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osu hpnri symposium

Inaugural HPNRI symposium spurs new research connections

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

The Oklahoma State University Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute (HPNRI) celebrated its inaugural symposium last week, uniting dozens of faculty and thought leaders from across campuses and disciplines to explore new avenues for research and collaboration. 

The institute’s mission is to discover, develop and deliver scientific knowledge to empower people of all abilities to realize their optimal performance. That includes developing preventative therapeutic strategies to combat obesity and chronic diseases. By studying student-athletes, the institute aims to explore new ideas and methods aimed at developing interventions and treatments to help Oklahomans adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors for the purpose of making a lasting and positive impact on Oklahomans’ health. 

Friday’s symposium was a significant milestone for HPNRI, spurring new connections, interesting conversations and a spirit of excitement to embrace the opportunities — not challenges — that lie ahead. The symposium, which included representatives from OSU Athletics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Sciences, the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT), the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Ferguson College of Agriculture, Extension, the OSU Center for Health Sciences and College of Osteopathic Medicine, Student Affairs and more, featured breakout sessions, a Q&A forum with OSU President Kayse Shrum and a transdisciplinary panel discussion that included: 

  • Lance Walker — HPNRI Rick and Gail Muncrief executive director
  • Dr. Jon Pedersen – College of Education and Human Sciences dean and professor in teaching, learning and educational sciences
  • Rob Glass — assistant athletic director for speed, strength and conditioning
  • Dr. Jerry Malayer — associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Dr. Kelly Dunn — head of sports medicine behavioral sciences and executive director of treatment at National Center for Wellness and Recovery

Dr. Shrum said HPNRI is perfectly suited to advance impactful research for the public good and fits within the university’s strategy to become the nation’s preeminent land-grant institution. 

“There are four key areas [within the strategy] — One Health, aerospace, agriculture and energy — that we want to focus on,” Shrum said. “We looked across the entire system and said ‘We have strengths in these areas.’ It also aligns with what we need in the state. So it really intersects with us trying to make an impact on the world. … When people say Oklahoma State University, they’re going to think of those four things. If we don’t collectively pull together, we have great research going, but we won’t have that presence.”  

Prior to her Q&A session with Walker, Shrum took a moment to address the crowd directly. 

Kayse Shrum and Lance Walker
Lance Walker and Dr. Kayse Shrum

“I just want to say that I’m really excited to see everybody in this room, from across colleges and across campuses, athletics and academics,” she said. “This really excites me, because it’s really the beginning of seeing this vision come to life.”

Discussions touched on topics like One Health, Oklahoma’s and the nation’s health trends and challenges and a quick overview of OSU’s slate of recently launched institutes —  HPNRI, the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE) and the Hamm Institute for American Energy at Oklahoma State University — and how they support the university strategy. 

“The inaugural HPNRI Symposium was a tangible step toward OSU’s commitment to becoming America’s preeminent land-grant university,” said Jerome Loughridge, senior vice president of system operations. “Life is transdisciplinary, and so are the complex societal challenges OSU is called to address. By bringing together scholars, researchers and practitioners on campus to generate ideas and drive collaboration, HPNRI is playing a key role in fulfilling the university’s mission to extend new knowledge — making Oklahoma’s good communities great.”

Dr. Malayer echoed that enthusiasm.

“It was a great discussion,” he said. “This is the kind of focused and intentional interaction that will facilitate the transdisciplinary discussions where we can begin to address the big, real-world challenges.”

Glass also praised the transdisciplinary nature of the symposium and the institute’s philosophy of teamwork and collaboration. 

“When Dr. Shrum and I were talking about the possibility of a symposium to bring together all the best that OSU has to offer from across campus, I never envisioned the turnout and response to be so overwhelming and impactful at such an early stage,” he said. “I truly believe this speaks to all parties understanding that to climb this mountain it will take a transdisciplinary approach.”

Lance Walker
Lance Walker

Friday’s symposium came on the heels of the recent National Strength and Conditioning Association conference at the Colvin Recreation Center on April 28. It was HPNRI’s first regional conference to host on campus, but Walker said it’s the first of many collaborative outreach opportunities to come. 

“We want to make HPNRI and Oklahoma State University the epicenter of nutrition and performance research,” he said. “We’re excited about the future and are looking forward to having a permanent home when the Human Performance Innovation Complex comes to fruition. But we’re building the connective tissue for this institute right now, focusing on connecting people and solidifying the framework of this ambitious endeavor to unite disciplines from across the university to make a difference in people’s lives. 

“When we talk about human performance and studying athletes, I think there’s a prevailing notion that we’re focused on training the next champion athlete. That’s part of the equation, but our focus is much, much broader than that. It’s not just about performance on the court, it’s about performance in life. When you’re hydrated, when you’re eating nutritious food and exercising in an intentional way, research shows that you’ll perform better, whether that’s in the weight room, at your job or just in your personal life. 

Walker pointed to a recent advertisement that really spoke to him about the subject of human performance. 

“A great example of that is the Super Bowl commercial where this grandpa goes through a training montage with a kettlebell. It starts with him barely being able to lift it. As time goes on, he improves. Then, at the end of the commercial, you find out why he was training: so he could pick up his granddaughter,” he said. “When I watch that, it almost brings a tear to my eye and I get goosebumps. And that’s a great example of what we mean when we talk about performance for life.”


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