While preparing her speech for this year’s Opening Convocation, Dean of the Faculty Amy Jessen-Marshall found herself contemplating what it means to educate women at Sweet Briar College in the 21st century. Below is an edited excerpt from her remarks.
What experiences should a Sweet Briar woman graduate with that make her uniquely qualified to go out in the world? Why is this particular educational experience so valuable?
We talk about how our environment allows women to find their voices, develop confidence, practice leadership, and to grow, explore and succeed. As I’ve talked with my colleagues, we’ve joked that what we want is to develop young women who have grit.
We want you, as young women going out into this world, to not just be confident, not just be articulate, not just be leaders, but to be women who have the strength of character to be tenacious in the face of adversity … and never give up when faced with a challenge.
All of the support systems we put in place to help you be successful? Those are important, because we expect that if we are really challenging you, you might actually fail. But you learn a lot by being tested to your limits. I’m not talking about failing because you spent too much time puffy-painting and never opened your textbooks. I’m talking about failing because you were challenged to the limit of your skills and knowledge, and in order not to fail, you had to rise up and find the strength to say, “No way! This isn’t going to happen to me!”
You find resources, and you ask for help. You learn a new skill, a new way of looking at a problem, a new source for information, a new form of persuasion or exposition, and you pass. And you not only pass, but you excel. That is grit. And it’s what I want for each of you. This is my challenge: Find this within yourself. Be here at Sweet Briar because you have expectations about how this College, this community of teachers and learners, this gritty, tenacious, resilient group can help you succeed.
To read Jessen-Marshall’s full remarks, click here.