandemic

University of Kentucky Brass Quintet visiting University of Alabama students and faculty in 2019.
University of Kentucky Brass Quintet visiting University of Alabama students and faculty in 2019.

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Birmingham, Ala. — The SEC Faculty Travel Program has since its inception in 2012 provided Southeastern Conference faculty with additional opportunities to collaborate in person with their SEC colleagues by conducting research, presenting lectures and delivering artistic performances. The program is intended to lessen the financial burden associated with travel, lodging and meals with funds from the SEC being distributed to faculty by their respective universities.

However, in light of the ongoing public health crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to travel and visitor restrictions around the Conference, the SEC Provosts recently approved several temporary flexibility measures for faculty, ensuring SEC collaboration continues in this unprecedented environment.

First, for the remainder of the spring semester, universities have increased discretion in allocating program funds for non-travel related expenses. For example, institutions may elect to support faculty engaging in virtual collaborations; support graduate or undergraduate assistants involved in organizing conferences; or absorb other costs that increase collaboration.

“The SEC Faculty Travel Program has been effective in encouraging collaboration among the SEC member universities,” said Dr. David Lee, Vice President for Research at the University of Georgia and a campus program administrator. “The competitive funding available from the SEC is highly valued, and we all view support for travel as the most effective way to stimulate inter-university collaborations. However, since COVID-19 has brought most work-related travel to a halt, this flexibility ensures funding will continue to promote collaborations within the SEC.”

In addition, any faculty member who was unable to complete a visit last year will have until July 31, 2021, to do so, with access to the increased allocation flexibility. Further, universities may select, at any point during the current academic year, new faculty participants, and those individuals will also have access to increased flexibility. (These temporary modifications may be amended as needed by the SEC Provosts should circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change.)

Before being greatly impacted by COVID-19, the SEC Faculty Travel Program had supported the efforts of more than 700 faculty from across the Conference whose traditional research collaborations ranged from robotic software to reading comprehension and Down Syndrome. And one of the last travel endeavors pre-shutdown came in the humanities from the University of Kentucky’s Brass Quintet, which performed and taught in late 2019 at the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas, the University of Georgia and LSU.

“It’s a tremendous experience for our students to be able to bring faculty from other institutions in the Southeastern Conference to collaborate, hold concerts, and lead master classes,” said Dr. Jon Whitaker, Associate Professor of Trombone at Alabama. “This a really great program. I’ve been awarded grants, and it’s great to be on the receiving end of having other faculty come to our institution.”

The SEC Faculty Travel Program is one of several SEC academic endeavors designed to support the teaching, research, service and economic development goals of the Conference’s 14 member universities.