SEC schools do more than play football: They collaborate in the classroom

Taylon Baker

As UK played South Carolina in football last weekend, the Southeastern Conference Academic Initiative Twitter account recognized the academic collaboration between the two universities.

The collaboration involves human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and the partnership between information and resource companies, such as American Cancer Society, and places that will actually perform the vaccination.

Each year, the SEC does a faculty travel scholarship program among its universities. The program allows faculty members to collaborate and travel among the schools and learn from each other. Robin Vanderpool, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior & Society at UK, was one of the recipients of this scholarship.

It was when she received this scholarship that she and Heather Brandt, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion at South Carolina, began working together. They each requested to work at the other’s respective school. The two traveled back and forth and began this intensive project.

According to Vanderpool, the project began in the 2015-2016 school year, and the two started meeting in early 2016. “We wanted to promote, educate, and deliver a vaccine,” Vanderpool said.

They studied the connection and components of a good partnership.

“We’re looking at how the partnership works, what works well, what doesn’t work well, and we’re trying to see more collaborations established,” Vanderpool said. “With the ACS, they have the information and resources with all the stuff on HPV, but can’t deliver the shot for it. So they could partner with a health center, clinic, etc., that provides this.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it in their lifetime. For this reason, people like Vanderpool and Brandt are wanting to create these partnerships.

Even though the scholarship is over, the two keep in touch every day. They collect and analyze data, discuss findings with colleagues and gain insight, and currently have a publication in the works.

 “I really hope other faculty take advantage of this scholarship for SEC schools. It creates such great collaborations and you leave knowing more,” Vanderpool said.

UK is not only working with South Carolina, but other SEC schools as well. The same account tweeted about collaborations between UK and Florida in light of their football game.