September 22, 2015

SEC Symposium Day Three: Students A Central Focus For SEC Symposium

SEC student musicians perform during the SEC Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts Reception
SEC student musicians perform during the SEC Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts Reception

By: Sean Cartell
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Students were a central focus for the 2015 Southeastern Conference Symposium, entitled Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Driving a 21st Century Economy, which concluded on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students were among the attendees at the SEC Symposium, representing a broad range of academic disciplines and areas, including business, engineering and the arts.

“That’s why I agreed to come,” said Liz Lerman, a 2002 MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow and 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellow in Dance and Sunday’s keynote speaker. “The students were the first ones up to talk to me. I really believe they can make a difference.”

The University of Mississippi took home the Excellence in Student Attendance Award, which is awarded to the university with the most students registered and attending the SEC Symposium. The SEC will make a donation to the University of Mississippi general scholarship fund in recognition of the accomplishment.

Several of the SEC Symposium’s marquee events were student-centric. On Monday, the student entrepreneurial pitch competition included teams from each of the SEC’s 14 universities presenting their pioneering ideas to a panel of judges. Texas A&M University Ph.D. students Brandon Sweeney and Blake Teipel were selected as the winners of the competition.

The SEC Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts Reception on Monday evening featured both an art exhibit and a jazz ensemble, highlighting student participants from each of the SEC’s 14 institutions.

“We wanted to have students experience this SEC Symposium,” said Lucinda Lavelli, Dean of the College of the Arts at the University of Florida. “Historically at the SEC Symposium, posters have been displayed. But I thought since this is about creativity, instead of creating poster boards about creativity, we should actually show some creative work.”

In addition to their roles as participants, students played a critical part in the SEC Symposium as volunteer university ambassadors. Each SEC school was asked to send one undergraduate student to Atlanta for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to assist with the event.

“When we started planning for the first SEC Symposium in 2013, we discussed how we would manage on-site support,” said Torie Johnson, Executive Director of SECU, the SEC’s Academic Initiative. “Immediately, we thought about volunteers from each of our 14 campuses because we knew they would be energetic, focused and would have an interest in the subject matter.”

For more information on the SEC Symposium, please visit or