It’s only been four years since Amanda Strickland graduated from Sweet Briar — thanks in part to scholarships made possible by alumnae donations. Now, the Class of 2009 grad is doing her part to ensure future Sweet Briar women can enjoy the same opportunities.
“I give to SBC because if an alumna hadn’t given when she could, my experiences and degrees would not be possible,” says Strickland, who double-majored in archaeology and history with a minor in anthropology.
“My mother — being a single mom at the time — and I were so very thankful for the donations of alumnae, and I wanted to be able to give another deserving applicant a chance to learn at Sweet Briar.”
Born in Louisiana, Strickland grew up as a Navy “brat” in Virginia, Missouri, California and Italy, but lately, Virginia has become her home base. The Chester resident now works as an archivist at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee, where she is in charge of 1.5 million primary documents pertaining to women in the military from World War I to the present.
“I complete research requests, accession new collections into the archives, participate in women’s history events, conserve documentation, and collect historical documentation as it is happening,” she says.
“It is a great time to be in [this] field with the rescinding of the combat exclusion policy and all fields now being open to women in the Army.”
Museums have always fascinated Strickland, who worked at the Sweet Briar Museum for four years and completed an archaeology internship at Poplar Forest while at Sweet Briar.
“I graduated and immediately began volunteering at multiple historic homes and museums,” she remembers.
To gain experience, Strickland even took a job as a security guard in a museum and eventually became an Army contractor at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe, where she worked as an assistant collections manager.
“When the museum’s holdings moved because the Army left, I found a new home at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.”
Living in Virginia allows Strickland to keep in touch with alumnae in the region, and she returns to campus often.
“Whenever I am anywhere near the area I at least do a drive-by; my boyfriend even jokes about it,” she says. “My next planned drive-by is this spring when my friends and I do the brew trail.”
Strickland treasures many things about her time at Sweet Briar — from lunch picnics in the dell to all-nighters in Benedict lab to the joy she shares with fellow alumnae when they come back to campus. She also has fond memories of professors — especially of John Ashbrook and Kate Chavigny, who teach history at Sweet Briar.
“Professor Ashbrook taught me that I cannot write a paper,” she jokes. “But he always pushed his students to become better historians.”
Chavigny, she adds, “was a joy to learn from and the topics she taught fascinated me.”
While at Sweet Briar, Strickland was a member of Chung Mungs, Taps ‘n’ Toes and Sweet Tones and served as InterClub Council tap club chair. She also worked in the alumnae office all four years, a job that attuned her to the special ties many alumnae develop with their alma mater. Giving back is one way to strengthen that bond, says Strickland, who was a Bell Tower Society donor in 2011 and continues to give what she can.
“I try to tell [other alumnae] how important it is for the future of Sweet Briar,” she explains. “Also, it is reassuring at times like these to know that you can designate where you want your money to go and know that it is going to a good place.”
Still a young professional in her field, Strickland has big career plans.
“I would like to get into the government system at an Army museum, complete my master’s, and eventually become a director of a museum,” she says. “My dream since I was a little girl was to work for the Smithsonian.”
In the meantime, Strickland is taking baby steps: She continues to volunteer at the Casemate Museum and tries to visit every museum in the area.
“There are so many in Richmond, but I am slowly ticking them off my list,” she says. “I love learning new things about women’s history, too. Few know the history, so I am full of ‘fun facts’ for anyone who wants to listen.”