By: Natalie Richardson
The 2015 SEC Symposium was held September 19th- 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia and was sponsored by the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference. The Symposium, started three years ago, has addressed critical issues facing our society such as renewable energy and obesity. The 2015 SEC Symposium theme was: “Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Driving a 21st Century Economy.” Scholars from each university in the SEC used an interdisciplinary approach to highlight how taking courses outside of students’ field of study, such as incorporating the humanities or fine arts within a business or medical curriculum, is critical to inspiring creative thinking. These scholars also showcased how their respective universities have made efforts to integrate themes of innovation and creativity on their campuses and in their local communities.
As the nation’s economy has declined during the past decade, many stakeholders – from business leaders to legislators – have asked the university to serve as a catalyst for economic development. This new paradigm embraces the cultural, financial, technological and social aspects of economic development at both the macro and micro levels.
Central to this new paradigm is the fact that creativity and knowledge are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and industries in the global marketplace. To that end, the goal of the 2015 SEC Symposium was to explore the university’s role in preparing individuals to be creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial thinkers and to evaluate the ways in which universities serve as drivers of economic development.
This symposium brought together researchers, scholars, administrators, and students to explore the diverse roles and approaches for development, maintenance and expansion of the future economy. It featured formal presentations from individuals with a range of perspectives, panel discussions, creative works exhibitions and student performances.
Two undergraduates, Lucy Rahner and Mary Isabel Casey, attended the symposium. Their individual reflections on the 2015 SEC Symposium are below:
Majors: Sociology & Studio Art
“I felt especially lucky to attend the 2015 SEC Symposium considering my interest in creative endeavors and ties to innovative organizations, like the Curb Center, on Vanderbilt’s own campus. I enjoyed getting to know about other creative campus initiatives and getting a feel for how other schools in our region have tackled the same questions on how to promote creativity in different ways. I particularly enjoyed attending a thought-provoking discussion panel on “Best Practices on Teaching Creativity” and the final round of the Student Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition, which included some truly inspiring submissions.
On Monday evening, I presented my own art piece at a reception for SEC presidents, chancellors, and provosts. I had the chance to talk to symposium participants about my work and mingle with other art and design students from SEC schools. Besides the opportunity to view all the art on display, it was also a great chance to find out firsthand about the structure and curricula of other art programs. I particularly valued talking with a fellow presenting artist about opportunities for graduate school in the arts – the application process, the appropriate time-table, and the general experience. Coming back to Vanderbilt, I’ve returned with a broader perspective of the artistic climate of the SEC and new ideas about creativity that I know I’ll be able to apply directly to projects in the classroom and beyond.”
Mary Isabel Casey
Major: Medicine, Health, and Society
Minors: Spanish & Women’s and Gender Studies
“I recently had the opportunity to represent Vanderbilt as a Student Ambassador at the 2015 SEC Symposium. When I was first selected, I had no idea what an incredible experience it would turn out to be. Not only did I help with registration, facilitate Q&A sessions, and keep time for the Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition, but I also was able to attend sessions and workshops facilitated by deans, professors, and administrators from the 14 member universities of the SEC.
The speakers and scholars helped me understand the importance of arts and creativity in all academic disciplines. The arts help people see things from a new perspective whether through visual representations or interpretive manners in dance or theater. Creativity is necessary in business and innovation because leaders need to think of different ways to approach problems, create plans, find solutions, and work better with others.
I believe Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science has done an excellent job in encouraging interdisciplinary studies. After returning from the conference, I have a greater appreciation for the AXLE curriculum, which allows students to take classes outside of their desired field of study. The curriculum encourages the collaboration of the arts with other academic fields under a humanities and creative arts requirement. The classes I have taken under AXLE have been beneficial in helping me think differently and expand my horizons. Outside of academics, I will use what I have learned at the SEC Symposium about creativity and interdisciplinary work to facilitate dialogue about critical issues like diversity and inclusiveness on campus.
Representing Vanderbilt at the SEC Symposium is yet another example of the amazing opportunities I am so grateful to have experienced here. I met students, faculty members, and administrators from Vanderbilt and other SEC schools and had the chance to connect with Chancellor Zeppos; it was one of my favorite parts of the symposium!”