As Texas A&M University caps off its first year as a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Aggies have proven they can compete in one of the toughest athletic conferences in the nation. But beyond athletic accomplishments lies a culture of excellence in academics thanks to the students and faculty at Texas A&M and the rest of the SEC universities.
Often the SEC is recognized for its athletic prowess, but with the help of the SECU, the academic initiative of the SEC, steps toward advancing the academic reputation for all 14 universities in the conference have flourished through collaborative programming and activities held throughout the year.
“Participating in the SECU this year has given us the opportunity to collaborate with our fellow SEC member institutions to showcase the academic endeavors and achievements of the conference,” said Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin. “Working with our peers in the SEC will continue to enhance the academic excellence of the Southeast’s leading universities.”
In February, the University of Georgia hosted the inaugural SEC Symposium, titled the “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future.”
This three-day event addressed a significant scholarly issue across a range of disciplines and showcased the academic research and expertise of faculty and administrators across the SEC, while providing an opportunity for scholars to exchange ideas and network as it relates to the issue.
Sent on behalf of Texas A&M, engineering professors Mark Holtzapple and David Claridge both spoke and presented during the symposium, with Holtzapple addressing “The Integrated Biorefinery” and Claridge presenting at a session titled “Better Use of Energy in the Built Environment: The Smart Grid of Efficiency.”
“The SECU initiative uses the conference platform and resources to invest in the expertise of our faculty and showcase the high-quality academic excellence of the Southeast’s leading universities,” said Dr. Karan L. Watson, Texas A&M Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Among the number of first-time awards Texas A&M received for its athletic and academic accomplishments in the inaugural SEC season was an award given to one professor in recognition for his scholarly contributions and discoveries on Texas A&M’s campus.
John Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences, was this year’s recipient of the 2013 SEC Faculty Achievement Award. He serves as climatologist for the state of Texas and is an expert in severe storms, how hurricanes form and the history of Texas hurricanes.
The SECU programs and activities also focus on recruiting highly competitive, admissible out-of-state students. Each April, enrollment and admissions administrators from all SEC universities participate in the SEC College Tour, which is intended to introduce the SEC universities to students, parents and high school counselors who might not have otherwise heard of the institutions.
This year, Texas A&M hosted the 2013 SEC College Tour, with the tour making stops in the cities of Parsippany, N.J., Stamford, Conn., and Hauppauge, N.Y. The tour, which will take place in southern California in 2014, seeks to advance the merit and academic reputation of SEC universities beyond the SEC region through college fairs and counselor breakfasts.
“This is one of many ways we can reach out to out-of-state students and raise the level of awareness about Texas A&M among these populations. Visiting in person is important because you can have a meaningful conversation with the student and parent, which is very important in the recruitment process,” said Lynn Barnes, director of recruitment in Texas A&M’s Office of Admissions
Additionally, the SECU has created a forum where MBA students from each SEC school can showcase their skills while solving real-world problems that cover the spectrum of business disciplines. Each school’s team is made up of four MBA students, and together the team presents a business case and creates a proposal for the selected companies by identifying the best solution.
The inaugural SEC MBA Case Competition was held this year at the University of Missouri and is the only SECU program where students from all 14 campuses compete. Texas A&M’s team of James Cerenzie, Ann McCollim, Kara Pislak and Nithin Subramanya finished the competition in third place behind the University of Florida and Arkansas.
Additionally, through a cooperative programming agreement, students from all SEC universities have access to study abroad programs offered at other SEC universities.
“Although we have only been in the SEC a short time, I’m impressed with the focus on academics and the tremendous pride each institution has when talking about student success,” Barnes added. “There is a very humble attitude among the SEC schools with regard to access and providing opportunities for all students.”
For an overview of the SECU’s programs and activities, visit here.
Story by Joseph Puente, a senior telecommunication media studies major
Media contact: Krista Smith, Communications Coordinator, at (979)845-4645